Tag Archives: Rio Tinto

Panguna landowners give big tick to mining but no to BCL

Radio New Zealand | 22 June 2017

The head of a landowners group controlling the site of the Panguna mine in Papua New Guinea’s Bougainville says it is keen to see a resumption of mining but will always be opposed to the return of Bougainville Copper Ltd.

BCL was the original operator of the mine and has been blamed for sparking the civil war.

Its former multi national owner, Rio Tinto, last year walked away, giving its shares to the PNG and Bougainville governments, rather face demands for compensation over the environmental and social damage blamed on the mine.

Last week this new look BCL was stopped by a protest march from signing a memorandum of agreement with the Panguna landowners – a move seen as the first move to re-open the Panguna mine and boost the region’s economy ahead of an independence vote in two years.

Not the least of BCL’s problems is that they were not dealing with the proper landowners and legal action has put a stay on the signing of the MOA.

The man they should have been talking to, Philip Miriori, the chairman of the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association, says he will never back BCL returning.

Mr Miriori, who also heads the Me’ekamui Government of Unity, explained the SML’s thinking to Don Wiseman.

PHILIP MIRIORI: It is the same legal company with enormous liabilities hanging on its shoulder and some much damage was done during their operations. So it is the same company.

DON WISEMAN: The thing here is of course that since Rio Tinto has walked away – it doesn’t have resources does it? In terms of that  environmental and social deficit that people like John Momis have talked about, this current version of BCL is never going to be in much of a position to do much about that is it?

PM: With BCL the ABG is saying it is a new company, but we don’t think it is a new company, it is the same company,, and the same management. People from Rio [Tinto] are still with the BCL arrangement, even now.

DW: Are there any circumstances under which the Me’ekamui Government of Unity and the SML Osikaiyang Landowners would ever accept BCL?

PM: I don’t think we will accept BCL to come back to Panguna. BCL has said it would attract development partners, but we don’t know this development partner, who is he? maybe it is the same Rio Tinto. They are looking to come back and work with BCL.

DW: So this protest last Thursday and Friday, the protest and the road block, did your people organise that?

PM: The people of Panguna especially the landowners and the women, our stand has always been clear – we don’t accept BCL to come back and with the protest march last Friday it is a common sense that the people have here in Panguna, that by not accepting BCL to come back they had to stand for their rights. So they [The ABG] can make any tricks under the sun but with the records that BCL have in the past it is just not going to work. The protest march was right, you know.

DW: last month you presented a petition to the ABG, more than 500 signatures. What has been the outcome of that?

PM: Well the outcome from the ABG was negative. I presented that petition myself to President Momis. The petition was signed by 550 people from Panguna – the SML [Osikaiyang landowners]. So no response from President Momis’s office, so these are the things that have brought the people together on the signing of the MOA.

DW: You are not opposed to mining are you? You clearly are interested in mining and you have linked up with this Australian miner called RTG. Why have you linked with them? Why have you chosen them?

PM: I am always for mining you know but not with BCL. We have this Australian company. We work with them for some time now and we built trust so we are not opposed to mining opening. We are for. We want the mine to open, to generate prosperity for our people and not with BCL. We don’t want BCL to come back you know.

DW: Let’s say RTG were to get an exploration licence, would you be keen for them to get in there and start doing the EL work, as it’s called, immediately and then the prospect of opening the mine as soon as possible.

PM: If we are given an exploration licence we will start immediately and also make clean up operations around Panguna.

DW: There are a lot of other landowning groups close by aren’t there and it would seem that you are at odds with them, or are you?

PM: Now I want to correct this. The other eight, or whatever, landowner associations – I think at this point in time they are irrelevant. They can come in when the mine is up running. They can make no decision on where the pit is, so right now, for me, it is irrelevant for those other organisations to make a decision over the SML [Osikaiyang Landowners]. The only entity, legal entity, is SML which I am chairman of.  

DW: Your message then to the ABG is that there is substantial opposition among the people who are on the land, or who have the land, around that enormous hole in the ground at Panguna, who are opposed to BCL coming in, but you are very keen on mining and you want to form an association with this Australian company, RTG.

PM: A proper awareness is what is needed now. To go right down to the people, you know, and tell them what is the advantage of re-opening the mine now, and the disadvantage of keeping that mine [shut] for ten years as BCL says. But to us I can see that we start the mine up now, so that we start generating the money and prepare for the referendum or whatever you know.         

3 Comments

Filed under Environmental impact, Financial returns, Human rights, Mine construction, Papua New Guinea

Bougainville People Against Mining: New Petition

SIGN THE PETITION

A new petition on the Avaaz Community Advocacy website is targeting the Autonomous Bougainville Government with a no mining message.

The Petition says mining is the cause of conflict on Bougainville in which some 20,000 Bougainvilleans perished. It is not needed by the people of Bougainville as much as it is by mining companies who care little for the people in their effort to make a profit. Therefore no mining company should be allowed back on the island.

SIGN THE PETITION

1 Comment

Filed under Environmental impact, Human rights, Papua New Guinea

Bougainville Copper moving to reopen controversial Panguna mine with Government backing

Reopening the Panguna mine could give the Bougainville Government a much-desired source of revenue claims the ABG. (AAP Image: Ilya Gridneff, file)

Eric Tlozek | ABC News | 4 May 2017

The company which used to the run the controversial Panguna copper mine on the island of Bougainville is now trying to reopen it with the support of the island’s Government.

It has been almost three decades since Panguna was abandoned, after anger about the mine led to the outbreak of an armed insurgency known as the “Bougainville crisis”.

Now the Bougainville Government believes it needs the mine to reopen, so the region can have a source of revenue that could enable it to become independent from Papua New Guinea.

The bid by the Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) to reopen its Panguna mine is stronger than one might expect, given the mine led to an armed insurgency and its abandonment left central Bougainville with many environmental problems.

But this time it will be quite different and the landowners will be brought along on the journey.

BCL secretary Mark Hitchcock said restarting the mine would allow the company to address some of the environmental and social problems it left behind.

“We did have to leave in a hurry and things were not closed down the way that a normal mine would close,” Mr Hitchcock said.

“When we go back, we’ll be conducting our baseline studies to see what the situation is and we will, as the mine progresses, progressively work on some of those environmental issues.

“But with the people, the mine will only work if we involve them all the way along.”

BCL was owned by Rio Tinto, but the mining giant gave its shareholding to the PNG Government and to the Autonomous Bougainville Government, the entity created as part of the Bougainville Peace Agreement to end the crisis.

The PNG Government said it would then give its shareholding to unspecified landowners in Bougainville, creating uncertainty about who the company must deal with and leaving the Bougainville Government without a controlling stake.

Mr Hitchcock said that has created another problem to be resolved.

“The ABG and the landowners are a little bit concerned about who the actual owners are, after Prime Minister O’Neill said that he was going to gift them to the people of Bougainville and the landowner,” he said.

“So that’s one of the issues we need to sort out. “

The controversial Panguna mine was one of the richest copper mines in the world. (ABC News, file photo)

The PNG and Bougainville Governments have just agreed to create a Joint Steering Committee to resolve this and other issues.

BCL executive chairman Rob Burns said that was a major step forward.

“So we’ve got commitment in that respect that all parties are going to work together and it’s terrific news for BCL,” Mr Burns said.

BCL was stripped of its mining tenements and left with just an exploration licence, but it still has all the resource data for the site.

Other companies have expressed an interest in mining Panguna, but the Bougainville Government is giving preference to BCL because it owns part of the company.

Raymond Masono, Bougainville’s Deputy President and Mining Minister, said “BCL is not longer the devil that we know”.

“We actually own this devil as a major shareholder in the company,” he said.

“Also, BCL under the Bougainville Mining Act has the first right of refusal to Panguna.”

BCL return expected to face opposition

The main reason the Autonomous Bougainville Government is supporting a resumption of mining is revenue.

There will be a referendum in 2019 on whether the region should become fully independent of Papua New Guinea, and the Bougainville Government believes a mine is the best way to guarantee income for a new country.

“We believe that Panguna can bankroll Bougainville’s autonomy and independence if the people so decide in the 2019 referendum,” Mr Masono said.

The Bougainville Government, headed by President John Momis, believes most landowners support reopening the mine.

The Bougainville Government says most landowners support the resumption of mining, but other residents may be less convinced.

A United Nations Development Program report in 2014 found there was no evidence of majority support for reopening the mine amongst the general population.

There are also some organised groups who oppose BCL’s return.

Mr Burns said the company was aware of “active detractors”.

“We believe that they’re a very minor group and the most vocal of that group have competing interests in our Panguna mineral rights and they aren’t truly representative of landowners,” he said.

The push to reopen Panguna is part of a broader move by the Bougainville Government to lift its moratorium on mining in general.

BCL’s attempt will surely be watched by companies and investors to see how well the damage of the Bougainville crisis has healed.

1 Comment

Filed under Environmental impact, Financial returns, Human rights, Papua New Guinea

Momis: Bougainville cannot be held back by one group

Radio New Zealand | 3 May 2017

The government in the autonomous Papua New Guinea region of Bougainville says it will consider a petition from a landowning group opposed to Bougainville Copper Ltd returning to the long closed Panguna mine.

The Osikiang Special Mining Lease landowners handed a petition with about 500 signatures to President John Momis’s office last Friday.

They said, as the owners of the site of Panguna, they would never allow BCL to return, because the company had not done anything about the destruction it had caused.

Mr Momis said they would consider the petition but one group cannot hold up Bougainville’s economic development.

“Well they keep changing their position. One time they want the mine to go ahead and another time they – but we will accept their petition and then see it in the totality of things because, you know, we can’t be held back by just one group of people, although they are the owners of the mine site currently.”

The Osikiang Landowners have a separate commitment with an Australian mining conglomerate, RTG, to develop Panguna.

Bougainville Copper Ltd, or BCL, is now controlled by the Bougainville and Papua New Guinea governments, after its multi national owner worked [sic] away, handing its shares to the two governments.

President Momis has said whether Panguna ever re-opens is up in the air, but his government has now opened up mining explorations in other parts of Bougainville

1 Comment

Filed under Environmental impact, Exploration, Human rights, Mine construction, Papua New Guinea

Mineral-Rich Area of Papua New Guinea Lifts Decades-Old Ban on New Mining

Satellite imagery of the Panguna Mine located in the autonomous region of Bougainville on July 20, 2015. The Panguna mine has one of the worlds largest copper reserves but has been closed since 1989 due to conflict. (USGS/NASA Landsat/Orbital Horizon Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Reuters | Fortune International | May 1. 2017

A mineral-rich region of Papua New Guinea has lifted a 40-year-old ban on new mining and exploration, opening the way for iron ore and copper operations.

The autonomous Bogainville region has a troubled history over resource development, with a bloody secessionist conflict erupting in the late 1980s stoked by dissatisfaction in how benefits from the Panguna copper mine were distributed.

Global mining giant Rio Tinto Ltd said last year that it would relinquish ownership of Panguna, closed for around 25 years.

The lifting of the ban allows for applications to mine in the iron ore rich areas of Tore, Isina and Jaba, but does not include Panguna, one of the largest copper mines in the world, Bougainville president John Momis said in a statement on Sunday.

He added that scrapping the ban would ensure the area’s economic development, with the government seeking applications from genuine investors.

“I look forward to the development of long term economic partnerships to allow Bougainville to fulfill the economic potential she rightly deserves,” Momis said.

The moratorium on exploration and mining had been in place since 1971 – with the exception of Panguna – due to local concerns over revenue-sharing and the impact on the environment.

Leave a comment

Filed under Exploration, Papua New Guinea

Panguna petition proves BCL not welcome and the BCL claim of ‘unanimous Landowner consent’ is false

One PNG | 28 April 2017

Panguna landowners today presented a petition to the Bougainville Government office of President John Momis, rejecting BCL’s application for an exploration licence.

The petition is a direct response to reports that President Momis is considering supporting the BCL application because he understood it was supported by local landholders.

Philip Miriori and a number of other representatives of SMLOLA met with President Momis in March this year following the misleading statements made suggesting BCL had unanimous consent.

Although it was acknowledged at that meeting that President Momis had been misinformed, unfortunately there has been continued support for BCL and the landowners felt it important to demonstrate the overwhelming and heart felt view of the owners of the minerals – BCL will never be accepted on their lands.

The Chairman of the SMLOLA, Philip Miriori, said the petition proved President Momis had been misled about the supposed local support for the BCL application.

“We are the landholders who own the land and the minerals beneath the ground at the Panguna minesite,” Chairman Miriori said.

“We will never accept BCL, as these signatures show,” he said.

“We will be explaining the alternative proposal we have developed and presented to the ABG – a proposal that will get the mine back up and running professionally, and far earlier than BCL plans, which represents real benefits for Bougainville and its independent future economic prosperity.”

The petition presented today includes over 500 signatures – an over whelming majority of the landholders within the Panguna minesite boundary.

SMLOLA Chairman Miriori said the petition called on the ABG to reject the BCL renewal application.

“President Momis should do what he said he would do and listen to and respect the views of  local people, the people the law has now given ownership of the minerals to,” he said.

“He should be looking at the alternative we have developed, instead of listening to more empty promises from BCL.”

SMLOLA Chairman Miriori said all of the petition signatories were landholders within the Panguna mining licence area. Many would be attending the community briefing about the SMLOLA alternative proposal in Arawa soon.

“For the first step, the grant of an exploration licence, those within that boundary are the only landholders who are relevant and affected by activities. Landholders in surrounding areas will also have a say when the mine takes the next step from exploration to a mining licence if the reopening of the mine  needs to expand into those surrounding lands.

“BCL’s exploration licence renewal application should be rejected for many reasons but as many feel, the company has failed to address the environmental damage caused when the mine was operating up to 1989.  All that was left for us was that environmental damage, division in the community and the loss of our land and many lives.  

“We believe BCL left terrible damage which it has never tried to repair, it then had 2 years to try and progress the mine, it did nothing and ignored us.  Now it expects the Government to give it another licence to return to Panguna. President Momis says BCL do not have a development partner and first need to find a development partner to be able to progress but can’t tell us who that is – more empty promises about what it might do in the future.  How can we believe them after so many years of nothing. This is not acceptable to us.  We will never allow it to happen,” Chairman Miriori said.

“There is a better way forward.  We have a proposal which can deliver a real prospect for Panguna and future prosperity for Bougainville .

“Instead of trusting BCL’s false claim that it has unanimous landowner consent, the Government should be giving respect to the true local landholders and working with us,” he stressed.

Leave a comment

Filed under Environmental impact, Human rights, Papua New Guinea

Panguna landowners say ‘no’ to BCL’s proposed return to mining on Bougainville

Bougainville Revolutionary Army fighters look down on the Panguna mine in 1996

One PNG | 24 April 2017

Panguna landowners have reacted angrily to a report that the PNG Government supports formerly Rio Tinto-linked company BCL in its bid to convince authorities it should be given exploration rights at the controversial Panguna minesite – the scene of major civil unrest in Bougainville in the 1990s.

The President of the Special Mining Lease Landowners Association, Philip Miriori, said his group was 100% opposed and that many other Bougainvillians shared this view.

Claims of unanimous landowner support for BCL were wrong and insulting, Mr Miriori said, adding it was time PNG Prime Minister O’Neill and Bougainville President Momis heard some true facts.  

He also went on to say:

“In fact, during the first phase the issue of an exploration licence, we are the only Landowner Association that has a say as it will be our minerals and land that will be disturbed and subject to exploration. It is only later, when the mine is redeveloped that the other Landowners will need to consider their position.”

“Our group owns the land and the mineral rights for the minesite.  Nothing can occur on the site without our permission,” Mr Miriori said.

“We are being deliberately passed over despite Bougainville Government assurances that no action would be taken on the minesite without proper respect to people’s views.

“Many Bougainvillians were angered at the statements about PNG Government support for BCL. I expect we will hear much more this week,” he said.

Mr Miriori was referring to a planned gathering of ex-combatants from the Bougainville conflict, which erupted on the back of BCL and Rio Tinto’s operation of the old Panguna, leaving only environmental carnage and deep-seated disputes over improper payments and lack of accountability with the death of many of our friends and family.

“All this will do is further motivate our people to stand up against BCL, stronger and more vocally,” Mr Miriori said.

“Most people in Bougainville know of Francis Ona’s words: ‘BCL should never be allowed to return to Bougainville’.”

The SML group made their position very clear to Bougainville’s President Momis at a meeting in late February and another earlier in December last year.

“We said we will never accept BCL.  It is the same company that caused turmoil in Bougainville which lasted more than 10years. It is run by ex-Rio people. And it continues to break its promises, try to bully us and misrepresent us, as it tries to drive a wedge between our people and ignore our rights as the owners of the minerals.”

“It is time people woke up to this.  In 28 years, BCL has done nothing for Bougainville or PNG except make empty promises or ignore us. Why would we even consider giving BCL anything – they have given us nothing and they owe millions in unpaid rent and hundreds of millions in compensation for ruining the environment.

“There is a better way forward which will finally get rid of BCL and bring some real hope back for Panguna and future Bougainville independence and prosperity.”

2 Comments

Filed under Environmental impact, Human rights, Papua New Guinea