Tag Archives: Mekamui

Mothers Unite Against Re-Opening Bougainville Panguna Mine

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

teleSUR | 27 November 2017

The women noted that “foreign concepts” and exploiters supplanted traditional ways of life, resulting in the environmental catastrophe of the island.

Mothers Against Re-Opening the Panguna mine have released a statement championing traditional land rights of the Indigenous Black people of the South Pacific island of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea, expressing their emphatic opposition to re-opening the Panguna Mine located in the Guava Mountains.

Describing access to land as their “traditional birthright,” the women explained that their matrilineal lineage is a social reality which places them as custodians of the land, thus the need for them to make their voices heard in the vanguard, rejecting all attempts to re-open the mine.

The statement read, in part, that it was “women who led the protests against” Bougainville Copper Limiter, BCL, and Rio-Tinto, a British-owned mining giant, that operated the Panguna mine. Two decades later, which marked the beginning of the armed conflict in Bougainville, women continued to trigger the “anger of menfolk to take action,” they wrote.

The statement cited “violations of land rights, destruction of properties and traditional sacred lands, serious damage to the environment, deposits of toxic chemicals into the rivers, lack of shareholding and inadequate levels of royalties,” which gave way to the war which lasted from 1989 to 1998.

The women went on to note that “foreign concepts” and exploiters supplanted traditional ways of life and “Black concepts.” However, they added that they’re “no longer a race of people who are blind to be led by puppets who cannot wholly choose their destiny.”

A consortium of Australian investors, having coddled support from the Autonomous Bougainville Government and head of the landowners who own mineral rights, are now making their move to re-open and operate Panguna, once known as one of the world’s largest copper mines.

“If the independence of the people is to be sustained then we need Panguna to run,” said Raymond Masono, Bougainville’s Vice President, according to Reuters.

In 1988, Perpetua Serero, chairlady, of the Panguna Landowner Association, and her cousin, Francis Ona, led the newly formed group which championed indigenous landowner demands over BCL and the Papua New Guinea Government and that something be done about widespread pollution. Roughly a billion tons of waste had been deposited in the Jaba River, contaminating it with copper, mercury, lead, and arsenic.

However, when Applied Geology Associates, a New Zealand consultancy firm, attended a public meeting in the capital Arawa and released a report stating that BCL operations had caused no environmental damage, Ona stood up and slammed it as a whitewash.

“We were forced to become passive observers of our own exploitation, first by the racist colonial administration and after independence by the Black political leaders in white men’s coats,” Ona said. His cousin, Serero would also refer to the Black mismanagement class on the island as “self-centered traditional landlords, brainwashed by foreigners and minority elite nationals.”

Though Perpetua passed away shortly after the outset of the war, Ona would go on to lead the Bougainville Revolutionary Army, BRA, alongside his chief commander, Sam Kauona, which shut down the Panguna mine amid fighting with Papua New Guinea’s armed forces. As a result of their ex-colonial and mining interests in Bougainville, Australia supported Papua New Guinea’s war efforts by providing them with military advisors, trainers, helicopters, and helicopter pilots.

The armed conflict, which lasted from 1989 to 1998, claimed 15,000 lives on the island, roughly 10 percent of the population. Most of the deaths were attributed to the most insidious aspect of the war – the Australian and Papua New Guinea-backed naval blockade of Bougainville.

In a class action lawsuit against BCL and Rio-Tinto alleging war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity, former Papua New Guinea Prime Minister, Michael Somare, signed an affidavit stating, “Because of Rio Tinto’s financial influence in PNG, the company controlled the government.” Former Papua New Guinea military general, Jerry Singirok also signed an affidavit which stating, “The PNG military functioned as the corporation’s personal security force and were ordered by BCL to take action to reopen the mine by any means necessary.”

With necessity being the mother of all inventions, the war forced villagers to learn how to maximize locally grown crops, developed mini hydro-plants from spare car parts to supply energy throughout the island, established local medical centers of treatment and learning, and produced all that was needed to function as an independent nation. Far from achieving its goal of depriving islanders into submission, the blockade, in effect, rejuvenated the call for independence.

Bougainville, popularly known by its traditional name Me’ekamui (meaning “Sacred Land”), is scheduled to hold an independence vote on June 2019, according to Reuters. A quarter of a million people will decide whether to officially become the world’s newest nation or remain part of Papua New Guinea.

Australia has agreed to the independence vote on one condition, that the Me’ekamui Defence Force— a remnant armed force sprung from the war which, until this day, controls the no-go zone encompassing the Guava mountains overlooking the gaping hole where BCL once mined — lay down their weapons. Autonomous Bougainville Government officials have also been urged to resign mining contracts with BCL.

Ever the defender of his people’s land, a revolutionary precursor to the modern day environmental movement, Ona contended that people on planet earth “depend on land, depend on environment, and I wish to ask everyone, every leader of any nation to take care of the land so that people on this planet can be saved.”

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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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EX COMBATANTS SUPPORT PANGUNA WOMEN

Bougainville Revolutionary Army fighters look down on the Panguna mine in 1996

Aloysius Laukai | New Dawn | 30 June 2017

South Bougainville Ex combatants yesterday supported the actions made by Panguna women to block the ABG team from meeting with landowners to sign a MOU to open the closed PANGUNA COPPER MINE.

Chairman of the South Bougainville Ex-combatants Association, DAVID KONGKORI told New Dawn FM that the issue needs proper consultation between all stakeholders and not just the PANGUNA landowners.

He said that the issue could create division and must not be allowed to proceed with one part of the community against it.

MR. KONGKORI said that the ex-combatants view is that the ABG must not push for the re-opening when underlying issues that started the conflict are yet to be addressed.

He said that the GOVERNMENT must not think about how much in Kina they can get out of Panguna but also look at the reconciliation issues that are still outstanding between the PANGUNA landowners themselves.

MR. KONGKORI said Panguna people are still divided with different factions still operating like the MEKAMUI UNITY GOVERNMENT and the MEKAMUI Original government just to name a few.

He said all the people of Bougainville who died fighting for PANGUNA must not be forgotten in any new deals.
MR. KONGKORI said that as fighters of war, we don’t want to fight for the same thing again.

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Renzie Duncan and Philip Miriori team up in another illegal Bougainville venture

PNGExposed | June 28, 2017

Sydney lawyer and mining venture capitalist, Renzie Duncan, is on the prowl again for Bougainville’s mineral wealth, with his old friend Philip Miriori,  the scandal-plagued, self-appointed head of the Me’ekamui Tribal Government. 

This time its through Central Me’ekamui Exploration Limited, which is in partnership with Australian mining firm RTG Mining.

Company extracts indicate that Central Me’ekamui Exploration Limited, despite its very local name, is in fact a foreign enterprise.

This assertion is based on the fact it is 50% owned by Australian company, Central Exploration Pty Ltd. 

Central Exploration Pty Ltd’s thriving head office is 266 Burns Bay Road, Lane Cove, New South Wales, Australia. This leafy address on Sydney’s north shore, is also the registered home address for Renzie Duncan.

Under the Investment Promotion Act 1992, a company which is 50% owned by a foreign entity is deemed a foreign enterprise and must apply for certification to conduct business in Papua New Guinea.

Section 41 of the Investment Promotion Act 1992 states it is an offence to carry on business without certification, punishable by a K100,000 fine. 

There is no record with the Investment Promotion Authority that Central Me’ekamui Exploration Limited has applied for certification, despite the fact it has been clearly conducting business with RTG Mining.

However, this is not the first time Duncan, Miriori and the other Central Exploration Director, Michael Etheridge, have conducted business in Bougainville. 

The last time it was through Transpacific Ventures Limited.

In that case Transpacific Ventures informed investors:

‘In the past 12 months, TPV has negotiated and signed an Agreement (the “Cairns Agreement”) with the Sovereign Me’ekamui Tribal Government on an exclusive basis for 20 years, renewable, to advise customary landowners (the Me’ekamui) in developing their natural resources sector, including potential oil and gas, on the island of Bougainville, PNG and surrounding atolls and marine territories, and to participate with the Me’ekamui in such development and other business opportunities’.

Yes, that’s right, Philip Mioriri and his self-styled tribal government proposed to sign away the natural resources, landed and marine, across Bougainville. Clearly, he had no right to, and Transpacific Ventures had no legal business publishing this information to investors.

Of course the claim by President Momis that RTG mining ‘doesn’t have any money’, is rather ironic given that his preferred operator, BCL, cant even afford permanent staff – and has no means whatsoever to raise the sort of capital to develop Panguna.

But the core point all this squabbling between various minority interests distracts from is this – 98% of the people in and around Panguna oppose mining, under any industrial guise. They have suffered the environment and human loss.

The ordinary people – real landowners – don’t have government support, nor do they have access to the internet or media. Their voice is unheard, except when they protest and resist.

The re-entry of Duncan and Mirori, will be cynically used by the government to label all landowner resistance, simply a plot to bring in an alternative developer by the backdoor. If this is argued, it is a lie.

Landowners throughout the mine area remain opposed, like they have since 1963, when the first rumblings of Panguna began. Journalists will not report this. They don’t leave their offices, much less speak with someone who cant reply in english.

On the rare occasions they do leave their office, they knock on the door of Lawrence Daveona, Philip Mioriori and other individuals, who falsely claiming they somehow speak for all landowners, which they don’t. Of course the colonial powers did this back in the 1960s. Some poor old man, was wielded out to say yes, while the mothers cried no.

History has been a cruel teacher, it is unlikely the mothers of the land will allow the bulldozers through this time.

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Filed under Corruption, Financial returns, Human rights, Mine construction, Papua New Guinea

Panguna landowners give big tick to mining but no to BCL

Radio New Zealand | 22 June 2017

The head of a landowners group controlling the site of the Panguna mine in Papua New Guinea’s Bougainville says it is keen to see a resumption of mining but will always be opposed to the return of Bougainville Copper Ltd.

BCL was the original operator of the mine and has been blamed for sparking the civil war.

Its former multi national owner, Rio Tinto, last year walked away, giving its shares to the PNG and Bougainville governments, rather face demands for compensation over the environmental and social damage blamed on the mine.

Last week this new look BCL was stopped by a protest march from signing a memorandum of agreement with the Panguna landowners – a move seen as the first move to re-open the Panguna mine and boost the region’s economy ahead of an independence vote in two years.

Not the least of BCL’s problems is that they were not dealing with the proper landowners and legal action has put a stay on the signing of the MOA.

The man they should have been talking to, Philip Miriori, the chairman of the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association, says he will never back BCL returning.

Mr Miriori, who also heads the Me’ekamui Government of Unity, explained the SML’s thinking to Don Wiseman.

PHILIP MIRIORI: It is the same legal company with enormous liabilities hanging on its shoulder and some much damage was done during their operations. So it is the same company.

DON WISEMAN: The thing here is of course that since Rio Tinto has walked away – it doesn’t have resources does it? In terms of that  environmental and social deficit that people like John Momis have talked about, this current version of BCL is never going to be in much of a position to do much about that is it?

PM: With BCL the ABG is saying it is a new company, but we don’t think it is a new company, it is the same company,, and the same management. People from Rio [Tinto] are still with the BCL arrangement, even now.

DW: Are there any circumstances under which the Me’ekamui Government of Unity and the SML Osikaiyang Landowners would ever accept BCL?

PM: I don’t think we will accept BCL to come back to Panguna. BCL has said it would attract development partners, but we don’t know this development partner, who is he? maybe it is the same Rio Tinto. They are looking to come back and work with BCL.

DW: So this protest last Thursday and Friday, the protest and the road block, did your people organise that?

PM: The people of Panguna especially the landowners and the women, our stand has always been clear – we don’t accept BCL to come back and with the protest march last Friday it is a common sense that the people have here in Panguna, that by not accepting BCL to come back they had to stand for their rights. So they [The ABG] can make any tricks under the sun but with the records that BCL have in the past it is just not going to work. The protest march was right, you know.

DW: last month you presented a petition to the ABG, more than 500 signatures. What has been the outcome of that?

PM: Well the outcome from the ABG was negative. I presented that petition myself to President Momis. The petition was signed by 550 people from Panguna – the SML [Osikaiyang landowners]. So no response from President Momis’s office, so these are the things that have brought the people together on the signing of the MOA.

DW: You are not opposed to mining are you? You clearly are interested in mining and you have linked up with this Australian miner called RTG. Why have you linked with them? Why have you chosen them?

PM: I am always for mining you know but not with BCL. We have this Australian company. We work with them for some time now and we built trust so we are not opposed to mining opening. We are for. We want the mine to open, to generate prosperity for our people and not with BCL. We don’t want BCL to come back you know.

DW: Let’s say RTG were to get an exploration licence, would you be keen for them to get in there and start doing the EL work, as it’s called, immediately and then the prospect of opening the mine as soon as possible.

PM: If we are given an exploration licence we will start immediately and also make clean up operations around Panguna.

DW: There are a lot of other landowning groups close by aren’t there and it would seem that you are at odds with them, or are you?

PM: Now I want to correct this. The other eight, or whatever, landowner associations – I think at this point in time they are irrelevant. They can come in when the mine is up running. They can make no decision on where the pit is, so right now, for me, it is irrelevant for those other organisations to make a decision over the SML [Osikaiyang Landowners]. The only entity, legal entity, is SML which I am chairman of.  

DW: Your message then to the ABG is that there is substantial opposition among the people who are on the land, or who have the land, around that enormous hole in the ground at Panguna, who are opposed to BCL coming in, but you are very keen on mining and you want to form an association with this Australian company, RTG.

PM: A proper awareness is what is needed now. To go right down to the people, you know, and tell them what is the advantage of re-opening the mine now, and the disadvantage of keeping that mine [shut] for ten years as BCL says. But to us I can see that we start the mine up now, so that we start generating the money and prepare for the referendum or whatever you know.         

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Bougainville Hardliners Against Reopening of Panguna Mine

Romulus Masiu | Post Courier | June 5, 2017

The ‘Bougainville Hardliners’ have strongly opposed the Autonomous Bougainville Government’s decision to re-open the Panguna Mine with Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) as the preferred operator.

This was made known to the ABG delegation led by Vice President and Minister for Minerals and Energy Resources Raymond Masono by ‘Bougainville Hardliner’s’ chairman James Onartoo during the talks on the reopening of Panguna mine in Central Bougainville.

The delegation highlighted in their presentations that they were going to reopen the Panguna Mine to boost Bougainville’s economy and this was going to be done with BCL and a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was going to be signed on the 16th of June 2017, between ABG, the landowners of Panguna and BCL.

The announcement was not welcomed by the general public and ex-combatants present in the controlled forums.

Mr Onartoo said to show their disagreement they will draft a letter addressing it to the Director of Office of Panguna Negotiations Bruno Babato and Peter Garuai to ask them not to proceed with the signing of the MOA with BCL, because they are the ones pushing for the reopening of the mine.

“We have already made contact with the Kingdom of Papala, Original Me’ekamui headed by Chris Uma, ex-combatants from North, Central and South, Bougainville youths and womens groups and we will all sign this letter. This already shows that everybody on Bougainville does not agree with ABG reopening the Panguna Mine with BCL,” he said.

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BRA unites as Bougainville waits for referendum

Bougainville Revolutionary Army fighters look down on the Panguna mine in 1996

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.

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