Tag Archives: John Momis

Bougainville president accuses mining company of lying to Australian stock exchange

Bougainville’s Panguna mine, for which RTG Mining is seeking an exploration licence.

John Momis says his government ‘will not rest’ until Australian-linked miner seeking licence for Panguna mine is banned for life from Bougainville and PNG

Kate Lyons | The Guardian | 24 January 2020

The president of the autonomous Bougainville government has accused an Australian-linked mining company of lying to the Australian Securities Exchange over its plans to reopen one of the world’s largest copper mines.

In a scathing statement, John Momis, the president of the autonomous Bougainville region, accused the Australian-linked RTG Mining of “lies and deceptions” and said his government “will not rest until all RTG and their executives are banned for life from Bougainville and Papua New Guinea”.

Momis was referring to a statement issued by RTG Mining to the ASX on Tuesday in which the company sought to clarify recent press reports, which have alleged that RTG staff are banned from entering Papua New Guinea.

In December, after the results of a referendum that saw almost 98% of Bougainvilleans vote in favour of independence from PNG, Momis issued a warning banning people affiliated with certain foreign mining companies, including six from RTG and one from Kalia Group, from entering Bougainville. Momis said they were creating “disharmony” in the region and that he had sought the assistance of the PNG prime minister and office of immigration and border security to assist with keeping them out of Bougainville.

However, RTG clarified in its statement to the ASX that its executives were “not banned from travel to Papua New Guinea” and emphasised that “the national government currently [have] constitutional authority over border control for the country”.

RTG is seeking to secure an exploration licence at the Panguna mine in Bougainville. The Panguna mine was at the heart of the brutal civil war in the region that saw an estimated 20,000 people killed between 1988 and 1997. The mine, which once provided 45% of Papua New Guinea’s export income, has been mothballed since the conflict began, but there has been talk about reopening it.

Among the companies in talks about resuming mining in Bougainville are RTG, which is listed on the Canadian and Australian stock exchanges, ASX-listed Kalia, Bougainville Copper Limited, a former subsidiary of Rio Tinto that ran the Panguna mine in the 1970s and 1980s, and Caballus Mining.

Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest has also expressed interest in mining in Bougainville, with the Sydney Morning Herald reporting that representatives of his mining company, Fortescue, travelled there in 2019 to explore “potential opportunities”.

There are disputes over land rights at the Panguna mine site, but RTG is the joint venture partner of the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA). RTG wrote in their statement to the ASX that the members of the SMLOLA “are the customary landowners who own the minerals at the Panguna Mine under the Bougainville Mining Act”.

However, Momis said the SMLOLA was established under an old system and that the autonomous Bougainville government considered its claims over the mine “illegal, null and void”.

There are concerns that disputes over land rights at the mine site might reignite tensions in the region. The Bougainville government enacted an indefinite moratorium on renewing the licence of BCL, a controversial mining company, in January 2018 over fears it could reignite violent civil conflict. However, since then, the government has shown signs that it was in favour of restarting mining in the region.

Despite voting for independence from PNG, the question of how an independent Bougainville would support itself hangs over the vote, with some experts saying it is impossible for Bougainville to become financially independent without a strong mining industry and that it would take much longer for other mining projects to be established and become profitable than it would take to reopen Panguna.

The autonomous Bougainville government and RTG Mining were contacted for comment.

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ABG President refutes RTG claims

Autonomous Bougainville Government President John Momis.

One PNG | 22 January 2020

I refer to RTG Mining Inc.’s most recent announcement to the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) dated 21st January 2020 whereby RTG deliberately made false claims to mislead their shareholders, the general public and the ASX.

Firstly, the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA) was an entity established under the controversial Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) regime, which mistakenly placed landowners into individual blocks. This is in fact inconsistent with the traditional land inheritance system whereby land is owned by clans and families. The ABG has started the process to rectify this grave past mistake with the rejection of BCL’s licence over Panguna, thereby deeming all current mine affected landowner associations, including SMLOLA illegal, null and void.

So while it is true that RTG are the joint venture partner of SMLOLA as they have confirmed, I would like to confirm SMLOLA have no legal rights over Panguna and cannot enter into any legally binding agreements relating to Panguna. I am happy to advise however that the ABG will be assisting the true and genuine landowners to ensure proper social mapping is carried out in order to establish new legal landowner associations and entities.

Secondly, as per a media statement released from my Office on the 23rd December 2019, I would like to re-confirm and reiterate that the below RTG executives currently still have a travel ban on them, preventing them from entering Bougainville:

  1. Mr Michael J Carrick – Chairman of RTG Mining
  2. Ms Justine A Magee – CEO and Executive Director of RTG Mining
  3. Mr Mark Turner – COO of RTG Mining
  4. Mr Robert N Smith – Non-Executive Director of RTG Mining
  5. Mr Phillip C Lockyer – Non-Executive Director of RTG Mining

I also re-confirm and reiterate that this travel ban will not be uplifted under any circumstance. Whilst there was a travel ban into Papua New Guinea, it has recently been uplifted due to RTG’s lies and deceptions to the PNG government and immigration department about their purported involvement in the Mt Kare project – a project that the world knows it will not succeed. It is therefore concluded that RTG have taken advantage of the fact that both the PNG and ABG operate independently of each other and do not always consult each other on foreign companies, and that RTG’s interest in the Mt Kare project is merely an expensive ploy and deceptive tactic to be able to have a presence in PNG and access to their only real interest – the financial rewards of the Panguna pit.

RTG and their executives should be totally and utterly ashamed of themselves for their corrupt, disruptive and divisive behaviour. They have tried to take advantage of our landowners and people and have shown a complete lack of respect for government authorities. RTG have completely misled the markets for their own financial gain and convenience. The ABG will not rest until all RTG and their executives are banned for life from Bougainville and Papua New Guinea.

As it is my duty to protect the people of Bougainville from immoral charlatans, I appeal to the ASX, TSX and OTCQB, as your duty to protect current and potential shareholders, that you perform a full investigation into RTG Mining and their executives and their misconduct. My Government would be more than happy to assist you with any enquiries relating to RTG and their activities whilst in Bougainville.

For current and potential shareholders and financial markets, I hope that this clears up any confusion or misunderstanding on RTG Mining’s position in Papua New Guinea, Bougainville and Panguna.

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ABG President Momis bans several Foreign Company Executives from Entering Bougainville

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

Press Statement | PNG Today | December 22, 2019  

It has been brought to the attention of the ABG that certain foreign company executives and shareholders who have a travel ban imposed on them are still continuing to disrespect our customs and laws, and causing disharmony amongst our people at such a critical time in Bougainville’s history.

As such the ABG has had no choice but request the assistance of the Prime Minister of the National Government, Hon. James Marape MP and the Office of Immigration and Border Security, to impose a travel ban on the below individuals from entering PNG and Bougainville:

Mr Michael J Carrick – Chairman of RTG Mining

Ms Justine A Magee – CEO and Executive Director of RTG Mining

Mr Mark Turner – COO of RTG Mining

Mr Robert N Smith – Non-Executive Director of RTG Mining

Mr Phillip C Lockyer – Non-Executive Director of RTG Mining

Mr Renzie Duncan – Shareholder Central Exploration Pty Ltd.

Mr Nikolajs (Nik) Zuks – Shareholder of Kalia Group

I confirm this travel ban was put in place on 3rd October 2018, and now again on 24th September 2019. This travel ban will not be uplifted under any circumstance.

I hope this clears up any confusion or misunderstanding for anyone currently interacting with these individuals on the false hope of future business partnerships in PNG and Bougainville.

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Australian miner admits workers attacked in Bougainville

Radio New Zealand | 20 December 2019 

The Australian-owned miner, Kalia, has revised its account of how its geologist, Terry Wyn Kilya, died in north Bougainville.

Mr Kilya, from Enga Province, was an employee of Kalia/Toremana Joint Venture Ltd, which has been conducting mineral exploration in a disputed area.

Last week, the company announced he had died “in a fall”, but the Bougainville government has said Mr Kilya was killed in a clash with a group it called “criminal thugs.”

However, Kalia yesterday advised the Australian Stock Exchange that Mr Kilya and seven other staff were attacked by “an outside group,” during which the geologist had a fatal fall.

It said the other staff were left with stab wounds, lacerations and soft tissue injuries.

The government in the PNG autonomous region earlier said the company was out of order to be encroaching on disputed land but the company said it had the permission of the landowners.

‘The company has miserably failed’

Bougainville’s President John Momis has linked the death to criminal elements in an area, where tensions exist due to unresolved social problems related to the mining exploration work.

He said it was deeply regrettable that a talented and experienced geologist, who came to the region to share his skills and expertise, had been killed.

“Bougainvilleans have spoken in the referendum vote that we want to be liberated and free to charter our new path ahead, but this sort of unnecessary incident is disheartening,” Mr Momis said in a statement.

Mr Momis extended an apology and his condolences to Mr Kilya’s family and the people of Enga Province on behalf of the people and government of Bougainville.

A reconciliation payment or ‘bel kol’ of $US28,633 has been paid to the victim’s family to help with funeral arrangements.

“In our Melanesian way and culture, we want to truly say sorry to the people of Enga and the family of the late Terry Win Kilya by extending our ‘bel kol’ assistance to late Terry’s family,” he said.

Mr Momis had ordered the indefinite suspension of the company’s exploration licence and called for it to explain why such an avoidable tragedy was allowed to occur.

“The company has miserably failed to address its social issues and to fulfil its corporate social responsibility as a client of the ABG,” he said.

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Bougainville mine activities suspended

Autonomous Bougainville Government President John Momis.

The National aka The Loggers Times | 18 December 2019

AUTONOMOUS Bougainville Government President John Momis has announced that all exploration activities on Bougainville are suspended for an indefinite period

Momis said the Bougainville Executive Council (BEC) decided to suspend all exploration activities in Tinputz, Isina and Kokoda due to the killing of a non-Bougainvillean geologist in Tinputz on Friday.

“BEC has now suspended the Toremana Joint Venture Company activities in its tenement areas of EL03/EL04 until further notice.

“The BEC has also summoned Kalia/Toremana to explain why such an avoidable incident was allowed to happen in the first instance.

“The BEC has directed the deputy commissioner of Bougainville police to investigate and bring the perpetrators to justice.”

Meanwhile, Kalia Ltd has passed their condolences in a statement to the late Terry Win Kilya’s family and his friends.

“Terry Kilya received fatal injuries in a fall while undertaking fieldwork on the company’s Mt Tore tenement around midday on Friday. The company is working with local police and officers from the Department of Minerals and Resources Energy to determine the full circumstance related to the incident. The company through Tore Joint Venture Ltd manages two exploration licences on Bougainville.”

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Geologist killed in North Bougainville – govt

Momis: “The company has miserably failed to address its social issues and to fulfil its corporate social responsibility”

Radio New Zealand | 17 December 2019

A geologist has been killed in Bougainville by what the autonomous Papua New Guinea region’s president describes as a group of “criminal thugs”.

The victim, Terry Win Kilya, from Enga Province was an employee of Kalia/Toremana Joint Venture Limited, which has been conducting mineral exploration in a disputed area.

A statement on the death of its employee by the ASX-listed Kalia Group Limited said the geologist “received fatal injuries in a fall whilst undertaking field work on the company’s Mt Tore tenements around mid-day yesterday (Monday)”.

But Bougainville’s President John Momis has linked the death to criminal elements in an area where tensions exist due to unresolved social problems related to the mining exploration work.

He said it was deeply regrettable that a talented and experienced geologist, who came to the region to share his skills and expertise, had been killed.

“Bougainvilleans have spoken in the referendum vote that we want to be liberated and free to charter our new path ahead, but this sort of unnecessary incident is disheartening,” Mr Momis said in a statement.

Mr Momis extended an apology and his condolences to Mr Kilya’s family and the people of Enga Province on behalf of the people and government of Bougainville.

Bougainville President John Momis Photo: supplied

A reconciliation payment or ‘bel kol’ of $US28,633 has been paid to the victim’s family to help with funeral arrangements.

“In our Melanesian way and culture, we want to truly say sorry to the people of Enga and the family of the late Terry Win Kilya by extending our ‘bel kol’ assistance to late Terry’s family,” he said.

In its statement, Kalia said it was working with local police and officers of the Department of Minerals and Energy Resources “to determine the full circumstances relating to the incident”. The company did not mention an attack or criminal elements in its statement.

However, Mr Momis has expressed disgust at the employer for allowing its personnel to venture into the area where the incident occurred, knowing full well that there were criminal elements resisting exploration there.

Mr Momis had ordered the indefinite suspension of the company’s exploration licence and called for it to explain why such an avoidable tragedy was allowed to occur.

“The company has miserably failed to address its social issues and to fulfil its corporate social responsibility as a client of the ABG,” he said.

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Bougainville voted yes to becoming the world’s newest nation. Now begins the gold rush

PHOTO: The people of Bougainville voted overwhelmingly in favour of independence. (ABC)

Natalie Whiting | ABC News | December 14 2019

A ceremony to announce the results of Bougainville’s historic referendum opened with a chorus of the Bougainville anthem. When the overwhelming result for independence was handed down, people spontaneously started singing it again.

It was a clear sign of the separate identity that Bougainvilleans have long maintained. The thumping result for splitting from PNG was an even clearer sign.

But the path to potential nationhood remains complex and far from guaranteed, despite the mandate from an almost 98 per cent vote of support offers.

The end of the referendum not only starts another political process, but it will also turn eyes back to a massive open-cut mine that has been sitting, waiting in the mountains since the 1980s.

PHOTO: The Panguna mine hasn’t produced a pound of metal in 30 years.

As Bougainville looks for a way forward politically, it also needs to look at economic options.

That’s something Papua New Guinea is keen for it to focus on as it grapples with how to respond to the vote.

PNG is known as the land of a thousand tribes and many in the Government are worried about keeping the rest of the country united if Bougainville leaves.

PNG Prime Minister James Marape has offered economic control but stopped well short of committing to independence for Bougainville.

Economically, the most obvious income stream for the resource-rich area is mining, but that would involve revisiting the issues that started the bloody conflict in the region.

Landowners at the site of the Panguna gold and copper mine, where the violence first broke out, say they are ready to see it reopen in the wake of the referendum.

Up to 20,000 people died in the secessionist conflict that followed, before the peace agreement which guaranteed the vote brought it to an end.

PHOTO: A small settlement has been built at the bottom of the Panguna mine. (ABC News: Natalie Whiting)

Several companies are already circling, keen to make a move now that the vote is over.

Whether they have the capital and the ability to reopen it peacefully remains to be seen.

PNG Prime Minister offers Bougainville economic control

PHOTO: PNG’s Prime Minister James Marape was welcomed at the airport with a guard of honour from police and a traditional sing sing group. (ABC News: Natalie Whiting)

As the referendum ballots were being counted in Bougainville’s capital Buka, speculation about the movements of Mr Marape were swirling.

Initial indications that Mr Marape would be coming to Buka for the announcement were replaced by rumours of him instead going to Panguna in the days after the result.

In the end his visit was moved to the town of Arawa, near the mine. But Panguna and building Bougainville’s economy featured throughout his speech.

Thousands of people gathered in the middle of town to hear him speak. The people even wanted to carry him to the stage on a specially built chair, an offer he graciously refused.

PHOTO: Thousands turned out to hear Mr Marape speak in Arawa during his first visit after the referendum. (ABC News: Natalie Whiting)

Mr Marape has been seen as being more supportive of the referendum than previous leaders, but PNG has nevertheless made no secret of the fact it wants Bougainville to remain a part of the country.

The independence vote is non-binding, and amid the celebrations of the result, PNG has been quick to remind people that years of discussions between the two parties will follow and a negotiated outcome will then be presented to PNG’s parliament.

In the lead-up to the referendum, Mr Marape had been discussing a “third option” beyond independence and greater autonomy which the people were asked to choose between — what he called “economic independence”.

His speech was in a similar vein, focussing on economic development and self-determination, but avoiding mention of independence.

He presented a cheque worth 50 million kina ($21 million), promised another 100 million kina ($42 million) next year and control over income generated in Bougainville, including tax powers.

“The only thing I will ask you, is that I will look after the border and both of our flags must fly until we reach the conclusion of this process,” he told the crowd.

Certainly, Bougainville is currently in no position to support itself and the call to focus on building the economy is warranted. But Mr Marape wouldn’t be drawn on whether he could envisage independence for Bougainville.

“That’s something for the future. I can’t pre-empt the outcome of the consultations that will take place,” he told the ABC.

PHOTO: Bougainville President John Momis heads to the polls on referendum day. (ABC News: Natalie Whiting)

After such a comprehensive vote, there may be little appetite in Bougainville to accept something less than full independence.

But for the moment his speech was well received by the crowd, and Bougainville’s President is confident of productive discussions going forward.

The greatest expectation from Bougainvilleans after the referendum is for change — people want improved services and infrastructure. Both governments will need to make that a priority and it will require funding.

Landowners split over who should reopen mine

PHOTO: The disused mine has divided locals, some of whom have blocked access to the site over the years. (ABC News: Eric Tlozek)

In the base of the massive open pit of the Panguna gold and copper mine, a small settlement has been built and people work digging up gold that remains buried there.

It’s thought there is still $84 billion worth of copper and gold in the site, but re-establishing operations would likely take a decade and billions of dollars.

Keeping the mine closed has been seen as part of maintaining peace ahead of the referendum.

PHOTO: People dig for gold at the base of the Panguna gold and copper mine. (ABC News: Natalie Whiting)

The local landowners now largely want to see it open, however, a split is already forming over which company should be brought in.

The most prominent landowner group is backing Australian company RTG, but there is another group of landowners who want to see the original company, Bougainville Copper Limited, brought back. The Bougainville Government has supported a third company, Caballus, which is also Australian.

That, combined with the ongoing political discussions, could create an uncertain investment landscape.

Mr Marape has said the PNG Government’s 39 per cent stake in Bougainville Copper Limited will be given to Bougainville, but he urged people to look at other industries as well, like agriculture.

It’s not just Panguna that has been attracting attention — landowners say they’ve received visits from other companies, some from Australia and some from China, interested in looking at other greenfield sites in the region.

Australia could face difficult diplomatic waters

The current geopolitical climate in the pacific — where China and the west are seen to be in a battle for influence — has thrown another filter on the vote.

Much has been made of possible offers from China to help Bougainville develop if it is a fledgling country.

However, Bougainville President John Momis has said there have been no offers from the Chinese Government and it was unclear if money being offered by companies, including some said to be interested in Panguna, would actually materialise.

PHOTO: The Panguna gold and copper mine sparked a war that killed 20,000 people. (Reuters: Trevor Hammond)

He said: “These are complex issues, which we’re not going to deal with right away.”

The geopolitical and diplomatic complexities of either a new nation in the region, or of a disagreement between PNG and Bougainville during the upcoming negotiations, is undeniable.

Nowhere will that be felt more keenly than in Australia, which is a key financial and development supporter of both.

Already a key former combatant from the crisis is calling for the international community to “ask PNG to accept the reality and let Bougainville go”.

PNG’s Bougainville Affairs Minister Sir Puka Temu has urged the international community “not to interfere in the consultation phase”.

“What we want is to achieve an outcome like what we did 18 years ago, that is a joint creation — the Bougainville Peace Agreement was a joint creation,” he said.

In a statement, Australia’s Foreign Minister has passed on congratulations for the vote and says Australia “looks forward to continued productive engagement” between the two governments.

PHOTO: Flags were proudly flown around the region when the people of Bougainville overwhelmingly voted yes to independence. (Reuters: Melvin Levongo)

But as the cobalt blue of Bougainville’s flags flickers from buildings and cars across the region in the wake of the vote, credit must be given to both it and PNG for almost 20 years of peace and an incredibly well-run referendum.

Hopefully, the next phase will be as successful.

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