The National aka The Loggers Times | May 19, 2017
FACTIONS of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army have signed an agreement to work together as the province looks ahead to the 2019 referendum.
Hundreds of people yesterday witnessed a reconciliation event at the Arawa Independence Oval in Buka.
The BRA factions signed a memorandum of joint commitment to work together toward the Bougainville referendum.
On Monday, a reconciliation ceremony was also held at the Roreinang United Church Mission ground. It was where the A company broke away from the rest of the army to form Me’ekamui in 1997.
On Tuesday, there was another reconciliation ceremony held in Panguna. The events were witnessed by officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Autonomous Bougainville Government and the people of Bougainville.
ABG Minister for the Department of Peace Agreement and Implementation Albert Punghau said the unification of the BRA factions was vital for the region if it wanted to achieve the referendum.
Former BRA Chief of Defence Ishmael Toroama said it was a day to be united and to remember “loved ones we lost”.
“This is the day when the Government declared the state of emergency.
“Today we stand and remember our loved ones during the civil war in Bougainville.
“We remember that we fought to take care of our people and our resources,” Toroama said.
Tag Archives: Mekamui
The National aka The Loggers Times | May 19, 2017
Catherine Wilson | Mongabay | 6 April 2017
The people of Bougainville Island successfully shut down the mine in 1989, but now find themselves left to cope with its environmental fallout.
- Rio Tinto operated the Panguna copper mine in Bougainville from 1972 until 1989, when local landowners — angered about pollution and revenue sharing — forced the mine to shut down.
- Rio Tinto divested its share of the mine in 2016, and now believes it has no obligation to address the mine’s environmental legacy.
- Today, Bougainville — an autonomous region in Papua New Guinea — is devastated by damages wrought by both war and the mine.
- The Bougainville government is considering re-opening the mine in order to fund a cleanup.
British-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto was for 45 years the majority-owner of the Panguna copper mine in Bougainville, an autonomous region in Papua New Guinea (PNG). But now it has given up its 53.8 percent stake in the mine’s operating company, Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL), and announced it rejects any corporate responsibility for environmental damage wrought during operations from 1972 to 1989.
The company believes it no longer has any obligation to address the mine’s environmental legacy because it adhered to PNG’s laws of the day and was forced to abandon the extraction venture due to armed conflict.
“When BCL had to leave the site in 1989, we believe BCL operated Panguna in compliance with applicable laws and standards until 1989 when it was required to leave the country…..Given the lack of access since then, it has not been possible for Rio Tinto or BCL to confirm the nature, extent or cause of any alleged damage or pollution,” a spokesperson for Rio Tinto at their London headquarters told Mongabay.
The controversial open-pit mine, once one of the world’s largest, hit world news headlines almost three decades ago when indigenous landowners forced it to shut down. Angered about tailings and mine-waste contamination of agricultural land and nearby waterways, as well as inequity in revenue and benefit-sharing, landowners used a campaign of sabotage to halt operations in 1989, subsequently precipitating a decade-long civil war.
The mine’s social and environmental legacy
Now, rusting mine trucks and machinery litter the long-abandoned mine site in one of Bougainville Island’s remote mountain valleys, while gutted mine buildings have been resourcefully adapted and reoccupied by local villagers as dwellings. But rivers and streams in the vicinity remain contaminated, tailings dumps have become unstable and chemical storage areas are deteriorating.
“In terms of the environmental damage and social disruption, it is a moral negligence on the part of Rio Tinto to have caused so much damage to the environment and to people’s lives, and to now walk away,” said Chief Dr. John Momis, president of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.
Rio Tinto claims on its website that “respect for the environment is central to our approach. Wherever possible we prevent – or otherwise minimize, mitigate and remediate – harmful effects that our operations may have.”
However, the Bougainville Copper Agreement Act of 1967 — drafted when the region was under Australian administration as part of the former Territory of Papua and New Guinea — does not incorporate any significant environmental regulations or liability of BCL for the rehabilitation or restoration of areas affected by mining activities.
“Rio is now deeply hypocritical in its blatant disregard of the higher corporate responsibility standards it says it has adopted,” President Momis declared in a June 2016 media statement, following announcement of the company’s divestment. “Corporate social responsibility means responsible companies accept that their responsibilities go beyond the legal requirements of the day.”
Lee Godden, Director of the Centre for Resources, Energy and Environmental Law at Australia’s University of Melbourne, commented that:
“Many of the early agreements between mining companies and the PNG Government did not contain effective clauses for environmental damage remediation….Typically it is not possible to retrospectively amend those agreements in light of subsequent damage or subsequent international law principles that have operated to address some of the balance of power problems in these early agreements.”
Putting pressure on Rio Tinto
Determined that the mining multinational should not escape accountability for environmental and social legacy issues, President Momis has called for “an international campaign to force Rio Tinto to accept its responsibilities” and sought advice on taking legal action.
However, taking the matter to court requires considerable funds — which the Bougainville Government, still heavily dependent on international aid and financial support from the national government, has limited access to. “We have financial constraints and these financial constraints make it difficult for us,” President Momis admitted.
And while Rio Tinto’s divestment resulted in the Bougainville Government acquiring an extra 36.4 percent shareholding in the Panguna mine and the PNG Government 17.4 percent (with the latter gifting its shares to “the landowners and the people of Bougainville”), their value is negligible unless the mine is in production.
Even during the 17 years of copper extraction in Panguna, which generated an estimated 1.7 billion kina in total revenue (roughly US$1.44 billion at the time), only 1.4 percent was granted to landowners, while 61.5 percent went to the PNG Government. Local resentment about the marked inequity of economic benefits was one of the major factors in the escalation of the civil war.
In 1989, indigenous landowners demanded compensation of 10 billion kina for the mine’s detrimental environmental and social impacts, as well as benefit-sharing grievances. When this was not met by Rio Tinto and BCL, they formed a rebel group, known as the Bougainville Revolutionary Army, and used explosives to destroy the mine’s power supply and bring the functioning of the mine to a standstill. In so doing, the Nasioi people of Central Bougainville became known as the first indigenous peoples in the world to force a global mining multinational to abandon one of its most lucrative ventures.
The PNG Government responded by imposing a blockade on Bougainville in 1990 and deployed its armed forces to quell the uprising. A civil war then raged between the national military and armed revolutionary groups, wreaking widespread destruction across the islands and leading to an estimated death toll of 15,000-20,000 lives, until a permanent ceasefire in 1998.
Today the long-term processes of post-conflict peace building, disarmament, reconciliation and reconstruction continue to consume the energy and resources of the government, international donors and local leaders and communities. And memories of the violence, atrocities and injustices of the conflict are still vivid in the minds of many people throughout the region.
An estimated one-third of men and one in five women who were exposed to violence during the war now suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), while more than one in three men and women believe there is continuing lack of peace in their communities, according to a recent study by the United Nations Development Program.
Walking away from the mine
For at least the past seven years, Rio Tinto has been engaged in discussions with the Bougainville Government about the possibility of returning to Panguna to recommence extraction of the estimated 3 million tonnes of copper reserves remaining there.
Rio Tinto’s final decision last year to exit Bougainville has been attributed primarily to both the dramatic fall in commodity prices in recent years and investor risks — including substantial opposition to the company’s return by landowners and communities in the Panguna mine lease area and the region’s uncertain political future.
“During the strategic review that led to the announcement in June 2016, Rio Tinto concluded that it would not be in a position to take part in future mining activities at Panguna and that it was in the best interests of BCL and its stakeholders to transfer our 53.8 percent shareholding to those better placed to determine the future direction of the company,” the Rio Tinto spokesperson stated.
However, the massive environmental legacy is still unaddressed and continues to affect the lives of indigenous communities, especially the Barapang, Kurabang, Basikang and Bakoringku clans who own the mine-pit land. For customary landowners, “the land is like a mother because we feed on the land. It’s nothing compared to money. I can always go to the land for food and nourishment,” Panguna landowner, Joanne Dateransi, explained.
There has been no official environmental assessment of the damage since the mine was deserted. But it is known that around 300,000 tonnes of ore and water were excavated every day in Panguna and the mine tailings were discharged down the Jaba River and into the Empress Augusta Bay, while the spoil and overburdens accrued in waste dumps in the Panguna area. Local communities claim there has been no fish in the local Jaba and Kawerong Rivers for four decades.
The Bougainville authorities also report that:
“The levy banks built by BCL to contain the flooding of nearby areas arising as the bed of the Jaba River rose (because of the depositing of vast amounts of tailings) were breached by floodwaters over 15 years ago. River water polluted by acid leached from the crushed tailings now floods huge areas of our people’s land all along the lower Jaba.”
And, further, a mammoth delta of tailings extends 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) into the sea on the west coast of Bougainville Island.
Social impacts include the forced relocation of at least five villages, such as Dapera and Moroni, to land unsuitable for growing crops and supporting livelihoods, while families were provided with cheap, substandard housing, resulting in severe overcrowding and health problems. The original location of the villages is now a barren terrain of waste rock.
Funding a cleanup
President Momis says the government is keen to facilitate an expert environmental assessment.
“We are having discussions with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) about the possibility of organizing such a study and also a social impact study. We are also contacting international NGOs which support third world nations in the interests of preserving history, forests and ecological balance,” he said.
Following this, the most critical question is how a major environmental cleanup, which could cost billions, can now be pursued.
One option, according to the President’s office, is to set up a trust fund with potential contributions sought from the PNG and Australian Governments, as well as Rio Tinto, although, to date, Rio Tinto has not indicated any willingness to support such an initiative.
“World Bank or Asian Development Bank funding is sometimes available for this type of cleanup, but often that will mean a loan to what are impoverished governments which need to meet a range of other socioeconomic needs in their countries,” Professor Godden also advised.
President Momis suggests that “the only other way to fund a cleanup is through the resumption of mining. It [BCL] is now majority owned by the landowners and the Autonomous Bougainville Government and we believe the cleanup could be done concurrently with the reopening of the mine. During our discussions with them so far they have been conscious of their responsibilities.”
However, the capital investment required to reconstruct and reopen the Panguna mine is estimated to be about 20 billion kina ($6.3 billion) and securing investment of this magnitude will be a challenge in the current investment climate.
Recommencing large-scale mining is also seen by the authorities and some landowner groups as a way to acquire the sizeable revenues needed to generate economic self-sufficiency ahead of a referendum on Independence from PNG. A major provision in the 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement, the referendum is planned to take place by 2020. At present, only 10 percent of the Bougainville Government’s annual budget of about 300 million kina derives from internal revenue.
Two years ago, the Autonomous Bougainville Government, which was established in 2005, passed its first mining law, thus paving the way with a legal framework for large-scale mining to be reconsidered in the region. The Bougainville Mining Act (2015 ) requires mining-lease applicants to protect the environment and comply with environmental policies and regulations, and stipulates that customary landowners have ownership of mineral resources found on their land. But, while they are entitled to consultation about exploration and mining interests, as well as related benefits and employment, the Bougainville Government retains exclusive powers over the granting of mining tenements and distribution of revenues.
Nevertheless, because of the unique history of the Panguna mine and the fact that its territory is controlled by the local Mekamui Tribal Government, comprising many former rebel leaders and combatants, any development or exploitation of Panguna’s resources will require the final consent of local chiefs and landowners. And reports in recent years have highlighted that a significant proportion of landowners in the Panguna mine lease area oppose large-scale mining on their customary land in the near future.
“We don’t need Rio Tinto or BCL,” Lynette Ona of the Bougainville Indigenous Women’s Landowner Association and a Panguna landowner declared. However, she added that a meeting was being planned in the near future so that people across Bougainville, not only local landowners, could voice their views on the question of mining. If there is majority consent for this to happen, “then we have to bring in a new company after Independence, so that we can fund the economy, but we don’t want mining now,” Ona emphasized.
The “new BCL,” without Rio Tinto, has only begun articulating its future plans. Any provision, in this context, for an environmental cleanup is very unclear, but will come under severe scrutiny by those most affected, given that the history of the Panguna mine, to date, is a lesson in the shortcomings of corporate social responsibility.
Dateline Pacific | Radio New Zealand | 26 August 2016
The leader of Bougainville’s Me’ekamui rebel group, Chris Uma, says the spat over shares in Bougainville Copper Ltd, BCL, is of no consequence.
There has been a war of words between the governments of Papua New Guinea and Bougainville after multi national miner, Rio Tinto, gave its shares in BCL to them.
PNG later gave its shares to Panguna landowners, a move that infuriated Bougainville President John Momis, who says the shares should all go to his Autonomous Government.
But the special envoy for Mr Uma, John Jaintong, told Don Wiseman says it is irrelevant because in Me’ekamui’s view there is no BCL.
JOHN JAINTONG: Me’ekamui’s view is that there is no Bougainville Copper, because in 1989 when the mine was closed, Bougainville Copper walked away, got paid off with a large compensation for loss of business and loss of property. And to Me’ekamui, the mine has ceased to exist since 1989. And the land now returned to the people. To Me’ekamui, which represents the landowners who own the land, there is no company. So why get 17.4% of something that they already have 100% of. Who is Rio Tinto anyway to say OK, I give you back 17% of something that they don’t own?
DON WISEMAN: So would the Me’ekamui look at mining projects, anywhere in Bougainville?
JJ: Well, they’re not saying no to mining. But over the last couple of years, they’ve given [outlined] the process to how to handle the issue, leading up to the reopening of the mine. And leaders, politicians simply ignored it. They’re not against the mine totally. All they want is that the processes must be allowed to complete. Like, OK there were twenty-thousand lives lost. All they want to do is… Me’ekamui has to prepare a traditional feast and that can only be hosted by Bougainville chiefs. Now after that has been done, then they can move towards the next process of talking about the mine, whether with Bougainville Copper or somebody else.
DW: This critical issue for you at this point is the reconciliation?
JJ: That’s correct. And Chris has accused PNG and Bougainville leaders of being insensitive to the situation, the critical situation. And to him I think the peace process, that we all worked hard to put together, has been broken because, to him, the leaders of Bougainville have gone back to bed with the enemy – the enemy being Rio Tinto, or Bougainville Copper, for this matter.
DW: Well, it’s all very well for Chris Uma to criticise but this is the elected government. This is what the majority of people on Bougainville voted for, so don’t they have the right to be making the decisions rather than you guys?
JJ: Yeah, that’s true but Chris runs Me’ekamui – that remains outside of the peace process – so it’s a very critical situation. Now, Me’ekamui has still got 100% of the arms. Now this is a very deadly situation that I’m handling. And I speak for the people that if there’s any leader listening, they must know that the situation is very bad and now Chris is saying that the ABG has broken the peace process by going to be with the enemy, they are not listening to the wishes of the people. And these are the people with the guns, that they’re not listening to.
DW: Now in 2019, the province is to have this vote on possible independence. Is this something that the Me’ekamui under Chris Uma supports?
JJ: Well, first thing first. The way they’re going, it looks like more leaders on Bougainville is worried about the economic factors, soemthing like Bougainville Copper should be re-opened. But for it to reopen we must comply with the customary obligations. Don, I’ll give you a background: on Bougainville, the land is owned by the chiefs, and controlled by the chiefs. Whether you are in government, ABG or not, Me’ekamui under Chris Uma are saying no, ABG has no right to deal with land matters. It’s saying land matters completely remains the power that belongs to the traditional chiefs of Bougainville.
DW: If this reconciliation that you’re talking about was to go ahead and go ahead properly, would the Me’ekamui then allow themselves to be fully re-incorporated back into Bougainville?
JJ: Yes, that’s correct, that’s the only thing holding them back. They want to see that’s done quickly and amicably. Now to give you how they want it played out – they want it hosted by Chris Uma on behalf of the paramount chiefs of Bougainville who own the land and the prime minister of Papua New Guinea, but not by ABG. And Chris has been very vocal on this over the last few days in the media that he has not given John Momis the mandate to negotiate with Rio Tinto.
Radio New Zealand | 26 August 2016
The leader of Bougainville’s Me-ekamui rebel group, Chris Uma, says the spat over shares in Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL) is of no consequence.
A war of words erupted between the governments of Papua New Guinea and Bougainville after multi national miner, Rio Tinto, gave its shares in BCL to them.
PNG later gave its shares to Panguna landowners, a move that infuriated Bougainville President John Momis, who said the shares should all go to his Autonomous Government(ABG).
But the special envoy for Mr Uma, John Jaintong, said it is irrelevant because in Me’ekamui’s view there is no BCL.
“Because in 1989, when the mine was closed, Bougainville Copper walked away, got paid off, [and] large compensation for loss of business and loss of property, and to Me’ekamui, the mine has ceased to exist since 1989 and the land now returned to the people.”
Mr Uma’s special envoy, John Jaintong, said before there can be talk of any mining in Bougainville there has to be a ceremony of reconciliation to acknowledge the 20,000 who died in the civil war.
“That is the only thing that is holding them back. They want to see that that’s done quickly and amicably.” he said.
“Now, give you how they want it played out. They want it hosted by Chris Uma and the Prime Minister on behalf of the paramount chiefs of Bougainville, who own the land, and the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea. But not by ABG.”
Mr Jaintong said the ABG and President John Momis would be welcome as observers.
Post Courier | 4 July, 2016
The Meekamui Council Of Chiefs leader Chris Uma has called the decision by Rio Tinto to exit Panguna mine as nothing but a sweetheart deal gone sour with one party crying foul.
Meekamui Council Of Chiefs made up of paramount chiefs from (6) six major clans sit on the council and control all traditional land and resources on Bougainville.
Meekamui does not recognise or trust ABG to handle any issues regarding land because of past bad decision by politicians that forced the Bougainville crisis.
The Meekamui council of chiefs believed in the 1948 General Assembly of the UN adopted and proclaimed the Universal declaration of Human Rights.
Article 17 of the declaration states:
(1)Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
(2)no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.
We believed that in 1975 when PNG became independent it adopted this rights into constitutional law and prohibits its termination by an ordinary law by parliament.
Meekamui believe that our land was unlawfully acquired by Australian Government for CRA and the 1967 (BCA) Bougainville Copper Agreement may have been rendered defective in 1975 when PNG gained independence.
Chief Uma said if the above is proven to be true than Rio Tinto or Bougainville Copper Agreement is illegal than the company will be charged for stealing our resources and creating massive environmental damages to our land.
Mr Uma explained that ABG and the state should not be dragged in to clean up the mess of Rio Tinto but stay our of business.
“Let me assure my people that I will stop at nothing to correct the wrong and injustice suffered.”
Mr Uma has appealled to the Prime Minister to reject the Rio Tinto deal as a con deal hacked out to escape corporate responsibity to clean up their mess.
Mr Uma also announced that Meekamui Council Of Chiefs have appointed a two man task force team headed by Meekamui Special Envoy John Jaintong and Reuben Siara Lawyer who filed the court case in the United States against Rio Tinto for Ten billion.
The task force will look into refiling the case at the US courts to: Make application to liquidate BCL and BCF and return proceeds to fund projects, and inform stock exchange to deregister the company.
Rio Tinto decision open to lawsuit
The Rio Tinto decision now open itself to a bitter lawsuit of violation of human rights,environmental damages, and importantly illegally operating Panguna mine and stealing copper gold and silver from my land.
I make this statement with good legal advice that the pre Independence law that validates Bougainville Copper Mining Agreement in 1967 may have been nullified in 1975 when PNG gained Independence.
The task force we set up will examine documents with the view to File a Supreme Court Case Against the State for interpretation of the law on rights of inheritance of customary land.
We are also challenging the legality of Section 5 Mining Act and Section 6 Oil and Gas act that gave the state and provincial Government powers to hold equity in resources projects.
These acts makes a mockery of the constitution of this country which recognised inheritance of land a Supreme Constitutional Law.
We in Bougainville reject Governments involvement in business in whatever form or shape Mr Uma said.
The task force we established will look at assets of Bougainville copper and especially assets of Bougainville Copper Foundation which my people owned by the charter which BCL regards as its subsidiary.
I expect BCL management to hand over assets of BCF to the task force without a fight.
Bougainville Special Correspondent
Self-proclaimed Me’ekamui Tribal Government of Unity (MGU) and Transpacific Ventures (TPV) entered an agreement in 2013 selling not just Panguna, but the entire island’s mineral rights to the company. Transpacific Ventures, with its Executive Director Renzie Duncan, designed a confidential Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the tribal government which virtually holds no authority on Bougainville, let alone Panguna.
The deal was drafted in the hope of utilizing the now Bougainville Transitional Mining Act. Which despite stiff opposition, was passed in ABG’s House of Representatives on 26th of March 2015.
The MGU’s self-declared president Philip Miriori; who has ambitiously pawned the entire island’s mineral rights for economic investment to the illegal government, emits a long trail of smoke that is getting thicker as the PNG Prime Minister is becoming more involved.
Now it would be assumed that ABG is aware of this agreement whether by formal means or hearsay, nevertheless both governments have an on and off relationship. But if there can be any speculation to this, MGU might be ABG’s ticket to Panguna. And having the so called tribal government being ‘the voice’ of the people of Panguna, will be a pretext to initially kick starting reopening of Panguna.
MGU is one of the many spent shell casings from the once well organised guerilla government that chased out a giant mining corporation, and out-maneuvered an Australian supplied and trained military. Under Late Francis Ona, Me’ekamui was the deterrent from foreign and corporate vultures. This is not the case today.
President Philip Miriori, who has come out as a sleazy operator; has been in the business of forking out from ‘investors’ like as Tall J, United Resources Management, Bill Wang and TPV. His motives may be for personal gain or so to speak, because he has not been able to initiate anything apart from bringing in the district government into Panguna. Presumably his hidden work may be coming undone with the recent spate of activities by the PM O’Neill.
The speculation is Philip Miriori is working closely with TPV as the mining company and the PNG government as a potential funder for the reopening. Hence, the PNG PM is looking at purchasing the 53.83% shares from Rio Tinto, not only that, but has appointed himself as the Minister for Bougainville Affairs.
If this is the case, it is logical to predict repercussion of instability on the island. There are well armed factions that still exist and very much tainted by the issue of mining.
The people of Panguna, since pre-crisis have been misrepresented by their own leaders, relenting too much against the people’s cries on the degradation and destruction of their environment. It is important to note that Bougainville is predominantly matrilineal, and landowner representation at that time were representative-wise contrary. It was not until late leaders, Francis Ona and Perpetua Serero took over the Panguna Landowners Association.
Lest should it be forgotten that men took to arms under Francis Ona as a measure of deterrence and defense. Perpetua Serero’s inspiration had as much influence as well. Women had had enough and demanded their men to take action. And customarily, men are responsible for defending the land of their mothers and daughters. This has been the practice of the people for thousands of years.
What happened afterwards is a history that exposed BCL’s arrogance and embarrassed a government.
Importantly, what can be defined from the region’s past to todays are the same issues of misrepresentation, greed and arrogance. These were key issues that led to the crisis. It is a no brainer to point out these issues with the current leadership.
Aloysius Laukai | New Dawn
The so called BOUGAINVILLE NO GO ZONE HARDLINERS have also questioned the motive by the Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill to appoint himself as the Minister for Bougainville Affairs.
Hardliners Chairman, James Onato said from Arawa that they were concerned a lot of activities were happening which requires the Prime Minister to explain to the people of Papua New Guinea.
Mr. Onato said that they were concerned at the recent landing of the Government Jet, Kumul on Christmas Day, Talk about PNG Paying of Rio Tinto Shares and now the Ministerial reshuffle.
Mr. Onato said that his group will not allow any intrusion by outsiders into the NO GO ZONE areas.