Tag Archives: Philip Miriori

Meetings to determine Panguna’s future

Cedric Patjole | PNG Loop | November 11, 2017

Two meetings have been identified as key events that may determine the timeline to rebuild the Panguna Mine in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

According to Business Advantage, Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) chairman, Rob Burns, says the meetings, to be held in November and December, include a mediation as well as a wardens’ hearing.

The first meeting on November 23 and 24 is the third round of mediation talks to settle a dispute over the chairmanship of the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA).

SMLOLA is one of the nine landowner associations in the project area.

A dissident landowner, Philip Miriori, is at the centre of the dispute, along with his cousin Lawrence Daveona, who both lay claim to the chairmanship.

The second event on December 11 and 12 is the wardens’ hearings on the five-year renewal of the mining exploration lease, currently held by BCL.

Under the Bougainville Mining Act 2015, the Autonomous Bougainville Government needs to hold wardens’ hearings as part of the process for a five-year renewal of the lease, before recommendations then go to the Minister.

“I’m optimistic it will be renewed. The landowners have agreed because they want a better life and see this as the way forward,” says Burns.

The timeline for building the mine is estimated to cost K12 to K18 billion, and could take up to 10 years.

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Key meetings to determine timeline for rebuilding Bougainville’s Panguna copper mine

The abandoned Panguna copper mine. Credit: Sydney Morning Herald

‘The landowners have agreed because they want a better life and see this as the way forward.’

True or False?

 Kevin McQuillan | Business Advantage | 8 Nov 2017

Two key events before year’s end are likely to decide the timeline for the rebuilding of the Panguna copper mine on Bougainville Island. The Chairman of Bougainville Copper Limited, Rob Burns, tells Business Advantage PNG two board appointments are part of the company’s strategic development.

The appointment of Bougainvillean and mining specialist, Mel Togolo, and OK Tedi Mining’s Managing Director, Peter Graham, to the board of Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL) last month reflects the company’s desire for more Bougainville representation, and the need for strategic management expertise, according to BCL Chair, Rob Burns.

‘We’ve been talking to the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) and are been keen to get Bougainville representation—so first and foremost that was our number one priority,’ Burns tells Business Advantage PNG.

‘We’d like to make more appointments and get greater representation from the Bougainville side.

‘We also wanted to bolster our project development capabilities.

‘Peter Graham’s knowledge of project development and project management is second to none in PNG.’

Lease extension

Two key events this month and next will determine the timeline for rebuilding the mine, which is estimated to cost US$4–6 billion, and could take up to 10 years.

The first is a third round of mediation talks on 23–24 November aimed at settling a dispute over the chairmanship of one of the nine landowner associations in the project area: the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA).

A dissident landowner, Philip Miriori is at the centre of the dispute, along with his cousin Lawrence Daveona. They both lay claim to the chairmanship.

The second event is wardens’ hearings on 11–12 December about the five-year renewal of the mining exploration lease, which is currently held by BCL. Under the Bougainville Mining Act 2015, the ABG needs to hold wardens’ hearings as part of the process for a five-year renewal of the lease. The wardens’ recommendation then goes to the Minister.

‘I’m optimistic it will be renewed. The landowners have agreed because they want a better life and see this as the way forward.’

Mediation

Burns expects there will be fresh elections for the executive positions of the SMLOLA after this month’s mediation talks.

Miriori’s group opposes the involvement of BCL in the rebuilding and operation of the Panguna mine.

The group is backed by a small Perth-based company, RTG Mining.

‘Things are progressing but not as quickly as we would like, and not as quickly as the Bougainville people would like, with the court mediation process to settle the landowner dispute still to run its course,’ says Burns.

‘We want to get on with it, but we are respectful of the need to get landowner and community understanding of what the operation will look like and get their input into how it’s designed and what features it will have.

‘BCL has project knowledge and the intellectual property.’

‘If we get all that right to start with it’s going to make it a far more efficient and effective development process. We believe we’ve got good support.

‘We don’t want some individuals and other consortia continuing to thwart us so we’ll entertain anything. But there’s a thing called trust in all this and until they demonstrate they can be trusted you can’t have a relationship—a sustainable one.’

Burns is sceptical about the role of RTG Mining (which has not yet responded to Business Advantage PNG’s requests for an interview).

‘They’ve got their story and they’ve made representation to Philip Miriori and a presentation to the ABG.

‘That’s been rejected by the ABG, so I believe this is part of their business plan—to eke their way into the redevelopment of the Panguna mine.’

Intellectual property

Burns says he believes BCL are ‘the rightful developers and have the community support to carry the development of the project.’

He argues that BCL has project knowledge and owns the intellectual property, which includes the geological database, where the ore is located and where the waste is.

‘If another party comes in, they’d have to commence a massive drilling program to ascertain basic details.’

Costings

Once the landowner dispute is settled and the lease is determined, Burns says BCL will work on getting more accurate assessments of capital requirements and operating costs.

BCL has US$50 million in liquid assets to do the social, technical, environmental and regulatory studies needed to prove the viability of the mine. That would lead to a full feasibility study, which might cost US$150 million.

‘There are people approaching us all the time about getting involved and how we might undertake that financing for the feasibility study, and for the major construction and rebuild that would follow.

‘We have a clean sheet of paper and that’s why I’m leaning on people like Peter Graham to assist us with strategic thinking.’

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Panguna LOs still against BCL

Meredith Kuusa | PNG Loop | October 27, 2017

The chairman of the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowner Association has expressed annoyance by the recent Shareholder Release by Bougainville Copper Limited.

Phillip Miriori says BCL is profoundly misleading and shows complete disrespect for the facts, the SMLOLA and the views of many of its members who are standing up for their rights and say, “No to BCL Forever”.

He said the SMLOLA petition against the return of BCL now represents around 2,000 members and continues to increase.

“BCL’s ex Rio management has refused to meet with the Board of the SMLOLA or its chairman,” claims Miriori.

“That does not qualify as ‘respectful community engagement programs’.

“They have not stepped foot in Panguna in over 28 years yet they say, they continue to make progress on implementing our staged development plan for a new Panguna.”

Miriori gave a number of reasons why BCL was not welcome on Bougainville.

“It is just another clear example of the continuing colonial arrogance of BCL and the disrespectful treatment of landowners, with the constant attempt by BCL to mislead and misinform.

“They have not changed,” said Miriori.

Miriori recollected the following:

  • President Momis himself under ffiadavit has stood up for his people and said BCL caused the civil war that led to the death of around 20,000 of our fellow Bougainvilleans;
  • We were treated as irrelevant in the past and that is continuing, calling us an “impediment” they will simply go around – we, the SMLOLA, now own the minerals and have the ultimate say on who will redevelop Panguna;
  • BCL was the mining permit holder all those years ago, and it was under their operation that we were left with this horrific environmental damage which President Momis himself has suggested caused billions of dollars of destruction. To this day, BCL has not taken responsibility for or compensated us in any manner – not one kina.

On Monday, Bougainville Copper Limited announced the appointments of Mel Togolo and Peter Graham to BCL’s board of directors.

BCL chairman Robert Burns said the company was delighted that both gentlemen had agreed to join the board given the extensive experience and unique perspectives each would bring during an important period of development for the company.

“Mel and Peter are highly regarded in PNG and have intimate knowledge of the resources industry both here and abroad which they have gained through what can only be described as long and distinguished careers,” Burns said.

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The People of Bougainville have been Profoundly Misled – Official Records Show Rio Tinto Still Controls BCL

Press Release from Special Mine Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association Inc. (“SMLOLA”)
19 October 2017

  • According to IPA records; Rio Tinto still controls BCL.
  • ABG has no shares in BCL.
  • No Prior Written Consent by ABG.
  • BCL’s registered office is still Rio Tinto’s HQ in Melbourne.

The Chairman of the SMLOLA, Phillip Miriori said today that,

“Rio Tinto advised the Australian Stock Exchange on 30 June 2016, that it had transferred its 53.8% of BCL shares to a trust company for distribution to the governments of PNG and ABG, resulting in each holding 36.4% of BCL – yet they are still listed as the shareholders – what are the real facts here, is Rio actually gone or not? Once again, we are not being given all the facts yet we are being asked to consent tosupport the return of BCL. What does that actually mean, who will our partner actually be if the ABG gets their way?”

“The purported Rio Tinto transfer of 53.8% of BCL shares to the trust company did not have the legally required “prior written consent” from the ABG. In fact, as far as we have been told, the ABG was not informed in advance of the transfer. Certainly, the landowners that now own the minerals were never consulted. Most importantly, have they actually been transferred – is Rio gone or is there just a temporary step to cover up the involvement of Rio later?”

“All Bougainvilleans need to know the truth – is this just a sham? If, as the IPA records show, Rio Tinto still controls BCL with its 53.8% shareholding, we have been profoundly misled”.

“Again, we are being treated as pawns in this game: the old guard from Rio and BCL are still playing against us all and the people of Papua New Guinea. The colonialists’ time is over. They must compensate us for the wrongs of the past and leave gracefully.”

“On top of that, there is not one Bougainvillean on the Board of BCL – it is all PNG. How can this be? There are just too many unanswered questions as to who we are dealing with.”

“We were told that the Rio Chairman of BCL, Peter Taylor, would resign after “he provides services during this transition period”. Why is Taylor still listed as a consultant on BCL’s Presentation for the development of Panguna? Seems that the only answer is Rio Tinto is attempting to run the show while pretending to have left Bougainville and its responsibilities. Rest assured, I will do my best to hold them to account for the irreparable damage done by them and for which they now try to shirk all responsibility”.

“And to top it off, the Australian registered office of BCL remains Rio Tinto’s HQ in Melbourne”.

“I demand the truth finally – how can you try and force BCL on the landowners when there are so many serious questions on who BCL is, who the development partner would be? ”

“How could the ABG expect us to give the mine back to BCL. If the shares in BCL do at some point get transferred to the ABG, PNG or the landowners, how do we then sue them as we will be suing ourselves. If we let this farce continue, we will clearly be giving up our rights to compensation for the past atrocities. I will do my best to never let this happen.”

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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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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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More protests against resumption of mining on Bougainville

An abandoned building at Panguna mine site in Bougainville Photo: supplied

Radio New Zealand | 24 August 2017 

A group calling itself  ‘Bougainvilleans United Against Mining’ has re-stated its opposition to a resumption of mining at Panguna.

The government in the autonomous Papua New Guinea province wants the huge copper and gold mine re-opened to give the economy a lift ahead of the independence referendum in 2019.

Bougainville’s mining minister Raymond Masono this week applauded a joint resolution by ex-combatants to back the re-opening, but one of those praised by the minister, a former Bougainville Revolutionary Army commander, James Onartoo, says he and his group do not support it.

The minister’s comments came after weeks of mediation, but a spokesman for Mr Onartoo, Lawrence Mattau, told Don Wiseman of the barriers they faced at the talks before pulling out.

LAWRENCE MATTAU: The way things are going, things seemed to be bulldozed from one end only, the for mining faction only. They don’t seem to be respecting our stand, our view, our explanations on why we don’t want to talk about mining. The other side don’t seem to receive us and respect us and they think we are a small minority group and they are calling us ‘impediments’. They are calling us all sorts of names and there is a serious situation going on in Panguna concerning the Special Mining Lease Area titleholders. This issue too is not resolved and Philip Miriori [of SML Osikiang] has taken his own people to court. We don’t want to be involved in any mediation that has been orchestrated by the autonomous government.   

DON WISEMAN: They don’t respect you. Do they presume that you haven’t got the numbers, that you are an inconsequential group?

LM: They think we don’t have the numbers and it is the same rhetoric as before, in 1988 and 1989, before the conflict blew up. This is the same comment by the government of that time, it is still being repeated today by our own leaders and it seems that they have not learned any lessons.

DW: How many people support your “Bougainville People Against Mining” group?

LM: If you do a fact finding mission, doing polling or something, asking that question back in the village, every village will tell they don’t want to hear anything about mining in Bougainville. From the 350,000 people in Bougainville, maybe only about 20,000 people are talking about re-opening the mine.

DW: And for you guys, you are adamantly opposed to re-opening of any mine anywhere on Bougainville ever?

LM: My stand has always been we must run educational awareness right throughout Bougainville, concerning mining. If you support mining, or the re-opening of Panguna, you must give educational awareness to the people. What good is there if we have mining in operation. And those of us opposed to it must also give our view, facts and figures, supported by well document information, from experiences, from other mining companies’ history and those who are for mining must also support their stand with proper documentation; how can they clean up the tailings; how are they going to address the relocation of people. I am an ex-employee of BCL [Bougainville Copper Ltd] myself, so are all of us who are in the no-mining faction. We are all former employees of BCL and we have been involved and we know what we are talking about. What we are saying is don’t just assume that the majority are supporting re-opening. There is nil awareness, nil consultation. They think they have done consultation but we are locals, we know. ABG has never run any proper consultations with the people here.         

DW: Of course they say they have consulted until the cows come home. They have said they have been doing a lot of consultation but my question was would you ever, under any circumstances support a return to mining?

LM: Then it must be acceptable in the sense of, how do they protect our environment, where is the law. Environmental protection law, river law, relocation law, the profit sharing law – there is nothing. And our government has created itself a monster that it cannot cut the hairs. Cuttting the hair means shearing of sheep. They have created themselves a monster and they are looking for money to fund this monster. This is not a fully fledged government. This is still government that is going through motions of our political future and they should only create basic service providing departments, and find the money to fund only those. They have created unnecessarily a big public service and they cannot fund this delivery of services – that’s why they are running around looking for money. It’s a big problem.

DW: They have to develop an economy, don’t they, have a viable economy in place in time for the referendum. How will they do that, because the ABG has been relying on a resuumption of mining, and this has been the road they have been going down for years now. So what should they do instead?

LM: The problem is that the last 12 years has been wasted because people have been dreaming about re-opening the mine without first of all addressing the issues involved with the mine. We know what was wrong. We know why it was shut down. No one has ever addressed these issues – that is the problem. Even the SML, the Special Mining Lease area titleholders who are taking themselves to court. Now when they sort out their issues – and their title was given or issued by the colonial government in the late 1960s, once they set that issue there is going to be another issue that pops up, concerning that very area of land where the SML is. So, as locals I personally know what is involved, the seriousness of reactivating that SML and opening Panguna again. It’s a big issue.     

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