Tag Archives: Panguna

Derelict mine caused a bloody war. Now Aussie companies are fighting over it again

Heavy trucks sit rusting on the edges of Panguna copper mine, closed in 1989 as a result of sabotage.

Sarah Danckert and Ben Bohane | Sydney Morning Herald | November 15, 2019

Iron ore magnate Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest has joined the race with an unruly bunch of small, struggling mining companies, all with links to Australia and share prices of 10c or less, for access to some of the world’s biggest copper and gold deposits on the Pacific island of Bougainville.

The manoeuvring over the gigantic, mothballed Panguna mine comes ahead of an independence referendum later this month that could turn Bougainville into the world’s newest nation after disputes over foreign mining prompted a bloody, 10-year war that killed perhaps 15,000 people.

However, China is also sniffing around opportunities in Bougainville, although not necessarily the Panguna mine itself, which was valued recently at a staggering $US58 billion ($84 billion).

Previously run by Rio Tinto, the mine was at the centre of a decade-long conflict over allegations that locals were being ripped off and the environment damaged by foreign mining companies. The war continued well after the mine closed as a battle of control for the country raged between the Bougainville Revolutionary Army and the Papua New Guinea Defence Force. It was the most serious conflict in the south Pacific since World War II.

The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald have confirmed that representatives of Mr Forrest’s mining company, Fortescue, travelled in recent months to the island and were exploring growth opportunities there.

“As a leading mining company with world-class expertise, we constantly assess opportunities to build on our operational reputation to drive future growth through product diversification and asset development,” chief executive Elizabeth Gaines said. “Consistent with business development activities, representatives from Fortescue have visited Bougainville Island to learn about the region and potential opportunities.”

Other companies – including one chaired by a former Liberal defence minister David Johnston and another by Arabian horse breeder and luxury goods dealer Jeff McGlinn – have also been striving to gain local support on the island to reopen the mine, which was shuttered in 1989.

Meanwhile, a Chinese delegation is rumoured to have offered substantial funds in late 2018 to help finance a transition to Bougainville independence, along with offers to invest in mining, tourism and agriculture, with a figure of $US1 billion cited. A new port was also reportedly proposed.

A new nation to our north?

On November 23, Bougainvilleans will go to the polls and are expected to vote overwhelmingly for independence from Papua New Guinea. But in the wake of that expected vote, there is a real risk of new disputes between landowner groups as miners, many with links to Australia, could reignite the crisis that engulfed the island 30 years ago.

“Are they f—king mad?” asks one former Rio Tinto executive who worked at the company when it was the majority owner of Bougainville. “Re-opening Panguna would be a disaster.”

In its heyday, the mine, which would take an estimated $US5 billion in infrastructure spending to restart, was a productive asset for Rio Tinto, then known as Conzinc Rio Tinto. During the final year of production in 1988 and 1989, Rio’s subsidiary Bougainville Copper (BCL) extracted 550,000 tonnes of copper concentrate and a whopping 450,000 ounces of gold.

Already the tussle for Panguna has sparked a race to promise the best deal and the highest royalties to landowners while stemming the environmental degradation that has ravaged Bougainville. But that race has also already sparked intense political disagreement between rival groups on the island.

Rio’s former subsidiary BCL is still in the race for a mining licence, though Rio divested its shares and walked away in 2016. But a number of new entrants are also in the game.

Among them is Toronto and ASX-listed RTG Mining Inc – which has links to the Philippines and counts the son of billionaire Australian stock picker David Hains, Richard, as the largest shareholder of its Toronto-issued shares.

Another ASX-listed company, Kalia Limited, has been given two permits to explore in the northern tip of Bougainville. Kalia counts former Defence Minister David Johnston as its chairman and Perth-based mining entrepreneur Nick Zuks as its top shareholder. Johnston’s biggest claims to fame at home are a controversy over his lavish spending on entertainment as minister and comments that South Australians couldn’t build a canoe, much less a submarine.

Kalia’s bid is financially supported by a company run by Australian polo patriarch Peter Yunghanns. Another significant shareholder, Graeme Kirke, is the founder of Kirke Securities where Mr Forrest previously worked.

More recently a new player, Caballus Mining, has arrived in Bougainville. It sparked fears, rumours and intrigue when it emerged the Autonomous Government of Bougainville had drafted new laws that would assign the responsibility for issuing mining licences to a new entity – Bougainville Advance Mining and a foreign partner. Many believed that partner would be Caballus.

Caballus Mining was set up only in August 2018. Its sole director is Arabian horse breeder and luxury goods dealer Jeff McGlinn – a man who posted a flashy social media video of Saudi royalty at a luxury event, and another of him giving one of his fine equines to classical crossover singer Andrea Bocelli.

The entry of Caballus sparked fears among Bougainville locals – specifically those linked to rival miners – that a three-way fight for Panguna would erupt.

Slugging it out

Already, former Rio subsidiary BCL and Australian-Toronto based RTG Mining have been slugging it out via statements on their websites or on the Australian Securities Exchange. RTG claims BCL has lost its local goodwill and cannot operate in Bougainville, and that RTG has the support of a landowner group the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association – one of the groups who say they represent landowners in the Panguna area.

BCL hit back saying the landowners’ association (known as SMLOLA) is a new invention and points to recent statements disputing its provenance. In turn, the landowner groups supporting BCL’s plans to reopen Panguna have also come under fire.

The one thing both have in common is their respective share prices are in the gutter, with BCL trading at 10 cents a share and RTG trading at 6.5 Canadian cents (7.4 cents). Kalia’s share price is just one-tenth of a cent.

The disputes between miners have been reflected in intense politicking among local landowner groups and political players on Bougainville. Bougainville’s president John Momis has copped much criticism for entertaining the Caballus deal, and the Autonomous Bougainville Government has given mixed signals on its position on mining.

Momis initially supported a moratorium on mining at Panguna to avoid reigniting old conflicts between landowner groups. The moratorium was put in place in early 2018, but the government now appears to favour mining across the island as a means to generate income and underwrite independence.

Autonomous Bougainville Government President John Momis.

Landowners are guaranteed rights under the 2015 Mining Act, but in an urgent bid in January 2019 to raise funds for the referendum, the government proposed to abolish those rights, at the same time allocating “near monopoly” rights to Caballus’s Bougainville Advance Mining. That legislation was later rejected by the government’s legislative committee, illustrating how politically contentious this issue will be in an independent Bougainville.

Fiscal self-reliance

In recent months, the mudslinging by supporters of both groups has died down. Several sources linked to the company and NGOs operating on the island said this was due to the request by the government that the miners are not seen to be influencing the independence vote.

There was no answer from Caballus in response to a series of questions, including regarding its links to Bougainville Advance Mining and how it achieved such a prime position. McGlinn was last week travelling in Europe.

Calls to the Perth offices of another suitor, Kalia Limited, which is now led by Michael Johnston, the former boss of failed PNG miner Nautilus Mining, went unreturned. David Johnston (no relation to Michael) and Kalia shareholder Nick Zuks also did not return calls.

RTG chairman Michael Carrick was also loath to talk about the issue.

“Politics is played extremely robustly in PNG and the facts/truth are often amongst the first casualties,” Carrick said via email from his Perth office. However, he added that mining would be part of Bougainville’s future.

“There can be no independence without first setting the country on a pathway to fiscal self-reliance and Panguna is the only asset which can assist this fundamental objective.”

BCL company secretary Mark Hitchcock said from his office in Port Moresby that the company retained strong support among landowners and rejected suggestions the company had lost its social licence to operate.

“There is at times frustration when some purporting to speak on behalf of all landowners are in fact representing a narrower interest. Regardless, all views are to be respected.”

Luke Fletcher, a long-time Bougainville watcher and executive director of think tank Jubilee Australia warns of the “resources curse” that has plagued PNG.

“This is one of the problems of the resource curse, you have these big revenues sitting in bank accounts that can be misappropriated quite easily,” he said.

It’s a curse that many think is worth risking.

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Can Bougainville rebuild on the broken corporate dreams of the colonial age?

Bougainville Revolutionary Army guerillas stand next to a destroyed dump truck at Panguna mine in 1994. CREDIT: BEN BOHANE

Ben Bohane | Fairfax Media | November 16, 2019

To view the Panguna pit is to witness an industrial apocalypse and one of the largest man-made holes in the world; a vast open-cut copper and gold mine in the highlands of Bougainville island, slowly being reclaimed by jungle.

Bits of twisted metal and rusting debris lie scattered everywhere, buildings and heavy machinery smothered under moss and creeping vine. Here lie buried the broken corporate dreams of a colonial age but also the promise of a future with local landowners in control.

Before guerrillas from the Bougainville Revolutionary Army forced its closure in May 1989, Panguna was one of the most advanced – and profitable – mining operations in the world. It was operated by a company called Bougainville Copper Limited. Its parent company Rio Tinto, one of the biggest in the world, called Panguna “the jewel in our crown”.

Yet locals saw little of the wealth. Australian officials administering Papua New Guinea in the late 1960s made it clear to local landowners that Panguna’s riches were to underwrite the economy of the whole country as it headed to independence in 1975 and beyond. And that, inevitably, led to war.

‘Kastom’: responsibility

Although anthropologists had told the company that Bougainville was matrilineal – that it was women who owned the land, not men – the mine proceeded to do all its dealings with men. Women opposed it from the start.

In 1988 the New Panguna Landowners Association usurped the previous one and the senior woman in the area, Perpetua Serero, issued a demand to the mining company: pay 10 billion kina ($4.2 billion) in compensation for use of the land and renegotiate the mine lease. Their demands were ignored.

When Serero died soon after, her brother, Francis Ona, a former surveyor at the mine, took on the “kastom” – responsibility – on behalf of the women owners to reclaim the land, even if it meant war. Ona went bush with a stack of stolen dynamite from the mine and formed the first cell of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA), soon launching attacks on the mine. Several mine workers, including an Australian, were shot, prompting closure of the mine and declaration of a State of Emergency by PNG.

Within months Bougainville descended into a war as the PNG Defence Force tried, unsuccessfully, to regain control of the island. In the next 10 years, an estimated 10 to 15,000 people died, mostly from preventable disease because PNG imposed a naval blockade of the island which stopped vital medicines getting in.

The mine – or more accurately, the total mineral wealth of this island in the south Pacific – remained at the centre of the dispute. When I interviewed Ona in his Guava village above the mine in 1994, at the height of the war, he showed me plans by BCL to establish several other mines on the island.

BRA leader Francis Ona with his men in his home village of Guava, above the Panguna mine, in 1994. CREDIT: BEN BOHANE

“When we broke into the company safe and I saw the plans, I knew our fears were true,” he said. “BCL wanted to mine the whole island and our people were worried they would all be moved off the island so the company could mine everywhere.”

Although it’s unlikely the mine could have done so, or the PNG government would have allowed it, such concerns in a community with little access to information or understanding of the space-age project planted on top of a tribal culture added to resentment and suspicion. People were already angry at pollution from the mine, the lack of royalties accruing to them and the growing number of PNG mainlanders arriving to take jobs that locals believe should have been reserved for them.

Ceasefire and reconciliation

By 1997, the women had had enough of the war and convinced their men among the rank and file of the BRA to seek a peaceful, diplomatic route to achieve their common goal: independence.

A ceasefire was brokered in 1997 by New Zealand and in 2001 the comprehensive Bougainville Peace Agreement was signed by PNG and all the warring factions, except a BRA breakaway group called the Me’ekamui Defence Force (MDF). The MDF still controls the Panguna site today. Nevertheless they have recently contained their weapons under UN supervision and will join the rest of Bougainville in voting.

Rebel guerillas above the Panguna copper and gold mine in Bougainville in 1994. CREDIT: BEN BOHANE

Any grievances about the mine and colonial administration need to be weighed against the fact that Bougainville was the most prosperous province of PNG during the 1970s and ’80s. It had good infrastructure, including roads, hospitals and schools. BCL paid substantial tax but was caught in tensions between provincial and national governments. Many Bougainvilleans were trained by the mine and local businesses, with some going on to careers elsewhere in PNG and overseas.

Today, Bougainvilleans have reconciled after a 20-year peace process and are poised to vote in a referendum they have long awaited. Although it is expected a large majority will vote for independence, the final outcome must be ratified by the PNG parliament – which is not certain. If successful, Bougainville will become the newest nation in our region since East Timor.

A sign advertising a weapons surrender process and urging an independence vote on Bougainville. CREDIT: BEN BOHANE

More than 206,000 voters are registered and 246 polling teams have spread across the Bougainville islands, Australia, PNG and the Solomons. The two-week voting period begins on November 23 and ends on December 7, with results expected soon after. Overseeing the vote is the chairman of the Bougainville Referendum Commission (BRC), former Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern, who has said the referendum “should be celebrated”.

Despite being scarred by the history of mining there, Bougainvilleans are pragmatic and many believe they need mining to underwrite a newly emerging nation. Although its infrastructure has been destroyed, Bloomberg recently estimated that the Panguna mine alone still contains up to $US58 billion ($84 billion) worth of copper, gold and silver.

In fact, the whole island is known to be rich in minerals and mining has never stopped. Villagers continue to pan for alluvial gold in rivers and streams across Bougainville, as well as the tailings area of the Panguna mine. Recently I watched young and old villagers close to Panguna clawing away at the hillside, using high-powered hoses and pickaxes to create a slurry they could then pan through to find precious little nuggets.

During the war I saw Nescafe jars filled with gold being smuggled out of the island to buy essential goods in the neighbouring Solomon Islands. Estimates vary, but since the war ended somewhere around $50 million per year is being earned by locals through alluvial panning.

But big external players are circling too, hoping to get exploration licences to mine Bougainville’s riches. Apart from the contested Panguna licence, four exploration licences have been issued by the Autonomous Bougainville Government since they were able to draw down mining powers from PNG.

The Panguna mine: one of the largest man-made pits in the world.

Former BRA commander “General” Sam Kauona has one licence, Filipino company SRMI has another while Perth-based Kalia has two licences. Other Australian companies such as Fortescue are in talks, while China is also pitching infrastructure deals based on the “collateral” of Bougainville’s mineral wealth.

Last December a delegation of 10 Chinese businessmen approached the “Core” group of Bougainville veterans and leaders offering up to $1 billion to invest in mining, agriculture, tourism and the “transition” from autonomy to independence.

Even today, some Panguna landowners are in favour of BCL or its former parent company, Rio Tinto, returning “after they have properly reconciled with us and cleaned up their mess”. Amidst the uncertainty of new players circling, as well as growing geopolitical tensions, there is an oft-heard refrain: better the devil you know.

‘Australia’s secret war’

While some worry about growing Chinese influence, others are equally critical of Australia’s failure to present a viable alternative and the lack of personal engagement by Australian officials on the ground. Although Australia’s leaders are mindful of PNG sensitivities ahead of the referendum and want to avoid being seen to favour either side, Bougainvilleans wonder if Australia is indeed “neutral” now or will continue to work with PNG to deny Bougainville’s independence.

PNG army troops on patrol in heavy jungle in 1997, hunting for guerillas who had shot a boy dead nearby. CREDIT: BEN BOHANE

This has geopolitical consequences as China woos key players on Bougainville who remain suspicious of Australia’s position.

Australia has a long and sometimes troubled history with Bougainville. Today it is a valuable aid partner, providing around 12 per cent ($50 million per year) of Bougainville’s bilateral aid program, the highest of any donor. It has positioned itself as the partner of choice for Pacific nations, particularly after the “step up” began in 2017.

Between 1915 and 1975 Australia directly administered the territory. The very first action of the national Australian military at the outbreak of World War I – well before the Gallipoli landing – was to take control of German New Guinea, including Bougainville.

In World War II, 516 Australian soldiers and up to 40,000 Japanese died fighting on Bougainville. Australian Coastwatchers, hiding in the hills and protected by loyal locals, provided such valuable intelligence to the Americans taking Guadalcanal to the east that after the war US admiral “Bull” Halsey personally thanked them, saying they had “saved the Pacific”.

After the war, large cocoa plantations were established along with the Panguna mine. Australian riot police were used several times to quash the budding local independence movement. Two universal declarations of independence, first in 1975 and then in 1991, went unrecognised.

And during the Bougainville war between 1988 and 1998, Australia continued to train and equip  PNG forces. Some called it “Australia’s secret war” since Canberra tried to maintain an appearance of neutrality while supplying PNG with four helicopters that were soon turned into gunships.

Since the war Australia has funded a 20-year peace process and has won local and regional admiration for the way it allowed traditional reconciliation processes to unfold.

While Bougainvilleans remain suspicious of Australia’s real position on independence, they are thankful for the role it has played in the peace process and its ongoing development assistance.

Rough seas ahead?

In the wake of the referendum, if PNG, Indonesia or Australia were to attempt to deny or campaign against Bougainville independence, there is a strong possibility that hardliners on the island would issue another unilateral declaration of independence that some countries in the Pacific – and Beijing – might recognise. In that scenario, the potential for another security crisis in the region is real.

If the outcome of the referendum is an overwhelming vote for independence, Canberra must be prepared for two possibilities: either the creation of a newly independent nation in the region, or a crisis unfolding if the PNG government refuses to ratify the result.

Heavy trucks sit rusting on the edges of Panguna copper mine, closed in 1989 as a result of sabotage. CREDIT: FRIEDRICH STARK / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

On top of all this there are Australian miners courting various groups within Bougainville to get access to the hidden riches of the Panguna mine and other mineral resources across the islands.

It has prompted some observers to wonder if these new mining players in Australia and China are fully aware of the history of mining and conflict here, as they try to cash in at this sensitive moment when Bougainville is on the cusp of nationhood and trying to forge unity among its people.

Recent reconciliation ceremonies between the PNG military and Bougainville militants declared there will be “no more war”. Now, as polling day nears, Bougainvilleans look set to accomplish something Francis Ona told me during the war he wanted.

“We have been ruled by four colonial masters over the past 100 years: first the Germans, then the Australians, then the Japanese, the Australians again, then PNG.

“We believe it is time we ruled ourselves now.”

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Breathtaking images depict Bougainville’s ‘blood generation’

Sami and the Panguna mine – Taloi Havini and Stuart Miller.

A photography exhibition featuring more than 200 images that explore the phenomenal complexity of modern life is being staged at the National Gallery of Victoria from 13 September to 2 February 2020.

Titled Civilisation: The Way We Live Now, the exhibition will feature images from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australia and Europe.

Among the images is series dedicated to the ‘blood generation’ of young people born during the bitter and prolonged war between Papua New Guinea and the people of Bougainville (1988–98). The war, which was triggered by external interests in mining and sustained by local acts of political self-determination, resulted in 20,000 deaths and forced many Bougainvilleans to desert their villages in fear of their lives.

Bougainville-born artist Taloi Havini and Australian photographer Stuart Miller explore the repercussions of copper mining and armed conflict on the young people of the region and address the destruction of the natural environment that, for matrilineal societies of Bougainville and Buka, is foundational to their political and social organisation.

The image shown above, Sami and the Panguna mine, revisits a moment in history when female landowners in Bougainville protested against the gouging of their land by mining. In a powerful manifestation of opposition, dissenting mothers held their children, squatted and chained themselves to the mine’s earth-moving trucks in protest.

The National Gallery of Victoria describes the image as a magical and numinous image, yet its dark and traumatic history, as the heart of the Bougainville war, insinuates its presence through a row of burnt and rusted heavy equipment left behind when the Panguna mine closed in 1990. Sami, a child refugee, escaped with her family to Honiara in the Solomon Islands before obtaining refugee status in the Netherlands. The white cloud rising over the hills suggests that nature is there to welcome and shield Sami as she re-enters contested matrilineal land where the world’s largest open-cut mine of its time once stood. A pool of aquamarine-coloured water at the bottom of the pit, contaminated with the copper solution, is the result of a leaching process still happening today.

Siwai on the airstrip. Taloi Havini and Stuart Miller

Siwai on the airstrip shows a young man from Siwai, a large area of the coast, central plains and hinterland of Bougainville. He is dressed in torn jeans and a hessian bag embellished with an image of a skull, which reflects the style of today’s Bougainville youth. In the background, other Siwai young men sit at the centre of the airstrip, as is customary, except when the landing of a plane forces them to move to the edge.

Gori standing in a Buka passage. Taloi Havini and Stuart Miller

Gori standing in a Buka passage shows a young man standing in front of a narrow strait, less than a kilometre wide, which separates the Island of Buka from the northern part of Bougainville. Gori gazes directly into the camera as if to ask what happened, or to say, ‘I know what happened but I don’t understand why’. This is a common feeling among the blood generation, the silent victims of the Bougainville war, who were far too young to comprehend its inexorable repercussions.

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Bougainville veterans reconcile, commit to referendum

Inside the pit of abandoned Panguna mine

Don Wiseman | Radio New Zealand | 27 July 2019

A summit of huge significance for the future of Bougainville has taken place over the past week, in and around Panguna.

The focus of the Bougainville Me’ekamui and Veterans Summit was a reconciliation between former combatants in the region, and came just months out from a referendum on independence from Papua New Guinea.

It involved former combatants from both sides of Bougainville’s brutal civil war of which the referendum is one of the ultimate expressions.

The groups issued the Mary, Queen of the Mountains – Panguna Declaration.

This includes commitments to the referendum, to maintain peace and stability before and after the referendum, the disposal of weapons, and agreement that the Panguna mine can be re-opened after the vote.

Weapons Disposal

The summit attendees, now known officially as the Bougainville Veterans, aim to have guns held by former combatants and civilians contained by 15 August, with an ultimatum that the collection process be completed by 1 September.

The verification of the guns will be done by the Bougainville Police Service, working with community governments and veterans.

Eventually these weapons will be destroyed and a monument created from them.

Bougainville Peace Agreement ceremony in Arawa in August 2001 Photo: RNZ Walter Zweifel

Referendum

The vote was to be held from 12 October, having already been moved from June, but the Bougainville Referendum Commission had been seeking an extension of six weeks.

This has now been agreed to by the Bougainville Veterans, but they say the referendum must happen by 30 November at the latest.

Further Reconciliations

The veterans have urged additional reconciliations. They want to reconcile with PNG security forces – the army, police and prison services.

They also want the leadership of the two governments, Bougainville and Papua New Guinea, to reconcile before the ratification of the referendum outcome.

The veterans also say reconciliation with neighbouring Solomon Islands is a priority and are seeking donor support to facilitate this.

Bougainville government president John Momis, left, and Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill sign the agreement on the question for the independence referendum. Photo: Joseph Nobetau

Economic Development

How to grow the Bougainville economy has long been debated in the region.

Several groups have been eyeing the re-opening of the controversial Panguna mine, which was forced to close 30 years ago at the start of the 10 year civil war.

Environmental and social damage caused by the mine sparked the conflict.

The veterans have agreed, however, the mine can be re-opened after the referendum. But because of the sensitive nature of the matter, public debate and discussions should be discouraged until after the vote.

Any decision on how mining might proceed will also wait until after the referendum and not before appropriate legislation on land, the environment and conservation is put in place.

At its peak, the mine produced almost half of PNG’s export revenue and is still considered to contain one of the largest copper reserves in the world.

The Bougainville Veterans also talked about the importance of investigating other options for fostering economic development, such as fishing and agriculture.

Amnesty

The Bougainville Peace Agreement, signed in 2001, included provisions for amnesty for all persons involved in crisis related activities or convicted of offences arising from them.

In the Mary, Queen of the Mountains – Panguna Declaration, the Bougainville Veterans say these provisions must be extended to beyond 2020 and include members of the Me’ekamui factions as well as other groups and individuals who join in the gun disposal programme.

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LOs Welcome Bid To Discuss Panguna

Panguna mine in operation, circa 1971 (Photo: Robert Owen Winkler/Wikimedia Commons)

Post Courier | July 22, 2019

The Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA) has welcomed the Bougainville Mining Minister Raymond Masono’s statement that the ABG is prepared to discuss Panguna and find a resolution.

“Reconciliation is vital at this critical time,” said SMLOLA chair Philip Miriori.

“If the minister is genuine and I believe he is, this is the first positive step forward towards reconciliation after many years of trying to have a meeting.

“We are committed to working with the ABG and really appreciate the Minister’s invitation.”

He said the ABG does not appear to have a full understanding of the Panguna landowners proposal and believe that this meeting will be the first step in clarifying any misunderstanding.

Mr Miriori said: “The Panguna landowners are offering to transfer to the ABG and all the people of Bougainville, 100 per cent of Panguna.

“Secondly, the landowners proposal is for the ABG to issue the Panguna License to this 100 per cent ABG owned entity and operate the mine, in a fair, world’s best, corporate partnership.

“It’s important that any ABG- Panguna proposal has landowner support as if there is one thing the history of Panguna screams loudest, it is the critical need for landowner support and harmony,” Mr Miriori said.

“Again, we look forward to meaningful and fruitful dialogue with our Mining Minister and ABG as soon as possible. We are here to help and work co-operatively with the ABG – we just need genuine and open dialogue.

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Bougainville landowners group claims rival a BCL surrogate


Radio New Zealand | 17 July 2019

The Bougainville landowner group, Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners’ Association or SMLOL, has rejected claims by another group claiming rights around the Panguna mine.

There have been plans to re-start mining as Bougainvilleans contemplate life after the referendum on independence from Papua New Guinea.

A company called the Panguna Development Company has questioned the bona fides of SMLOL to say they represent the landowners at the site of the mine.

But SMLOL said it has the backing of the vast majority of blockholders, that its authority is recognised by the National Court and that its registered office is at the building housing the Bougainville Department of Mining.

SMLOL also said the Panguna Development Company was established just a few months ago by a rival for the re-opening of the Panguna mine, Bougainville Copper Ltd.

A SMLOL spokesman Philip Miriori said Panguna Development Company has just one listed shareholder, Eric Takapau, who he said had since passed away.

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Rival questions authority of Bougainville’s Osikaiyang landowners

“The original divisions from the beginning of the conflict in Panguna #Bougainville have not gone away. Foreign controlled companies continue to involve themselves and interfere which exacerbates the situation. Money continues to corrupt individuals and complicate any resolution” Stret Pasin

Radio New Zealand | 16 July 2019 

The Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association represents itself as the key body at the site of the Panguna mine, which various interests are looking to develop.

Osikaiyang wants to operate Panguna with an Australian company, RTG.

But the Panguna Development Company, which has links to rival prospective operator, BCL, said Osikaiyang is making misleading public statements when it has no right to do so, under the region’s mining act.

It said such statements can only be given by customary heads, who are authorised to represent the Panguna blocks, and Osikaiyang has never had this consent.

Last week Osikaiyang issued an ultimatum, suggesting the referendum on independence from Papua New Guinea could be derailed if it doesn’t get its way over Panguna.

The Development Company called this threat unfortunate.

Meanwhile, government moves to change the Mining Act to allow a third foreign company to take charge of the mine have been put on hold until after the referendum.

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Filed under Bougainville, Corruption, Papua New Guinea