Tag Archives: John Momis

Panguna LOs still against BCL

Meredith Kuusa | PNG Loop | October 27, 2017

The chairman of the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowner Association has expressed annoyance by the recent Shareholder Release by Bougainville Copper Limited.

Phillip Miriori says BCL is profoundly misleading and shows complete disrespect for the facts, the SMLOLA and the views of many of its members who are standing up for their rights and say, “No to BCL Forever”.

He said the SMLOLA petition against the return of BCL now represents around 2,000 members and continues to increase.

“BCL’s ex Rio management has refused to meet with the Board of the SMLOLA or its chairman,” claims Miriori.

“That does not qualify as ‘respectful community engagement programs’.

“They have not stepped foot in Panguna in over 28 years yet they say, they continue to make progress on implementing our staged development plan for a new Panguna.”

Miriori gave a number of reasons why BCL was not welcome on Bougainville.

“It is just another clear example of the continuing colonial arrogance of BCL and the disrespectful treatment of landowners, with the constant attempt by BCL to mislead and misinform.

“They have not changed,” said Miriori.

Miriori recollected the following:

  • President Momis himself under ffiadavit has stood up for his people and said BCL caused the civil war that led to the death of around 20,000 of our fellow Bougainvilleans;
  • We were treated as irrelevant in the past and that is continuing, calling us an “impediment” they will simply go around – we, the SMLOLA, now own the minerals and have the ultimate say on who will redevelop Panguna;
  • BCL was the mining permit holder all those years ago, and it was under their operation that we were left with this horrific environmental damage which President Momis himself has suggested caused billions of dollars of destruction. To this day, BCL has not taken responsibility for or compensated us in any manner – not one kina.

On Monday, Bougainville Copper Limited announced the appointments of Mel Togolo and Peter Graham to BCL’s board of directors.

BCL chairman Robert Burns said the company was delighted that both gentlemen had agreed to join the board given the extensive experience and unique perspectives each would bring during an important period of development for the company.

“Mel and Peter are highly regarded in PNG and have intimate knowledge of the resources industry both here and abroad which they have gained through what can only be described as long and distinguished careers,” Burns said.

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Phillip Miriori: Why Bougainvilleans are having their say – ‘No to BCL’

Bougainvilleans proudly display “No BCL Ever” T-shirts. Image: Me’ekamui

Phillip Miriori | Asia Pacific Report | 13 October 2017

As many would be aware, we Bougainvilleans have been through a tough history with the disasters that came from the past operations at Panguna, then owned by Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL).

One of the key issues that led to our civil war, when around 20,000 of our friends and family died, was the way we were treated by BCL then – entering our lands without consent, poisoning our gardens and lives, removing our mountains, inviting in the military and ignoring our views, without compensating us fairly.

Since the end of the conflict, BCL has made no effort to resolve the damage they caused to our people, lands and rivers – infact they deny any responsibility and are trying to tell us what to do again, calling us impediments when we do not agree with the rules they try and dictate.

Have they learned nothing or think we have forgotten?

We have fought hard to protect ourselves from the same thing happening again if Panguna re-opens, and the new Bougainville mining law transferred ownership of the minerals to the landowners. As a result, now nothing can happen to our minerals without our consent.

Our Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA) members are now in a position to make BCL, the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) and the world respect our views. One of the key steps in the process of late has been our efforts to protect ourselves from the attempt to force the return of BCL without our consent.

We have had to use the Courts to ensure we are listened too and the result has been a landmark mediation process, right here on our lands at Dapera led by Justice Kandakasi.

Mediation process

The mediation process was initiated by me to try and help resolve the challenge to my leadership of the SMLOLA by Mr Lawrence Daveona, despite the fact he is not following custom in recognising my leadership position, a position I was born into.

He also wants BCL to return despite everything they have done and failed to do, which is strongly opposed by the majority of our members, as demonstrated by the petition against the return of BCL which now stands at around 2000 members saying “No to BCL”.

The mediator has now given us one more opportunity to try and resolve this among our family which I am keen to do. I firmly believe we can all unite to protect our people against the return of BCL and I promise to make every effort to do that with Mr Daveona and the ABG.

I want to work with them to ensure any redevelopment of Panguna is done properly this time and our members are protected and looked after, respected and treated equally and fairly.

The primary objective of the mediation was to try and resolve the challenge to my rightful leadership of the SMLOLA by Mr Daveona, which I firmly believe is unlawful and will take to the courts again if necessary. I am making every effort to accommodate him as unity will have a very valuable benefit for all of us and the future of Bougainville.

One of the other valuable objectives that has come from the mediation and I have committed to work on, is to more closely align our association’s constitution with our Nasioi customs, moving key decisions back to our clan system that has been our way since time immemorial. I strongly support that and encourage everyone to participate as I believe it will assist in making any benefit sharing from a future mine fairer for all.

The mediation over the past few weeks, has also given our women, the owners of our land, the opportunity to stand up and be heard. Some of them are against mining and one of my important tasks will be to work with them further as I believe Independence for Bougainville is very important and mining, if done responsibly and with people who we can trust, who will show us respect and fairness, will enable us to get there quicker.

As part of that process, in my role as the chairman of the SMLOLA and an elder to our clans, I have worked hard to attract a reputable international mining company who has both the social and environmental track record to make sure this time the mine could be developed successfully, fully integrated into our local community.

Revolutionary law

From the time the new transitional mining law was passed in 2014, I worked closely with President Momis and both Mining Ministers, Michael Oni and Robin Wilson. In fact, on the day the law was passed I was invited to meet with President Momis at the ABG Parliament to celebrate the new revolutionary Bougainville Mining Act, which uniquely, gave ownership of the land and minerals, back to the landowners to try and repair some of the mistreatment of our people in the past.

They were then opposed to the return of BCL and supportive of our efforts right through until March this year when suddenly and inexplicably something changed. They would no longer engage with us, would not explain why and started a very public campaign supporting BCL and a challenge of my leadership by Mr Daveona.

I didn’t select RTG Mining Inc. lightly, even going to a mine their management developed in the Philippines with a group of both Panguna landowners and ABG Ministers to see how they do things. In fact, the three ABG Ministers that came to see the RTG operation in Philippines expressed support for RTG.

Over time we came to develop a trust with RTG’s management and believe they will make the redevelopment of Panguna a great success, working closely with our members. They have supported the hard work we have done over the last year to defend ourselves against the illegal return of BCL.

Misled through lies

It is disappointing that some try to mislead through lies. The suggestion that improper payments were made to ABG officials is both ridiculous and untrue. They are currently working against us and strongly pushing BCL and Lawrence, rather than being impartial which is all we ask of them.

Despite the current position of the ABG, we are confident that they will eventually hear our firm views – “No to BCL!” and we remain committed to working with them to find a solution where all will win, including the ABG. We must talk openly and respectfully to find a fair solution. The law and views must be respected and we will continue to fight for that for our members.

The mediation is not a forum to make a final call on who the developer should be and if the mine should be redeveloped, which must be done in conjunction with all our members, but it has been invaluable to be able to showcase the opportunities to highlight the issues and concerns with a possible return of BCL.

In fact, BCL and the ABG have publicly admitted they cannot develop the project themselves and would have to find a partner. Who will that be, why won’t they tell us? How can someone support them when we do not even know who the actual developer will be?

I hope that the discussions at the mediation will assist Mr Daveona to understand why our people would be better off without the return of BCL. And I will continue to work with him to try and reconcile our positions so we can stand united against them and get a far better result for our people, developing a model that is win-win for the people of Bougainville and the ABG.

Phillip Miriori is chairman of the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA), Me’ekamui Government of Unity and SMLOLA.

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We are being softened up for the re-opening of Panguna mine

Panguna mine – now back in play

Leonard Fong Roka | PNG Attitude | 15 September 2017

PANGUNA – There is a lot happening in central Bougainville around the now derelict Panguna mine.

Two local groups, with external financial backing, are engaged in awareness programs – campaigning if you like – for re-opening the mine that operated for about 20 years until hostilities closed it in 1989.

Thence followed the loss of some 10-15,000 Bougainvillean lives and millions and millions of kina worth of damage to assets and property.

Both of these groups on the make are yet to explain to us who suffered directly in the 10 year civil war how this ‘awareness’ or ‘campaigning’ for the re-opening of the mine will affect us and what our role may be.

The English word ‘awareness’ (Concise Oxford 11th Edition) is defined as ‘having knowledge or perception of a situation or fact’ while campaign has two meanings: the military definition which I’ll ignore and the other – ‘an organised course of action to achieve a goal’.

Last Monday I sent a text message to Bougainville Copper Ltd manager Justin Rogers, who was about to board a plane from Buka to Port Moresby. The missive was about mine-related activities in Central Bougainville, especially about the mine re-opening which is being pushed aggressively by the leaders of both the Autonomous Bougainville Government and the Panguna New Generation Leaders (PNGL).

Mr Rogers’ reply said:

“The issue at the moment is interests in mineral rights. Our interest is to start a project to see if mining is viable. There is no mine until someone proves it is commercially and technically [viable].”

This communication shed some light that the current campaign to re-open the mine is a home-grown strategy devised by economically and financially uncreative leaders; a leadership that is not oriented to nation-building but blinded by a characteristic Third World dependency syndrome.

That is why the current themes being pushed down the throats of our poor people are, ‘no mining, no referendum’ and ‘no mining, no independence’.

It is clear to me that both the ABG and PNGL are campaigning for the re-opening of the mine.

I enquired of Mr Rogers why themes as ‘no mining, no referendum’ and ‘no mining, no independence’ were being promoted with BCL funding.

His response was simply:

“BCL hopes to come soon to Panguna and start delivering our own messages. Just letting mediation and MOU [memorandum of understanding] processes run their course first.”

So anxiety is being generated in the hearts and minds of the Bougainville people that the Bougainville referendum needs the Panguna mine and, if people vote ‘yes’ to independence that ‘yes’ will come to fruition only with the re-opening of Panguna mine.

This is the clear strategy of the Autonomous Bougainville Government and Panguna New Generation Leaders.

For us who live in and around Panguna, the ‘no mining, no referendum’ theme is unfounded. The referendum scheduled for 2019 will happen with or without mining in Panguna. It has been legislated for in the laws of PNG and Bougainville.

The fear triggered by ‘no mining, no independence’ is politically shortsighted.

If we vote for independence without a mine at Panguna and the result is upheld by PNG, our ‘yes’ will nullify all existing PNG laws that exploit the revenue we should be earning from our cocoa, copra, seaweed, sea cucumbers, alluvial gold and many other revenue sources.

These represent millions of dollars’ worth of income we never receive under the PNG state apparatus and their value measured against our population is more than the mine could generate after BCL and the PNG government get their shares.

Thus the callous activity of promoting the re-opening of the mine is a campaign and not an awareness program to educate the ordinary people of the Panguna, Bana and Kieta who have lost our land, jungle, rivers and more; and are considered by state and corporate interests as nobodies.

Let ABG, PNGL and BCL also tell us what they are doing to respect our Bougainvillean customs and traditional practices and what they will do to honour our lost relatives and property.

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Panguna Landowners: We will have the final say on mining

Fabian Hakalits | EMTV News / Asia Pacific Report | 30 August 2017

Panguna landowners will determine any reopening of the controversial mine on Bougainville, says a local leader.

Philip Miriori, chairman of the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Land Owners Association (SMLOLA) in Panguna, Philip Miriori, has told EMTV News that all parties and talks would go through them.

This was because the people in the Special Mining Lease area were greatly affected by the mine’s impacts when it was operating in the 1980s before the 10-year Bougainville civil war.

“We do not want the past to repeat itself but it must be a reminder to us now to get a better deal for the SMLOLA members and the rest of Bougainville,” he said.

Miriori said the past had gone, and history should not be repeated in Bougainville.

He claimed meetings had been conducted with resolutions and agreements passed which the SMLOLA were not a party to.

“They do not speak for me and my people but serve other interests,” he said.

‘Disrespectful’ to landowners
He said this was very disrespectful to the people of the SML area because they had no voice in the decisions that were being discussed by outsiders about their land on which their livelihood depended.

He also highlighted any decision or document signed to reopen the Panguna mine would be in contempt of court.

The court order restrains parties to the memorandum of agreement which was going to be signed in June this year to make Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) the preferred operator to reopen the mine.

This was because the question of the interests of landowners in the mining project would be an agenda of discussion at the court-ordered mediation in Panguna next month.

Miriori also highlighted that he had the mandate to represent his people through the SMLOLA and the National Court recognises him as chairman and not Lawrence Daveona.

Miriori maintained he was still the SMLPLA chairman until December 2018 when an election of a chairman would be held.

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Wars of words over Panguna as Bougainville moves to new era

Leonard Fong Roka | PNG Attitude | 26 August 2017

With Bougainville less than a year away from a referendum on its political future, the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) and a local Panguna group known as the Meekamui Government of Unity are in a war of words over the re-opening of the Panguna copper and gold mine.

The ABG wants the now reformed Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) to operate the mine which it believes will finance the redevelopment of Bougainville.

But the Meekamui and the Osikaiyang Landowners Association are keen to see the mine opened by an Australian company they have aligned with called RTG.

Bougainville’s president John Momis has said the ABG will not allow a company with no track record to mine at Panguna.

The quarrel between the ABG and the Meekamui is potentially divisive and may affect peace-building efforts in the autonomous province.

BCL, through the Panguna Negotiation Office, is said to be funding a group calling itself Panguna New Generation Leaders which is aggressively pushing for the re-opening of the mine.

The Meekamui and its overseas backers are taking a more moderate stance but are determined to get RTG to develop the mine.

After a 10-year civil war, the signing of the Bougainville Peace Agreement in 2001 addressed the political problem but did not provide a settlement to cater for the Panguna problem which is still shimmering around us.

Meanwhile the 1980s vintage old landowners associations and the new landowners association are also still verbally brawling and attacking each other.

As this struggle goes on, we, the innocent people of Panguna, are being blamed by other Bougainvilleans of working to re-open Panguna.

On the BCL side we see no change of heart for the interests of the people of Bougainville who have suffered because of them and the PNG state.

Rio Tinto offloaded its shares to PNG and Bougainville so that we could see that it was changing its mind on the future of Panguna. But can we be sure? We need to watch to see if various personalities move to and fro between positions in BCL and Rio Tinto.

Let us hope we are not submerging into the violence of the 1990s even as we try to work through the peace agreement and move to the new dawn that next year’s referendum should represent.

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Bougainville Copper: will it get to play again?

Rivers and streams in the mine’s vicinity remain polluted and unusable as sources of freshwater or fish. Photo by Catherine Wilson.

MAC [Mines and Communities] | Nostromo Research18 July 2017 

Odds seem loaded against recent moves

When the great – no doubt sometimes also good, but frequently woefully ignorant – among mining outfits (and their desk-bound investment advisors) look at a risk-laden, problematic, prospect like Bougainville Copper Ltd’s Panguna mine, any upturn in commodity markets are apt to be heralded as a golden opportunity.

And also give a boost to the fortunes of the existing incumbent company BCL, however dubious its ownership claims may be.

Two such “experts” – Greg Evans of KPMG and Satish Chand, a professor of finance based at Australia’s Defence Academy (sic) – acknowledge some of the risks involved in finding a major player to bankroll restart of the Panguna mine, estimated by BCL itself to cost around US£5 billion.

But they appear to have little understanding of the increased financial burdens that will be incurred, not least in compensating a fully-independent Bougainville for the vast damages caused by former lease owner Rio Tinto, as well as the strong likelihood of local bitter opposition – especially by women – to the mine’s re-opening (see article below).

These risks were clearly set out in a paper published by Nostromo Research and geophysicist Dr. Mark Muller at the end of 2015. It asserted that, inter alia:

  • A new mine is at least five – possibly ten years – away from any profitable production;
  • Judging by the amounts and grades of copper and gold in the existing Panguna mine lease area, any company re-opening the mine will struggle to compete against global competitors, and is likely to fail;
  • In order to attract mine development funds, BCL must acquire new prospecting ground outside the current licence area. It’s doubtful this would yield significant fresh economically-recoverable ore reserves;
  • Even if these were implemented, they would necessitate significant additional operating costs; and would materially increase threats to the integrity and health of landowners’ land and water;
  • It’s highly improbable that any [major] mining company – including Rio Tinto and Chinese ventures – would be seriously interested in re-opening Panguna (See: Would restarting Panguna contribute to Bougainville sustainable development?).

John Momis, head of Bougainville’s Autonomous Government, earlier seemed to accept such evidence, and dispute BCL’s right to resume mining (See: Has Bougainville president done a U-turn on Panguna?).

Alas – the lure of fresh money, however speculative, has proved  a powerful force in influencing the president to place his faith in “the devil we know”, rather than admit to the true nature and shameful history of that particular enterprise.

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Global mining major needed to re-open Bougainville’s Panguna copper mine?

Kevin McQuillan | Business Advantage PNG | 18 July 2017

Moves to re-open the Panguna copper mine on Bougainville are gathering momentum. Funding the re-opening is a key concern, however, says Bougainville President, John Momis. Could one of the global mining majors get involved?

Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL) is currently advertising for a local Bougainville-based manager, and are looking at the payment of K14 million in rent and compensation that was owed to the 812 customary clan groups who own the blocks of land within the mining lease areas.

Autonomous Bougainville Government President John Momis tells Business Advantage PNG, that over the next year, he expects BCL to open an office and ‘start dealing with some of the legacy issues, demonstrating BCL’s commitment, in a just and fair way, to some of the real issues that have been bothering the land owners.’

That includes, he says, the ecological, environmental, and health damage issues caused by former owner, Rio Tinto.

‘They have walked away, so now BCL has to address that.’

Momis says the Joint Steering Committee preparing for the mine’s re-opening consists of representatives from the nine official landowner groups, BCL, the national government, and the ABG, and is to be chaired by an independent chairman.
Funding

A key challenge is the cost of reopening the mine; back in 2012, BCL estimated it would be US$5 billion.

‘BCL has to demonstrate to us they have ability to solicit funds and attract a developer and I’m sure they are thinking about this,’ says Momis, pointing out that under Bougainville’s 2014 Mining Act, BCL has first right of refusal about re-opening the mine.

‘The Panguna mine is a “high-risk, high-return” investment.’

‘We are giving BCL the opportunity to get funds and to meet the conditions as per the mining law. If they fail, then other companies will have to apply and be put through this process.’

Mining industry analysts describe the Panguna mine as a ‘high-risk, high-return’ investment, which only global miners would be interested in.

Greg Evans, KPMG’s Perth-based Global Leader, Mining Mergers and Acquisitions, believes there will be considerable interest.

‘If you look at what the resource is, and what it can deliver to both an owner and investor—and, probably more importantly, the local economy—it would have to be a definitive “yes”.

‘The copper price is heading in the right direction, the supply metrics are working in the favour of copper broadly and I would expect that BCL are being approached reasonably regularly by a number of metals traders.’

Evans points to growing demand for copper, noting that batteries in electric vehicles are likely to use 927,000 tonnes of copper a year by 2030, according to forecasts by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. That alone equates with 5 per cent of current production.

Evans believes a global miner, ‘like Glencore or similar’, is likely to become involved.

‘KPMG just completed a survey around transaction activity across a bunch of sectors. In the mining sector, the preference of the majors was particularly for joint ventures at the asset level.

‘Batteries in electric vehicles are likely to use 927,000 tonnes of copper a year by 2030.’

‘To me, that would be the form that a transaction would likely take. BCL would ensure the social licence to operate, and look after stakeholder management, political and administrative management on the ground, with perhaps a partner coming in providing financial and operational support.

‘So, it is likely to be a large industry player used to dealing in remote locations, eliciting strong local community engagement, and creating local employment as an obligation and priority. All those things are going to be required.’
Risks

Satish Chand, Professor of Finance at the University of New South Wales and based at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra, says risk assessment will be crucial.

‘There has been a history of conflict where a very small number within the population has the ability to stop a very large mine. That risk remains.

‘There is a contest over the distribution of proceeds and that has not yet been settled to my understanding. There is little that is known about the magnitude of the cost involved in the clean up.’

Chand notes that the Bougainville Mining Act says 51 per cent of the mine must be locally-owned. The non-binding referendum on Bougainville’s independence from PNG scheduled for 2019 must also be considered a ‘risk’.

Greg Evans agrees the local shareholding requirement makes the financing prospect ‘more challenging’.

‘The biggest successes that the majors have had in countries such as Africa and South America, have been where they’ve engaged local communities, shared the profits, and shared the benefits. The control over how those profits flow and are allocated is equally the challenge—as it is the solution.

‘You’ve always got to come back to the quality of the resource; which will always make it attractive.’

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