Tag Archives: John Momis

Bougainville imposes moratorium on Panguna mine over fears of civil unrest

The Panguna mine, located in the east of Papua New Guinea in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, was at the centre of Bougainville’s decade-long civil war.

In dramatic policy turnaround, government determines people feel Bougainville Copper Limited doesn’t deserve a social licence to run the controversial mine

Helen Davidson | The Guardian | 10 January 2018

The Bougainville government has enacted an indefinite moratorium on renewing the licence of a controversial mining company over fears it could reignite violent civil conflict.

In December Bougainville landowner groups were called to vote on allowing Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) to renew their mining licence and potentially reopen the Panguna mine, but the vote was split.

“If we went ahead now, you could be causing a total explosion of the situation again,” the Bougainville Autonomous Government (ABG) president, John Momis, told the ABC on Monday.

The Panguna copper mine was central to the civil war and blockade in the 1990s that killed tens of thousands of people. Conflict escalated after landowners protested environmental damage by the mine and the lack of economic benefit for local people.

The Rio Tinto-owned BCL was forced to close the mine, and discussion in recent years about reopening it has sparked hostilities in the nearby communities.

In June protesters blocked Momis and other political leaders from accessing Panguna to sign an agreement with landowners, which the ABC reported would have opened the way for BCL to work towards returning.

Legislation passed in 2015 gave traditional landowners greater ownership over resources as well as powers over the establishment or reopening of mines, but confusion and division remains.

At the time of the BCL vote local journalist Aloysius Laukai reported Momis said mining by any company would be “untenable” under the circumstances. However on Monday Momis told the ABC the moratorium only strictly applied to BCL, not other potential operators.

The moratorium is a dramatic turnaround in policy from the ABG, which determined people felt BCL didn’t deserve a social licence to run the mine.

The ABG owns a 36.4% share in BCL, and has consistently said reopening Panguna was essential for the island’s economic self-sufficiency if it is to become independent.

Luke Fletcher, the executive director of an Australian-based NGO, Jubilee, said it wasn’t clear if the turnaround was “a temporary retreat or a permanent change of direction”.

“It could be they’re just biding their time for another couple of years, or they’re considering opening Panguna with other operators,” Fletcher said. “It does seem the intention is still to reopen the mine.”

The Papua New Guinea government is the only other major shareholder after Rio Tinto left in 2016. It has said it will give its 17% share to Bougainville, making the ABG majority shareholders of a company that has just one project – a mine over which the ABG has now placed a moratorium.

BCL is yet to be officially informed of the moratorium, but learned of it through media reports.

The company’s Port Moresby general manager, Mark Hitchcock, said it had sought further clarity, as it still “firmly believed” it had strong support among landowners.

“Hitchcock said previously held community forums led by the ABG had also demonstrated strong majority support and this reflected the company’s own experiences on the ground,” a spokesman told Guardian Australia.

“He stressed that BCL was a local company majority owned by the people of PNG, including Bougainville and had always acted in good faith after being invited to enter a new process for the redevelopment of Panguna by the ABG and landowners.”

BCL claimed it had support from eight of the nine landholder groups, as well as the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association. It said minority elements – and competing mining interests – were disrupting consensus.

There were disputes with the association’s chair, Philip Miriori, BCL said, citing a letter from 367 authorised customary heads who disputed Momis’s characterisation of the vote as a “narrow divide”.

The customary heads told PNG’s Post Courier the meeting was given a submission signed by 320 of the heads giving their support to BCL.

As the resource-rich country moves on from civil war and towards independence, it is increasingly looking to mining for its economic future.

West Australian company Kalia Ltd recently announced it had signed a land access agreement with north Bougainville landowners, allowing the start of a “full-scale exploration program”.

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ABG concerned reopening Panguna ‘might ignite another war’

President of the autonomous Bougainville government, John Momis. Photo: RNZI

Mining Panguna requires ‘social license’

Radio New Zealand | January 5, 2018

The president of the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) says mining companies must win the trust of landowners if they want to operate the Panguna mine.

Last month, President John Momis placed an indefinite moratorium on mining at Panguna after landowners opposed the return of miner Bougainville Copper Limited, or BCL.

The landowners said BCL would not take responsibility for the environmental and social impacts of its previous operation.

BCL ran Panguna until the outbreak of civil war in 1989 in which grievances caused by the mine were central to the 10 year conflict that cost over 20,000 lives.

Mr Momis said to avoid further conflict, Panguna could only be opened with the landowners’ consent.

“Because of our concern that it might ignite another war, we decided, on the recommendation of the Bougainville Mining Council, to impose an indefinite moratorium on mining on Panguna,” he said.

“The mine can recommence, but we have to ensure that whichever company gets the license must be acceptable to the people. In other words it must win the social license.”

The vast Panguna copper and gold mine once generated nearly half of Papua New Guinea’s annual export revenue.

In 2016, mining giant Rio Tinto transferred its controlling stake in BCL to both the PNG government and the ABG, winning support from Mr Momis for BCL to return to Panguna.

But opposition to BCL from the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association was reiterated this week by its chair Philip Miriori, who said it was time for Bougainville to attract a mining partner that would respect the people and make sure they all benefit.

Australian mining company RTG claimed to have the landowners’ backing last month when its chairman Michael Carrick told RNZ Pacific his company was a better option than BCL.

Mr Momis said it was not clear if an Australian company could provide landowners the same benefits as one partly owned by the ABG.

“That may be so but that is not the view of the people of Bougainville. We have a referendum coming up which is important for the ultimate determination of our future and we can’t allow BCL’s involvement in Panguna that may lead to bloodshed,” he said.

“We can’t open the mine in the face of such huge opposition from the people. According to our law, the landowners own the resource, not the government. Until companies win the social license from the landowners they are barking up the wrong tree.”

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Panguna landowners applaud ABG

Local residents hold banners and placards during a protest at the former Bougainville Copper Limited’s Panguna mine. | Photo: Reuters

Meredith Kuusa | Loop PNG | January 4, 2018

A landowner’s association has expressed appreciation towards the efforts of the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) in giving Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) every opportunity to step up and win landowner support.

The Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA) said as evidenced by the recent warden’s hearing, the landowners for the first time were given the opportunity to speak their mind.

“The hearing clearly showed that BCL does not have the support of the community at large, even after a two- year exploration licence and a further period of nearly 18 months were given,” said SMLOA chairman Philip Miriori.

“We feel the ABG has been more than fair to BCL. However, BCL have not even taken responsibility for the past or offered us any compensation, just lots of broken promises.

“The professionalism of the hearing has brought much hope to our people, where many feel they were being listened to for the first time.”

Miriori acknowledged President John Momis for his prompt response to the warden’s hearing, making the result known on a timely basis to allow for all landowners to come up with a new proposal.

The opposition to BCL was on many fronts. Repeatedly outlined by members, they include:

Legacy issues – both environmental and social impacts

  • BCL not offering compensation for legacy issues
  • The insurmountable liabilities that arise directly from these legacy issues
  • Legal advice that the BCL 2 year exploration licence actually expired 15 months ago on 7th September 2016 but LOs allowed the warden’s hearing process to continue
  • The decade long $6 billion BCL development plan
  • The absence of any meaningful community assistance over the 30 years, in particular over the 2-year term of the BCL exploration licence

Miriori said there is broad support within the Panguna community to re-establish the Panguna mine as most understand that Bougainville requires economic development urgently.

“We simply cannot continue to rely entirely on the PNG Government for handouts,” Miriori said.

“We have done a lot of work in the community over the last couple of years and despite the horrific past, we have been able to show the members that with the right people – people who respect both the environment and the importance of a social license, people with a track record we have seen for ourselves – the mine can be a success for everyone.”

Following the warden’s meeting last month, President Momis announced an indefinite moratorium on exploration and mining in Panguna.

He said the Bougainville Executive Council made a “thoughtful and considered” decision to impose an indefinite reservation moratorium in the best interest of the landowners and the people of Bougainville.

“The voice of the Panguna landowners was clearly heard during the mining warden hearing that decided in a narrow split between those supporting the mine reopening by Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) and the opponents,” said President Momis.

He stated that to develop the mine by any other developer would be “untenable” under current circumstances.

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Bougainville landowners say no return for miner BCL

Bougainville’s Panguna Copper mine

Radio New Zealand | 4 January 2018

The Bougainville landowners association that controls the former copper mine at Panguna says it is pleased the mining company Bougainville Copper Limited, or BCL, will never be welcomed back.

The company operated the mine until the outbreak of civil war in 1989.

BCL, which is part owned by the Autonomous Bougainville Government, had been vying with the Australian company RTG to reopen the mine until last month when the government placed an indefinite moratorium on mining at Panguna.

In a statement, the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association said BCL failed to win community support as it would not take responsibility for the environmental and social impacts of its previous operation, or offer any compensation.

The association’s chair Philp Miriori said it was time for Bougainville to attract a mining partner that would respect the people and make sure they all benefit.

He said there was broad support within the Panguna community to re-establish the mine as it was understood that Bougainville urgently required economic development and could not rely on the Papua New Guinea government for handouts.

“President (John) Momis has said he will now meet with the Panguna Landowners and develop an alternative plan for Panguna and we welcome the opportunity to work with the ABG,” said Mr Miriori.

“We have invested a great deal of time in this agenda over the last couple of years and believe now the road is clear to deliver a solution where all can win and we do not need to look backwards but can focus on the future.”

Last month, RTG claimed to have the association’s backing.

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BCL Panguna extension denied

PNG Industry News |  03 January 2018 

THE Bougainville Executive Council has confirmed that Bougainville Copper Ltd’s application for extension of the term of its expired mining licence at the Panguna copper mine has not received necessary landowners’ consent.

Autonomous Bougainville Government President John Momis said his government would consult with the Panguna landowners on an appropriate arrangement or the best alternative model for the development of the mine.

Until the consultation process is complete, the ABG will impose a moratorium over the grant of new licences for Panguna. 

Under the Bougainville Mining Act, a moratorium can only be implemented if there is no existing exploration licence.

Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association chairman Philip Miriori thanked Momis and the ABG for respecting the association’s opposition to BCL.

“The Panguna community broadly wants the mine to reopen,” he said. 

“We welcome very much the statement of the president that the ABG will consult with the Panguna landowners to determine the best alternative model for the development of Panguna.” 

RTG Mining Inc, the Australian mining company proposing a restart for the abandoned mine, also thanked the ABG for supporting Panguna landowners.

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Momis announces moratorium on Panguna mining and exploration

Panguna copper mine on Bougainville … the catalyst for decade-long civil war. Image: Aloysius Laukai/Bougainville Forum

Aloysius Laukai | Asia Pacific Report | 23 December 2017

The President of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, Chief Dr John Momis, has announced an indefinite moratorium on exploration and mining in Panguna.

He said the Bougainville Executive Council had its meeting on Wednesday made a “thoughtful and considered” decision to impose an indefinite reservation moratorium from any exploration or mining over Panguna in the best interest of the landowners and the people of Bougainville.

The council debating the issue following advice from the Bougainville Mining Advisory Council.

“It is with much regret that the basic requirement for obtaining the landowners consent under the Bougainville Mining Act 2015 could not be met,” Momis said.

The voice of the Panguna landowners was clearly heard during the mining warden hearing that decided in a narrow split between those supporting the mine reopening by Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) and the opponents.

Dr Momis also said that to develop the mine by any other developer would be “untenable” under current circumstances.

“We will not allow this project once again to reignite the wounds of the Bougainville crisis and distract our focus for restoring peace and our preparation for our referendum in 2019,” he said.

Continued consultations

While imposing this Panguna moratorium, Dr Momis said his government would continue to consult with Panguna landowners and the people of Bougainville over an “appropriate arrangement” or best alternative models of development of the mine if the people still had an appetite to develop the mine in the future.

The Bougainville Civil War was fought in 1988-1998 between Papua New Guinean military forces and secessionist guerrillas of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA).

The conflict led to an estimated 15,000-20,000 deaths on Bougainville before a peace agreement was brokered by New Zealand in 1998. This led to the establishment of the Bougainville Autonomous Region Government.

Bougainvilleans are due to vote in a referendum on possible independence in June 2019.

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BOUGAINVILLE’S MINING DEBACLE

Chris Baria

They say that if you told a lie enough times it becomes the gospel truth in your mind, which means you yourself will begin to believe it as well.

That is exactly what happened with the BCL saga. We know now how the landowners feel about BCL and resumption of Mining in Panguna after the Warden’s hearing was held there. The fact is, how many times had we seen the President go to the media and boast that 90% of the landowners were in favour of Mining and BCL? He even slammed the report by Jubilee Australia which clearly indicated that the people in the mine affected area appeared to be mentally stressed and bore mental scars from the crisis and having their land and environment damaged, and they themselves displaced by the mine. If anything, these people expressed horror when questioned about return of BCL and the reopening of Panguna mine.

Surely our dear President would have saved himself a lot of embarrassment had he heeded the warning by Jubilee and even AusAid for that matter. Jubilee didn’t sit around in Buka and wait for a fortuneteller to come from Panguna and tell them what they hoped to hear. They went in and found out for themselves while ABG and it’s administration drove around in 5 door cruisers and held meetings that never delivered anything.

The sad fact of course is that people’s time, money and efforts have been wasted chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Our President is surely a man of many colors of the rainbow. Due to mass hypnotism induced through flowery rhetoric our memory banks were wiped clean and we did not waste time in reinstating our master orator as the President of Bougainville. We reinstated him with landslide votes showing that foolish people in large groups can still wield a lot of power under the pretext of democracy.

What we seemed to have forgotten is that under a different color in 1989 our President was the man who bitterly attacked BCL in the media calling it “wild pig” and proposed “Bougainville Initiative” under which a new mining company would replace BCL. Although it was just a lot of hot it did however, help to start a war when it stirred up the landowners who were already fed up with BCL. I don’t know if BCL too had forgotten what he had done back then but in politics you often find strange people on the same bed and in our case with “the devil we know”.

After all this time it took Mining Warden’s hearing to finally spell out the truth. Imagine what would have happened if a handful of women and excombatants had not stopped the President and his full cabinet and BCL management trying to sneak into Panguna to sign the MOA?

I leave that question with you and I never have lost hope for Bougainville. I do hope that we have learnt some costly lessons and that based on those lessons we can now move forward into 2018.

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY AND PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR TO YOU FELLOW BOUGAINVILLEANS.

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