Tag Archives: Panguna

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

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

Phillip Miriori | Asia Pacific Report | 13 October 2017

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

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

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

Have they learned nothing or think we have forgotten?

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

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

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

Mediation process

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Revolutionary law

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

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

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

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

Misled through lies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rio Tinto shares in BCL not transferred to either ABG or PNG govt

On 30 June 2016 Rio Tinto announced it had transferred its 53.8 per cent shareholding in Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) to an independent trustee.

But, no share transfer documents appear in the records of the Investment Promotion Authority in Port Moresby and, 16 months after the announcement, Rio Tinto is still listed as holding 214,887,996 or 53.5% of the shares in BCL.

In its original announcement, Rio also said, Equity Trustees Limited would manage the distribution of the shares between the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) and the Independent State of Papua New Guinea (PNG).

According to Rio, under a trust deed, the ABG had the opportunity to receive 68 per cent of Rio Tinto’s shareholding in BCL (being 36.4% of all BCL’s shares) from the independent trustee for no consideration and PNG was entitled to the remaining 32 per cent (equal to 17.4 per cent of BCL’s shares).

Rio also added, under the Trust Deed, should either beneficiary of the trust not apply for the transfer of the BCL shares attributable to them within two months, then those shares will be made available to the other party.

According to IPA records, neither the ABG or PNG government has received any transfer of the shares and neither currently has any shareholding in BCL.

Entity_Extract-BOUGAINVILLE_COPPER_LIMITED-1-1895

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ABG claims of financial independence if mine reopens ridiculed

Nasioi Writer responds to Member for Kokoda, Rodney Osioco’s claims the Bougainville government will be financially self reliant if BCL is allowed to reopen the Panguna mine.

Mr. Osioco I can probably forgive you for being so naive and sentimental. Where and when is this extractive industry madness going to end. Your little baby government cannot even account for funding it gets from National Government which ends up in your private accounts as we are being told. Is this how you are going to manage the millions you get from mining and pay tit bits to the landowners who to this day have never been compensated adequately for loss of everything from environment, rivers, and land which is the source of their livelihood?

We are fed up with ABG preaching that agriculture, tourism is not enough to run the economy of Bougainville. Coming from a government that is wasteful with buying fleets and of cars and staying at expensive hotels, I find this hard to believe.

I wonder how much these politicians carrying out awareness are being paid? Isn’t this work suppose to be given to others to do? Maski giaman nabaut kisim allowance na mekim awareness.

The introduction of mining into our midst is causing so much confusion and division among the people who should be united to vote in the forth coming referendum. ABG’s push for mining with BCL at it’s helm is now being challenged by another player RTG which supposedly has the cash and elaborate plans to deal with issues ahead. I don’t support mining in any form or shape because already these companies are sprinkling cash this way and that. This is where corruption takes root if is not already eating away at ABG.

Opposition to Mining is mounting and I think it is time Hon. Osioco and his colleagues started to look at alternatives otherwise we are going to face another catastrophe at the hands of mining companies.

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ABG will be financially self-reliant if mine reopens: MP

Post Courier | October 11, 2017

The re-opening of the Panguna mine will ensure the Autonomous Region of Bougainville is financially self-reliant and able to adequately support its economy as it transits to eventual referendum.
This is according to Member for Kokoda constituency Rodney Osioco.
“The Bougainville Government (ABG) currently relies heavily on the K20 million annual grant from the national government which is insufficient to fund service delivery and developments in the region,” Mr Osioco said,
“The ABG is also owed millions in outstanding grants which the national government is obligated to provide under the Bougainville peace agreement.”
This was made known to the community government and ward representatives from the North Nasioi constituency of Kieta district during an awareness program conducted in Arawa last week by members of the House of Representatives from Central Bougainville.
Acting as the Central Bougainville leaders political bloc, the group led by Mr Osioco, is currently conducting awareness on issues surrounding the re-opening of the mine.
Mr Osioco said the revenue generated from the re-opening of the mine would be the catalyst that would boost other sectors like agriculture and tourism and prop up the economy of Bougainville if it is granted independence.
“As the referendum nears, we as your leaders, have come to create awareness and seek your views on the re-opening of the mine.
“We would like to outline to you that agriculture, tourism and other industries alone cannot support the Bougainville economy and that is why we need to re-open Panguna,” Mr Osioco said.
He said Bougainville Copper Limited was the preferred operator of the mine if it was re-opened and that the company would still be held liable for compensation and other issues which arose before the crisis.
He said the ABG was now the major shareholder of BCL owning 53.8 per cent of which 17.4 per cent belong to the landowners. The Papua New Guinea Government owns 19 per cent of BCL.
“The ABG became the major shareholder after Rio Tinto offloaded its 36 per cent stake in BCL to the ABG,” Mr Osioco said.

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Fundraiser for Bougainvilleans for No Mining

Click on the link  to donate – www.gofundme.com/women-for-no-mining

The traditional owners of Panguna who are women staged a protest and road block to Panguna on the 15th and 16th of June 2017, preventing the President of the Autonomous Government of Bougainville, John Momis and his delegates access to Panguna. The women wanted to send a clear message to the Transitional Government that there is no MINING until after independence and if there is miming it is under the terms of the custodians of  traditional owners and general consensus of the people of Bougainville.

The purpose of  fundraising is to fund 4 smart phones so the women can use digital platforms like  social media to broadcast their protests to the global audience. 

At the moment they are collecting data in the form of petition.

Click on the link  to donate – www.gofundme.com/women-for-no-mining

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Aussie investor talks slow over Bougainville mine relaunch

 Ewen Hosie | Australian Mining | October 9, 2017

Talks between Australian investors and the Papua New Guinean and Bougainville governments over plans to reopen the Panguna copper mine in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville have slowed.

The mine has been closed since 1989 due to conflicts in the region.

Local operator Bougainville Copper (BCL) recently contributed to a tax and revenue summit in the region’s capital Buka, where it conducted a feasibility study for a relaunch of the once-thriving Panguna copper mine, which, while non-operational, was owned by Rio Tinto until divestment last year.

Lawyer and mining industry expert Renzie Duncan — currently advising Bougainville officials on mining rights and creator of an Australian investor consortium for the region — is banned from entering PNG until 2024 due to a request filed by the Bougainville Government, which wishes for operation of the mine to remain local.

Gold and copper company RTG Mining and billionaire private management fund owner Richard Hains are among the investors currently involved with the Australian consortium, which pays stipends to local landowners

The relaunch has been cited as a crucial financial key to the small region’s plans for independence from Papua New Guinea, which is planned to go to a public vote in 2019.

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Plans to restart giant Bougainville mine stall as operating rights battle rages

Local residents holding banners and placards during a protest at the former Bougainville Copper Limited’s (BCL) Panguna mining operation located on the Pacific Ocean island of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, May 3, 2017. Renzie Duncan

Jonathan Barrett | Reuters | 6 October, 2017 



Plans to reopen one of the world’s biggest copper mines, shut by a civil war on the Pacific Island of Bougainville in 1989, have run into trouble.

The quarter of a million people of Bougainville are tentatively scheduled to vote on independence from Papua New Guinea in June 2019, and revenue from the reopening of the Panguna mine is essential [?] for the otherwise impoverished island to have any chance of flourishing if it becomes the world’s newest nation.

But there is now a struggle over who will run the mine between Bougainville Copper Ltd – the previous operator now backed by the Autonomous Bougainville Government and the Papua New Guinea government – and a consortium of Australian investors supported by the head of the landowners who own the mineral rights.

The dispute is opening old wounds – and is almost certainly going to delay any reopening. That could help to drive copper prices higher as many forecasters expect that demand for the base metal will exceed supply in the next few years.
The battle lines have been hardening on several fronts, Reuters has learned.

Papua New Guinea has told airlines that Sydney businessman Ian de Renzie Duncan, who set up the consortium, is banned from entering the country until 2024, according to a Papua New Guinea government document reviewed by Reuters. The request for the ban was made by the Bougainville government, three sources with knowledge of the document said.

The consortium has also acknowledged for the first time that it is paying some landowners a monthly stipend and has pulled in some big backers that have not previously been disclosed. They include Richard Hains, part of a billionaire Australian race-horse owning family which runs hedge fund Portland House Group.

In a sign of how ugly the row is getting on the ground, local opponents of BCL becoming the operator – and some who are opposed to the mine reopening altogether – blocked Bougainville government officials from entering Panguna in June.

They had hoped to get key landowners to sign a memorandum of agreement that would have endorsed BCL as preferred developer, according to a copy of the document reviewed by Reuters. The proposed agreement also stipulated the mine would be re-opened by June 2019, ahead of BCL’s own timeframe of 2025-26.

The Papua New Guinea government didn’t respond to requests for comment for this story.

Bougainville’s main political leaders say getting the mine reopened is critical. “If the independence of the people is to be sustained then we need Panguna to run,” Bougainville Vice President and Mining Minister Raymond Masono told Reuters in a phone interview.

He said he believes BCL has first right of refusal to operate the mine under laws passed three years ago, and only if BCL declined to take up that right should an open tender take place.

DEEP RESENTMENT

The abandoned copper and gold mine contains one of the world’s largest copper deposits. During its 17-year life until the closure in 1989, Panguna was credited for generating almost one-half of Papua New Guinea’s gross domestic product.

The civil war was largely about how the profits from the mine should be shared, and about the environmental damage it had caused. There was deep resentment among the indigenous Bougainville people about the amount of the wealth that was going to Papua New Guinea and to the mine’s then operator, Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd, a forerunner of Rio Tinto.

The mine was forced to shut after a campaign of sabotage by the rebel Bougainville Revolutionary Army.

The conflict between Bougainville’s rebel guerrilla army and Papua New Guinea forces left as many as 20,000 dead over the following decade, making it the biggest in the region known as Oceania since the Second World War.

Rio Tinto divested its stake in BCL in 2016, and the listed company is now just over one-third owned by the Bougainville government and one-third owned by Papua New Guinea. Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O‘Neill said last year his government would gift the shares received from Rio, or 17.4 percent, to the people of Bougainville, although that is yet to take place.

“NEVER AGAIN”

The challenge from the Australian consortium that now includes listed gold and copper explorer RTG Mining was made public in June. Duncan and his fellow investors have joined forces with a group of Panguna landowners, the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowner Association (SMLOLA) led by Philip Miriori.

Miriori was in the Bougainville Revolutionary Army as the private secretary to the late Francis Ona, the former BCL mine surveyor who became leader of the resistance.

Ona had declared that BCL should “never again” be allowed to run the mine and Miriori, Ona’s brother-in-law, still supports that stance. “They have caused a lot of damage, they don’t have the money and they are not telling the truth and so I wouldn’t accept them,” Miriori said in a telephone interview from the Bougainville town of Arawa.

The consortium’s challenge is based on new mining laws introduced in 2014 that downgraded BCL’s mining rights to an exploration licence and gave landowners powerful rights over the minerals on their land to acknowledge the losses suffered by those in Panguna during the conflict.Miriori told Reuters that the government did not have authority over mine negotiations.

PAYOUTS TO LANDOWNERS

Duncan, a former barrister with a background in mining law, heads an entity called Central Exploration that has a half share of the consortium.

Duncan’s consortium has been paying money, described as a stipend, to some of the landowners, but denies this amounts to bribery.

“We are really talking about people receiving a couple of thousand kina ($608) a month,” said Duncan, who added that the money helps the landowners to travel and find accommodation in towns where Panguna negotiations take place. “It’s not bribery, it’s business,” he said.

BCL claims to have the support of eight other landowner groups in Bougainville with an interest in the project. They have land rights covering access roads and the port site, among other areas, though crucially not the mine site itself.

BCL chairman Robert Burns, who formerly worked for Rio Tinto, said Bougainvilleans were the ones being impacted by Duncan’s attempt to gain control of the mine.

“Everyone is being frustrated and impeded by this issue,” Burns told Reuters in a phone interview from the PNG capital, Port Morseby.

FINANCING DOUBTS

The uncertainty is going to make it difficult for either group to raise the capital that will be needed to get the mine restarted.

In 2012, BCL estimated the cost of re-opening at $5 billion. With few of its own assets, the company would need to secure the mining rights before tapping capital markets.

The Australian consortium may be in a stronger position, according to Hains, who is a 15 percent owner of RTG. He said the consortium has strong access to the North American capital markets and could re-develop Panguna in a “highly timely fashion”.

As it stands, BCL has no mine without the support of the owners of the minerals, and Duncan’s group has no project without road and port rights as well as government support.

Anthony Regan, a constitutional lawyer at the Australian National University and an adviser to the Bougainville government, said the immediate outlook for the mine is bleak. “The need of Bougainville to have a significant source of revenue if it’s to be really autonomous or independent has become hopelessly enmeshed with the future of Panguna.”

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