Tag Archives: Philip Miriori

The Horse Breeder, the Novelist and the $60 Billion Panguna Mine

Panguna. RNZ/Johnny Blades.

Aaron Clark | Bloomberg News | January 27, 2020

John Kuhns has been many things: an investment banker, a silicon smelter operator in China and a novelist. His sights are now set on an abandoned mine with an estimated $60 billion of gold and copper.

Kuhns is among a handful of people exploring for minerals and courting landowners on the Pacific island of Bougainville. His rivals include an Arabian-horse breeder, a hedge fund investment manager who keeps wallabies on his estate and a former Australian defense minister.

The involvement of such an eclectic mix of entrepreneurs is a reflection of the fact that this is no ordinary mineral reserve. Rio Tinto Group operated the Paguna mine for 17 years through subsidiary Bougainville Copper Ltd. The global mining behemoth shut it in 1989 as local protests over mine revenue degenerated into a civil war that killed as many as 20,000 people.

The mine has been in limbo ever since. But that may be about to change as the Autonomous Region of Bougainville moves toward independence from Papua New Guinea after a referendum showed an overwhelming majority of the population on the small group of islands wants to establish a new nation.

While the political uncertainty may deter major mining companies from making an immediate investment, the mine’s riches attract entrepreneurs hoping to develop the asset to a point where they can deliver it to a big operator for a fee, said Peter O’Connor, a Sydney-based analyst at Shaw and Partners Ltd. “They have to create a story with a vision,” he said.

Success will depend on earning the trust of thousands of poor, customary landholders, many of whom remember the civil war that was triggered by communities demanding greater compensation from the mine.

“The landowners want to reopen the mine but they are divided by the interested developers,” said Sam Akoitai, a member of the island’s parliament who represents central Bougainville, an area that includes Panguna. “It’s really up to the landowners to come together to understand that the land belongs to the clan and not to some individuals.”

Bougainville Copper, which is no longer associated with Rio, has estimated it would take seven to eight years and $5 billion to $6 billion to rebuild the mine and resume full operations. The company is blamed by many locals for contamination attributed to the mine.

“We retain strong levels of support among customary landowners within the project area,” Bougainville Copper said in a statement. “We have a trusted local team on the ground that continues to engage with project area communities.”

The Bougainville Mining Act 2015 strengthened landowner control and was designed to increase compensation to local communities and the island’s government from future mining to avoid a repeat of the bloodshed of the 1980s and 1990s. The government also decided not to renew Bougainville Copper’s exploration license, which the company is challenging in court.

In June 2019, Kuhns flew several landowners to the U.S. to meet potential investors, including representatives from Barrick Gold Corp. At the Harvard Club in Midtown Manhattan, where stuffed moose, bison and even an elephant head adorn the rooms, the landowners heard Kuhns deliver a PowerPoint presentation introducing potential investors to Bougainville.

Barrick declined to comment.

“Panguna mine can be rejuvenated and can be resuscitated for a couple of billion dollars,” said Kuhns in a follow up phone interview. “It’s going to take a major to do that.”

Among those also interested in Panguna is Jeff McGlinn, who made his fortune in mining and construction services through Western Australia-based NRW Holdings Ltd., which he co-founded. McGlinn, who resigned from NRW in 2010, is part of the glamorous world of Arabian horse breeding, mixing with models and celebrities at parties on the French Riviera and promoting luxury brands. He once gave an Arabian colt to Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli.

McGlinn’s roots in mining give him valuable experience for Panguna — one of NRW’s businesses was constructing dams that hold mining waste. He’s also linked to a recent effort by the island’s government to kick start development, when it created Bougainville Advance Mining. The government’s Executive Council proposed last year an amendment to the 2015 mining act that would give all available mining rights to the new company, in which McGlinn’s Caballus Mining would hold a stake.

That amendment drew criticism from landowners, as well as Bougainville Copper, the former mine operator, which says the proposal undermines its rights to mine Panguna. The bill was later shelved. A representative of Caballus said McGlinn was unavailable to comment.

Another interested party is Richard Hains, son of the Australian billionaire David Hains. Richard, famous for keeping wallabies on his Gloucestershire estate, has helped develop mines in some of the world’s most difficult places. He’s the largest shareholder of RTG Mining Inc., whose management team has financed, built and operated mines across Africa and Asia, including the Boroo gold mine in Mongolia.

“Some of the best opportunities in the mining business in the 21st century are now in the more difficult commercial environments,” Hains said in a phone interview.

RTG believes it can restart production at Panguna through a staged process in as little as 18 months for about $800 million.

“It’s far smarter to start with a smaller footprint,” said RTG Chairman Michael Carrick. “Then in consultation with the community, we can turn up the mine’s operation.”

RTG operates a joint venture with the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association, a Panguna landowners group. The JV employs 15 people, including Philip Miriori, the chairman of the landowners group.

There are bigger fish too. Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. said in an emailed statement it has sent representatives to Bougainville to learn about the region and potential opportunities, confirming earlier reports. Founder Andrew Forrest is Australia’s second-richest person with a $10.2 billion fortune, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Shaw and Partners’ O’Connor said Chinese miners may also have a chance of redeveloping Panguna because they have a greater risk appetite and access to cheap financing.

But the Panguna landowners group Chairman Miriori said the people he represents aren’t interested in working with Chinese developers because of their poor environmental track record.

If anyone wins the right to develop Panguna or other parts of the autonomous region they will need to do so cautiously. Violence remains a constant threat in a community that is still fiercely divided.

A geologist working for Perth-based Kalia Ltd. was killed and seven others were injured in an attack in northern Bougainville in December, according to the local government and the company, whose chairman is former Australia Minister for Defence David Johnston. Authorities subsequently suspended Kalia’s exploration expeditions and geological field work.

There’s also a moratorium on work at Panguna because of sensitivity to restarting the mine, said Raymond Masono, Bougainville’s vice president and minister for mineral and energy resources.

“We are no longer talking with any investors about Panguna until the moratorium is lifted, and we don’t know when” that will be, he said by phone. “The government is treading very carefully on this particular mine.”

But prospects for restarting Panguna and allowing for the development of new mines are bolstered by the idea that Bougainville would need revenue to have any chance of financing an independent state. Many hope the mineral wealth could ultimately help reduce poverty for the region’s 300,000 people where estimated per capita GDP is only about $1,100.

That would depend not only on clearing the way to restart production, but a government able to make sure that enough of the proceeds are used to fund development. “Given the failure of mining in PNG to deliver really anything like sustainable development, those hopes may end up being disappointed,” said Luke Fletcher, executive director of Jubilee Australia, a group that has tracked the effect of resource extraction.

But the lure of riches mean miners aren’t likely to give up.

“Bougainville had almost no exploration for nearly 40 years,” said Mike Johnston, executive director of Kalia. “There’s no other place like it on the planet.”

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Panguna Landowners Question Mining Law Changes

Post Courier | January 6, 2020

The Panguna landowners have called for consultation ahead of renewed push to amend Bougainville’s Mining Laws. In a recent interview with Reuters, Bougainville vice-president and Mining Minister Raymond Masono said, in reference to his determination to push through with highly controversial amendment of mining legislation at all costs, that “the revolution is ongoing”.

Philip Miriori, the chairman of the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (“SMLOLA”) said; “There has been no consultation by the Mining Department with landowners post the rejection of amending legislation by the Bougainville Parliamentary legislative committee – none.”

“This legislation is opposed by each and every Panguna Landowner Association, local government bodies and all sections of the community. It will be a disaster for the mining industry in Bougainville and will ensure Panguna is never reopened.”

“Both the Autonomous Bougainville Government and the national government want Panguna to be reopened, so that it can reduce the dependency of Bougainville on the PNG national budget and enable us to deliver fiscal self-reliance for all Bougainvilleans,”

Lawrence Daveona said, “The Panguna landowners have written to Prime Minister James Marape, drawing his attention to this offensive and destructive attack on all Bougainville landowner’s hard-won legal rights being removed with the stroke of the pen, to allow the illegal transfer of the Panguna mine together with a near monopoly over all future large scale mining on Bougainville, to an unknown shelf company in the British Virgin Islands, based on a plan which can never work. PNG knows better than we do that, we must attract high quality foreign investment to grow and that means bringing in reputable development partners and allowing them to work with us to make Panguna and Bougainville a success.”

“This is the time for us all to pull together on the back of a very successful and peaceful Referendum. The revolution is done – a proposal like this will only create disharmony again and pit customary landowners against the mining department which is not necessary – we are here to work together co-operatively, to find a fair and equitable solution for everyone.”

The SMLOLA was established by the Autonomous Bougainville Government September 7 2011 with its Constitution being drafted by the ABG Mining Department.

The SMLOLA was established uniquely for and on behalf of all the customary landowners who own land contained within the area covered by the special mining lease at Panguna and now the subject of the expired EL 01, including the land used for the Panguna gold and copper mine pit, industrial processing areas, Panguna township and the areas around the mine within the area contained in EL 01.

The stated purposes of the SMLOLA pursuant to its Constitution is set out in detail in clauses 1.2 (a) – (h), and includes amongst other things, the duty to maximise the commercial benefits of their members in the Panguna Mine and promote peace, unity and co-operation amongst landowners in a sustainable manner.

The customary landowners and their families are members of the SMLOLA by right of birth within the 7 named villages, in accordance with the Naisoi custom, and as set out in clause 2.1.1(a) of the SMLOLA constitution.

The SMLOLA has in excess of 3,500 members.

The governing body of the SMLOLA is democratically elected every three years as required by clause 4.3.3 of the constitution, by the members so that its structure and board is truly representative of the owners. The current board was elected on 21 December 2018.

Section 8 of the Bougainville Mining Act states that “all minerals existing on, in or below the surface of customary land in Bougainville are the property of the owners of the customary land.

This is exactly the same as our unwritten customary law on minerals ownership that has been in effect for millennia.

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Landowners ‘Ready To Reopen Panguna Mine’

Panguna landowners showing clearly which option they will vote for at the mine site up in Panguna.

Post Courier | November 25, 2019

Landowners of the decommissioned Panguna copper mine are now prepared to reopen the mine as soon as the next Bougainville House of Representative is installed.

Seeing that as the only means of generating income for Bougainville as soon as it gains independence status, the landowners have agreed that Panguna will finance Bougainville like it financed Papua New Guinea back in the 1970s and 80s.

Special Mining Lease Osikayang Landowners Association (SML-OLA) mobilised all landowners from different parts of Panguna to gather at the edge of the mine pit to show that they were now one and ready to re-open the mine when Bougainville gained its independence.

SMLOLA chairman Philip Miriori and chief consultant adviser to the association Lawrence Daveona told the Post-Courier in Arawa that the landowners were now one and that there was no differences among them anymore.

“We are now united as one and we, re ready to re open this mine to finance the Independence of Bougainville, culturally and symbolically over to the government the new government that will be in place next year,” Mr Miriori said.

“This will be proof to the PNG government and also the international community that we can also be economically independent now, and right now Panguna mine is the only answer because it will not need exploration.

“We are now very positive that this mine will be reopened soon, we are working together with our developer RTG to reopen the mine and we have made a very strong commitment and stance that we do not want BCL back ever again into Panguna or on this island.”

He said the landowners were the people to have and to make the final say on the mines re-opening and now they had made a final say, to reopen the mine, to cater and finance the Bougainville independence.

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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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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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Filed under Corruption, Human rights, Papua New Guinea

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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