Tag Archives: Panguna

Mining Hopes for Independence

An aerial view of the Panguna mine located in the autonomous region of Bougainville on July 20, 2015, in Papua New Guinea.(USGS/NASA LANDSAT/GETTY IMAGES)

A copper quarry helps fuel Bougainville’s hopes for separation from Papua New Guinea, a move that would resonate across the Pacific.

By Geoff Hiscock | U.S. News | July 1, 2019

THE Pacific island of Bougainville is moving a step closer to potential independence from Papua New Guinea as preparations begin for a long-promised referendum later this year.

Whether it can survive as a stand-alone nation is a key question for its 250,000 inhabitants, and for other separatist movements in the Pacific. The future course of the island could ripple across the region, as the question of Bougainville’s independence will touch on a complicated mixture of business concerns, environmental worries and geopolitical interests stretching from Australia and New Zealand to ChinaJapan and the United States.

It’s an outsized international role for Bougainville, which lies 900 kilometers (560 miles) east of the Papua New Guinea mainland. The roots of the referendum stem from a bitter inter-clan and separatist conflict that ran from 1988 to 1997, fighting that claimed between 10,000 and 20,000 lives through a combination of violence, disease, poverty and dislocation.

A truce brokered and maintained by regional neighbors that included Australia, New Zealand and Fiji helped restore order, and a comprehensive peace agreement was signed between Papua New Guinea and Bougainville in 2001. The island has had its own autonomous government since 2005.

Bougainville’s people are expected to vote decisively for independence in the Oct. 17 referendum, according to Jonathan Pryke, Pacific Islands program director at the Lowy Institute, a Sydney-based policy think tank. The vote is not binding and any move toward independence will require agreement from the central government of Papua New Guinea, commonly referred to as PNG.

Most people hope the two sides can find a “Melanesian solution” that will deliver a workable form of autonomy for Bougainville, says Pryke, using the term that describes the region of the South Pacific that includes PNG, Fiji, the Solomon Islands and other island nations and territories.

James Marape, who took over as Papua New Guinea’s prime minister in late May, said on June 14 he would prefer Bougainville to remain part of a unified nation, but would listen to the people’s voice and then consult over future options.

Papua New Guinea’s new prime minister, James Marape, arrives at the house of Governor-General Bob Dadae to be sworn in as the new leader in Port Moresby on May 30, 2019.(GORETHY KENNETH/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Peter Jennings, executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in Sydney, says the desire for independence in Bougainville remains strong, but from a regional perspective it will be best if the Bougainville people decided to stay in Papua New Guinea. “We don’t need another microstate emerging in the Pacific.”

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, who visited Bougainville on June 19 with PNG’s new minister for Bougainville Affairs, Sir Puka Temu, said Australia will work to ensure the integrity of the referendum and will not pass judgment on the result. Australia is by far the biggest aid donor in the Pacific region, giving $6.5 billion between 2011 and 2017, according to research last year by the Lowy Institute. Most of Australia’s aid goes to Papua New Guinea.

Scars Remain From a Civil War

The Bougainville conflict, in which rival clans on the island fought among themselves and with the Papua New Guinea Defence Force, evolved from multiple issues, including land rights, customary ownership, “outsider” interference and migration, mineral resource exploitation, and perceived inequities and environmental damage associated with the rich Panguna copper mine.

Under the terms of the 2001 peace agreement, a vote on independence within 20 years was promised.

A reconciliation ceremony will be held on July 2 between the central PNG government, the national defence force, the Autonomous Bougainville Government and the Bougainville Revolutionary Army.

Deep scars remain from the conflict, both physical and emotional. Much of the island’s public infrastructure remains in poor shape, educational opportunities are limited, and corruption is pervasive. Clan rivalry and suspicion persists, particularly in regard to land rights and resource development.

Since Panguna closed in May 1989, Bougainville’s people have led a life built around agriculture and fishing. The cocoa and copra industries ravaged by the war have been re-established, there is small-scale gold mining, and potential for hydroelectric power and a revived forestry industry. For now, a lack of accommodation inhibits tourism.

Copper Mine Underscores Doubts over Bougainville’s Economic Viability

Almost 40 years ago, Bougainville’s Panguna mine was the biggest contributor to Papua New Guinea’s export income and the largest open-cut in the world. But the mine, operated by BCL, a subsidiary of Conzinc Riotinto Australia (now Rio Tinto Ltd.), became a focal point for conflict over pollution, migrant workers, resource ownership and revenue sharing, and has been dormant since 1989.

Apart from any foreign aid it may receive, Bougainville’s future prosperity may well depend on whether it can restart the mine, which contains copper and gold worth an estimated $50 billion. But customary ownership claims – land used for generations by local communities without the need for legal title – remain unresolved and at least three mining groups are in contention, which means an early restart is unlikely. Jennings cautions against investing too much hope in Panguna, with remediation costs after 30 years of disuse likely to be high.

Likewise, Luke Fletcher, executive director of the Sydney-based Jubilee Australia Research Centre, which studies the social and environmental impacts of resources projects on Pacific communities, says reopening Panguna would be a long, expensive and difficult proposition. He says the challenge for any mine operator would be developing a project that is environmentally safe, yet still deliver an acceptable return to shareholders and to the government.

Bougainville’s leader, President John Momis, believes that large-scale mining offers the best chance for income generation and is keen both to revive Panguna and encourage other projects. That would require outside investment, which was a factor contributing to the outbreak of violence in the late 1980s. The local community perceived that it was not getting its fair share of Panguna’s wealth.

Rio Tinto gave up its share in BCL in 2016, and ownership now rests with the government of PNG and the Bougainville government, each with 36.4%. Independent shareholders own the remaining 27.2%.

At least two other groups are vying to operate Panguna. Sir Mel Togolo, the BCL chairman, told the company’s annual general meeting on May 2 that continued uncertainty about Panguna’s tenure remains a big challenge. “We will need to work cooperatively with all stakeholders to achieve our objective of bringing the Panguna mine back into production,” he said.

Regional, International Eyes on October Referendum

With doubts persisting about Bougainville’s economic viability if it cuts ties with the central government, the referendum outcome will be closely watched by other PNG provinces pushing for greater autonomy, such as East New Britain, New Ireland and Enga.

Across the region, some parts of neighboring Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands are agitating for their own separate identities. In the nearby French overseas territory of New Caledonia, voters rejected independence from France by a 56 percent to 44 percent margin in November 2018. European settlers were heavily in favor of staying part of France, while indigenous Kanak people overwhelmingly voted for independence.

At the international level, Australia will be keen to ensure that whatever the outcome of the Bougainville referendum, stability is maintained in Papua New Guinea, if only to counter China’s growing interest in offering aid and economic benefits as it builds a Pacific presence.

Along with Japan, New Zealand and the U.S., Australia has committed to a 10-year $1.7 billion electrification project in Papua New Guinea. Australia and the U.S. have agreed to help Papua New Guinea redevelop its Manus Island naval base, which sits 350 kilometers north of the mainland and commands key trade routes into the Pacific.

Jennings says Australia would be likely to give aid to an independent Bougainville to try to keep China at bay. “China is everywhere. Its destructive connections co-opt leaderships in a way that doesn’t work out well for people.”

From a strategic perspective, Jennings says it would be best if Melanesia looked to Australia as its main partner on matters of security.

While China gives most of its aid to PNG and Fiji, the region’s two biggest economies, Jubilee’s Fletcher says China giving aid to an independent Bougainville was “feasible.”

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Top Lawyer Queries ABG’s Interpretation Of Mining Act

The controversial Panguna mine which land holders are fighting to stop being re-opened for foreign profiteers.

Post Courier | June 21, 2019

One of the world’s leading mining lawyers, Michael Hunt, an advisor to the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA), has issued a stinging attack on the statement which attempted to justify the proposed changes to the Bougainville Mining Act (BMA).

The changes were rejected by the Bougainville Parliamentary Committee on Legislation last week (read the full legal assessment).

This statement was a submission to that committee lodged by Minister Wilson and was published on June 19, 2019.

Mr Hunt said, the Statement, entitled “Interpreting Part 17 of the BMA”, “pretends to explain the Bougainville Mining Act (Amendment) Bill 2019 (Bill) in laymen’s terms but in reality, it is a false and misleading manifesto riddled with errors.”

Mr Hunt categorically confirmed that the proposed amendments would actually abolish all of the landowners’ rights relating to any application by the company 40% of which will be owned by McGlinn’s Caballus Mining and other foreign investors.

He added that all the provisions in Parts 1 to Part 16 of the BMA which protect the rights of landowners are over-ridden by the stroke of a pen in Part A of the Bill.

The confiscation of the landowners’ property and rights under the Bill is “unreasonable, unfair and unconstitutional.” said Mr Hunt in his formal legal opinion.

Mr Hunt confirmed the view previously expressed by SMLOLA: that the Bill “effectively confers a near monopoly on one company over exploration and mining on Bougainville”.

Mr Miriori, the Chairman of the SMLOLA further questioned how it was possible that they got the interpretation of the amending legislation so grossly incorrect?

“Why was Parliament misled? Something profoundly wrong is going on here,” he added.

The Parliamentary Committee reported that the normal practices and safeguards were sidestepped.

Mr Hunt is an Australian legal practitioner, who has written the authoritative book, Mining Law in Western Australia (the fifth edition of which was published in October 2015), the “Energy and Resources” volume of Halsbury’s Laws of Australia and the book Minerals and Petroleum Laws of Australia.

Mr Hunt has been recognised nationally and internationally as a leading mining lawyer, regularly named as such in legal market surveys. He was named in both Chambers Global Guide and Chambers Asia Pacific, putting him amongst the world’s top mining lawyers. Chambers’ review reports: “Michael Hunt is regarded as Western Australia’s pre-eminent expert on mining law.”

In 1987 he conducted a public inquiry into PNG’s mining laws on a commission from the PNG government. His comprehensive recommendations for reform were incorporated into entirely new mining legislation, the Mining Act 1992. The BMA is obviously based in part on the PNG Mining Act 1992.

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Miriori Says Bougainville Executive Council Was Misled

Philip Miriori (ABC News: Eric Tlozek)

Post Courier | June 18, 2019

The Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) Executive Council were allegedly misled at the time it resolved to support the developers proposal and consequential mass amendments demanded to the Bougainville Mining Act (BMA).

The Explanatory Memorandum that has emerged, long after the fact, claims in its first two principal reasons, that developer has developed and operated some of the largest mines in the world.

It now turns out that neither reason advanced was correct.

The truth is starkly different – the developer in question has never financed, developed or operated a large mine, to say nothing of the largest mines in the world.

Philip Miriori the Chairman of Panguna landowner company, Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA), indicated that, had the amending legislation passed, Bougainville would have given away a 4o per cent interest in Panguna and a monopoly over all large scale mining projects in Bougainville, to a person who does not have the relevant skills to finance, build and operate a mine like Panguna or help the ABG.

“The third reason advanced was even more false and misleading, as it claimed that the developer had also raised billions of dollars and so will raise all the money for Panguna for the ABG.

“The developer obviously has not raised billions of dollars as claimed, in fact he has only ever done one public company capital raising of a very modest US$30m, again more than a decade ago.

“So the three key reasons the BEC resolved to support the developer, that he had financed, developed and operated the largest mines in the world.

“And put forward the proposed changes to the BMA, which have now been rejected by the Legislative Review Committee because they were all grossly false and designed to deceive all of us here in Bougainville,” he said.

SMLOLA consultant Lawrence Daveona said the scenario suggest to us is that we all need to sit down collectively and find a workable solution.

“This is a solution that can actually be delivered and will allow us to finally move forward with the redevelopment of Panguna to eventually see all of Bougainville prosper,” he said.

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Bougainville: Australia positions itself as chief new coloniser ahead of referendum

The controversial Panguna mine which land holders are fighting to stop being re-opened for foreign profiteers.

Susan Price | Green Left Weekly | June 14, 2019

A spokesperson for the Bougainville Hardliners Group has called on the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) to explain why the Australian Federal Police (AFP) were at the controversial Panguna mine site in central Bougainville on June 5.

AFP officers were seen taking GPS readings at the abandoned copper mine site. James Onartoo, a former leader of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army, said the community has a right to know why they were there and what they were doing.

“I think the public is owed an explanation as to what is happening,” said Onartoo. “To the best of my knowledge the AFP were ousted in 2007 on suspicion of spying on the ABG and the people of Bougainville by the former President, late Joseph Kabui.”

He suggested that their presence could be linked to the mine’s controversial reopening.

“Their presence at Panguna, which is the site of so much controversy and disagreements plus issues of sensitive nature stemming from proposed reopening by ABG, raises serious questions considering the fact that, in the past, Australia has always supported military intervention by the Papua New Guinea Defence Force to regain control of the mine.”

Onartoo said if the AFP can raid the ABC, “they are capable of anything”, including gathering intelligence “for the purpose of regaining control of Panguna and restarting the mine with use of force”.

The June 11 ABC Radio Pacific Beat said the AFP confirmed that members from the Papua New Guinea-Australia Policing Partnership did visit the site to “undertake an assessment of capability development for support to the Bougainville Police Service”.

Onartoo said Australia’s interest in the mineral deposits at Panguna has never declined. He has criticised Australia’s advice that the ABG prioritise mining over agriculture, tourism, fishing and other sustainable industries.

Several companies, including of Australian origin, are vying to reopen the Panguna mine, which was shut down in 1990 after a brutal battle against mostly indigenous landholders who received none of the huge profits generated by the mine. More than 20,000 people were killed during the 10 year civil war.

The Bougainville Hardliners Group has been actively resisting attempts by the ABG to weaken the Mining Act to give foreign companies exclusive rights to large-scale mining. It opposes further large-scale mining in the autonomous Papua New Guinea region, saying the focus should be on sustainable alluvial mining.

Bougainville is scheduled to hold its independence referendum in October under the terms of the 2001 peace agreement. The referendum outcome then has to be ratified by the PNG parliament.

The ABG has expressed its desire to reopen the Panguna mine.

Legislation to amend the Mining Act is currently being debated in the PNG parliament. According to landowners, the proposed amendments would effectively remove customary ownership of minerals and remove landowners’ veto rights over mining projects.

Onartoo has said that Bougainville’s 350,000 people do not need large-scale mining, and that the changes being proposed are in breach of sections 23 and 24 of Bougainville’s constitution as well as the Mining Act which provides protection from a repeat of “the ownership of minerals on the island by colonisers”.

A report by Papua New Guinea Mine Watch in January said Australian businessperson Jeffrey McGlinn of Caballus Mining is pushing for the act to be amended. A Radio New Zealand report said McGlinn “wanted to shortcut a number of what it calls complicated requirements in the act to fast track vital infrastructure development in Bougainville and boost employment ahead of the referendum”.

However, other reports suggest that he is more focussed on seizing control of major mineral deposits across Bougainville ahead of the referendum.

The Osikaiyang Landowners group has referred the government’s mining plans to the Papua New Guinea Ombudsman.

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B’ville Mining Changes For Benefit Of Caballus Mining

Philip Miriori and the SMLOLA are not happy with proposed changes to Bougainville’s Mining Act (ABC News: Eric Tlozek)

Post Courier | June 13, 2019

As the Caballus/McGlinn deal comes under intense scrutiny and criticism, the pressure is on Bougainville’s Department of Mineral and Energy Resources.

Philip Miriori, chairman of the Panguna Landowners Association (SMLOLA) said the department head now has to justify the deal, as it has been exposed for what it is.

He said the department head now claims that the proposed mining changes are not designed and targeted to favour anyone.

“This is even though the department head acknowledges in writing that McGlinn’s lawyer was involved in the drafting of the proposed Bills to change the Bougainville Mining Act.

“The Caballus/McGlinn presentation to the ABG specifically demanded all these changes to the BMA as a condition precedent to his purported investment, and which they are now trying so desperately to deliver.

“It is completely absurd to claim the amending legislation is not designed and targeted to favour Caballus… when Caballus even ends up with a 40 per cent free interest, while also admitting Caballus/McGlinn cannot develop Panguna,” he said.

The landowner’s who now enjoy freehold ownership of the minerals and an array of other protection, will lose everything and become subservient to those in question if this new law is passed.” said Mr Miriori.

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Caballus Deal Is ‘Smoke And Mirrors’

Jeff McGlinn of Caballus Mining giving a presentation in Bougainville

Post Courier | June 11, 2019

The McGlinn Caballus presentation to the Autonomous Bougainville Government totally contradicts the Bougainville Mining Minister’s recent statement that appeared in the Post-Courier (May 7, 2019) that Bougainville Advance Mining Limited, is not McGlinn’s Caballus.

The original draft bills introduced to the House of Representatives and sponsored by the Bougainville Mining Minister Raymond Masono, specifically referred to Bougainville Advance Mining Limited.

Searches of the Registry of Corporate Affairs in the British Virgin Islands confirms that the Bougainville Advance Mining Limited was approved for incorporation on August 8, 2018, and the Certificate of Incorporation was issued and dated August 9, 2018.

The incorporation certificate confirms the BVI Company Number for Bougainville Advance Mining is 1988673.  The directors and shareholders were not disclosed.

The off shore company is incorporated by Intershore Consult (BVI) Ltd.

Their web site interestingly states that Intershore is a wealth management firm specialising in tax planning, virtual offices and nominee services, among other things.

Philip Miriori, the chairman of the Panguna Landowners Association – the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA) asked the question, as to why is the Mining Minister Masono now trying to hide the fact that Caballus is behind Bougainville Advance Mining Limited?

“Everyone knows this is a McGlinn incorporated shelf company and the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) has undertaken to give McGlinn 40 per cent in this entity and Panguna for free.

“The ABG has told everyone including our ABG MPs for months this.

“While the BEC – Special Meeting No.2 of 2019, Decision No.3 of 2019, dated January 28, 2019, confirms the BEC formally endorsed the assent of the bills and the issuance of a Special Bougainville Mining License to Bougainville Advance Mining Limited in respect of the whole of Bougainville.

“Similarly, the Bougainville Executive Council special meeting No. 1 of 2019 dated January 24, 2019, recorded the formal approval of Bougainville Advance Mining Ltd (BAM) for the purpose of carrying out all mining activities in Bougainville, approved the establishment of BAM.”

SMLOLA advisor Lawrence Daveona also chimed in to say that it is totally unacceptable to be trying to steal Panguna from the customary owners.

And further transfer Panguna to this highly secretive off shore BVI entity. “This Caballus deal is smoke and mirrors.” he added

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Proposed Bougainville mining law change referred to Ombudsman

Radio New Zealand | 11 June 2019

A landowning group at the site of Bougainville’s Panguna Mine says it has referred the government’s controversial mining plans to the Papua New Guinea Ombudsman.

The Osikaiyang Landowners group said amendments to the Mining Act, due for consideration in parliament this week, would effectively reverse customary law on the ownership of minerals.

Bougainville’s government has argued that what it is planning, in conjunction with Australian businessman Jeff McGlinn, will ensure landowners are better off.

But the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association said this amounted to an abuse of executive power, the Bougainville Constitution and the PNG Constitution.

Osikaiyang chair Philip Miriori said the group would never allow others to “steal our land, our minerals and both our future and our heritage”.

The amendments are defective and the people pushing them, such as Mining Minister Raymond Masono, are breaching the Leadership Code, which is the basis for the appeal to the Ombudsman, Mr Miriori said.

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