Cedric Patjole | Loop PNG | January 15, 2018
Landowners in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville are partnering with investors to conduct mineral exploration in areas sanctioned by the Autonomous Bougainville Government.
Prospecting has started since the introduction of legislation allowing landowners complete ownership of customary land, and the lifting of the moratorium on specific localities for mineral exploration.
However, the ABG is making sure the exploration is done in the best interest of the people.
ABG Treasury and Finance Minister, Robin Wilson, said currently there is a moratorium on Panguna Mine due to its history and sensitive nature, which is being carefully addressed.
However, exploration has been allowed in other parts of the island.
“So far we have lifted the moratorium on three areas in Bougainville. That’s Mt Ore, Isina in Central Bougainville and the Arawa-Panguna area,” said the Minister.
“So this are the areas where mining activities are going on, and it is driven by the landowners themselves. It’s not government-driven.
“It’s the landowners and the investors they found and have brought them over.
“We are just making sure the investors are genuine investors. We’re making sure that they are not coming up with contracts or agreements that will make the landowner suffer.”
The Minister said the lead taken by landowners follows legislation giving LOs complete authority and ownership over clearly de ned customary land.
He said by giving the power back to landowners, they can either accept or reject the prospects on their land.
“The landowner now owns everything. In terms of alienated land the government still owns the resources. But where it’s clearly customary land, it is landowner-owned.
“So we believe that by giving the power back to the landowners, the landowners now have a say in whether exploration happens or mining happens,” Wilson said.
“In that way we are not forcing the issue on them. The landowners have to accept the development prospects that happen on their land.”
Wilson revealed that currently the island has been tagged as a high risk area by many international observers.
However, he said with any successful explorations and discovery, this could trigger more investment in future, as the ABG aims to rebuild the island’s local economy.