Tag Archives: RTG Mining

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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Bougainville president accuses mining company of lying to Australian stock exchange

Bougainville’s Panguna mine, for which RTG Mining is seeking an exploration licence.

John Momis says his government ‘will not rest’ until Australian-linked miner seeking licence for Panguna mine is banned for life from Bougainville and PNG

Kate Lyons | The Guardian | 24 January 2020

The president of the autonomous Bougainville government has accused an Australian-linked mining company of lying to the Australian Securities Exchange over its plans to reopen one of the world’s largest copper mines.

In a scathing statement, John Momis, the president of the autonomous Bougainville region, accused the Australian-linked RTG Mining of “lies and deceptions” and said his government “will not rest until all RTG and their executives are banned for life from Bougainville and Papua New Guinea”.

Momis was referring to a statement issued by RTG Mining to the ASX on Tuesday in which the company sought to clarify recent press reports, which have alleged that RTG staff are banned from entering Papua New Guinea.

In December, after the results of a referendum that saw almost 98% of Bougainvilleans vote in favour of independence from PNG, Momis issued a warning banning people affiliated with certain foreign mining companies, including six from RTG and one from Kalia Group, from entering Bougainville. Momis said they were creating “disharmony” in the region and that he had sought the assistance of the PNG prime minister and office of immigration and border security to assist with keeping them out of Bougainville.

However, RTG clarified in its statement to the ASX that its executives were “not banned from travel to Papua New Guinea” and emphasised that “the national government currently [have] constitutional authority over border control for the country”.

RTG is seeking to secure an exploration licence at the Panguna mine in Bougainville. The Panguna mine was at the heart of the brutal civil war in the region that saw an estimated 20,000 people killed between 1988 and 1997. The mine, which once provided 45% of Papua New Guinea’s export income, has been mothballed since the conflict began, but there has been talk about reopening it.

Among the companies in talks about resuming mining in Bougainville are RTG, which is listed on the Canadian and Australian stock exchanges, ASX-listed Kalia, Bougainville Copper Limited, a former subsidiary of Rio Tinto that ran the Panguna mine in the 1970s and 1980s, and Caballus Mining.

Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest has also expressed interest in mining in Bougainville, with the Sydney Morning Herald reporting that representatives of his mining company, Fortescue, travelled there in 2019 to explore “potential opportunities”.

There are disputes over land rights at the Panguna mine site, but RTG is the joint venture partner of the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA). RTG wrote in their statement to the ASX that the members of the SMLOLA “are the customary landowners who own the minerals at the Panguna Mine under the Bougainville Mining Act”.

However, Momis said the SMLOLA was established under an old system and that the autonomous Bougainville government considered its claims over the mine “illegal, null and void”.

There are concerns that disputes over land rights at the mine site might reignite tensions in the region. The Bougainville government enacted an indefinite moratorium on renewing the licence of BCL, a controversial mining company, in January 2018 over fears it could reignite violent civil conflict. However, since then, the government has shown signs that it was in favour of restarting mining in the region.

Despite voting for independence from PNG, the question of how an independent Bougainville would support itself hangs over the vote, with some experts saying it is impossible for Bougainville to become financially independent without a strong mining industry and that it would take much longer for other mining projects to be established and become profitable than it would take to reopen Panguna.

The autonomous Bougainville government and RTG Mining were contacted for comment.

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ABG President refutes RTG claims

Autonomous Bougainville Government President John Momis.

One PNG | 22 January 2020

I refer to RTG Mining Inc.’s most recent announcement to the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) dated 21st January 2020 whereby RTG deliberately made false claims to mislead their shareholders, the general public and the ASX.

Firstly, the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA) was an entity established under the controversial Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) regime, which mistakenly placed landowners into individual blocks. This is in fact inconsistent with the traditional land inheritance system whereby land is owned by clans and families. The ABG has started the process to rectify this grave past mistake with the rejection of BCL’s licence over Panguna, thereby deeming all current mine affected landowner associations, including SMLOLA illegal, null and void.

So while it is true that RTG are the joint venture partner of SMLOLA as they have confirmed, I would like to confirm SMLOLA have no legal rights over Panguna and cannot enter into any legally binding agreements relating to Panguna. I am happy to advise however that the ABG will be assisting the true and genuine landowners to ensure proper social mapping is carried out in order to establish new legal landowner associations and entities.

Secondly, as per a media statement released from my Office on the 23rd December 2019, I would like to re-confirm and reiterate that the below RTG executives currently still have a travel ban on them, preventing them from entering Bougainville:

  1. Mr Michael J Carrick – Chairman of RTG Mining
  2. Ms Justine A Magee – CEO and Executive Director of RTG Mining
  3. Mr Mark Turner – COO of RTG Mining
  4. Mr Robert N Smith – Non-Executive Director of RTG Mining
  5. Mr Phillip C Lockyer – Non-Executive Director of RTG Mining

I also re-confirm and reiterate that this travel ban will not be uplifted under any circumstance. Whilst there was a travel ban into Papua New Guinea, it has recently been uplifted due to RTG’s lies and deceptions to the PNG government and immigration department about their purported involvement in the Mt Kare project – a project that the world knows it will not succeed. It is therefore concluded that RTG have taken advantage of the fact that both the PNG and ABG operate independently of each other and do not always consult each other on foreign companies, and that RTG’s interest in the Mt Kare project is merely an expensive ploy and deceptive tactic to be able to have a presence in PNG and access to their only real interest – the financial rewards of the Panguna pit.

RTG and their executives should be totally and utterly ashamed of themselves for their corrupt, disruptive and divisive behaviour. They have tried to take advantage of our landowners and people and have shown a complete lack of respect for government authorities. RTG have completely misled the markets for their own financial gain and convenience. The ABG will not rest until all RTG and their executives are banned for life from Bougainville and Papua New Guinea.

As it is my duty to protect the people of Bougainville from immoral charlatans, I appeal to the ASX, TSX and OTCQB, as your duty to protect current and potential shareholders, that you perform a full investigation into RTG Mining and their executives and their misconduct. My Government would be more than happy to assist you with any enquiries relating to RTG and their activities whilst in Bougainville.

For current and potential shareholders and financial markets, I hope that this clears up any confusion or misunderstanding on RTG Mining’s position in Papua New Guinea, Bougainville and Panguna.

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Bougainville landowners seek help from PNG prime minister

Panguna. RNZ/Johnny Blades.

Radio New Zealand | 3 January 2020 

A landowner group at the site of the Panguna Mine has asked the Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape to intervene in its dispute with the Bougainville Mining Department.

The group, the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners, or SMLOLA, has written to the prime minister detailing its concerns that it is being shut out of involvement in any re-opening of the mine.

A resumption of mining at Panguna, closed by the civil war, has been touted by several groups as the way for Bougainville to develop a viable economy.

SMLOLA said since Raymond Masono became Mining Minister two years ago it has been shut out of any talks, despite it being one of the groups which own the minerals under the Bougainville Government’s Mining Act.

It said it feared the Mining Department was driving secret, controversial changes to this measure without the support of the wider Bougainville Government.

And it said a call for a travel ban on executives from its Australian partner, RTG, was disrespectful.

SMLOLA said the claims from the Bougainville Government about these executives causing disharmony by disrespecting local custom are “misleading and without factual substance”.

Attempts by RNZ Pacific to reach Raymond Masono for comment have been unsuccessful.

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ABG President Momis bans several Foreign Company Executives from Entering Bougainville

President of the autonomous Bougainville government, John Momis. Photo: RNZI

Press Statement | PNG Today | December 22, 2019  

It has been brought to the attention of the ABG that certain foreign company executives and shareholders who have a travel ban imposed on them are still continuing to disrespect our customs and laws, and causing disharmony amongst our people at such a critical time in Bougainville’s history.

As such the ABG has had no choice but request the assistance of the Prime Minister of the National Government, Hon. James Marape MP and the Office of Immigration and Border Security, to impose a travel ban on the below individuals from entering PNG and Bougainville:

Mr Michael J Carrick – Chairman of RTG Mining

Ms Justine A Magee – CEO and Executive Director of RTG Mining

Mr Mark Turner – COO of RTG Mining

Mr Robert N Smith – Non-Executive Director of RTG Mining

Mr Phillip C Lockyer – Non-Executive Director of RTG Mining

Mr Renzie Duncan – Shareholder Central Exploration Pty Ltd.

Mr Nikolajs (Nik) Zuks – Shareholder of Kalia Group

I confirm this travel ban was put in place on 3rd October 2018, and now again on 24th September 2019. This travel ban will not be uplifted under any circumstance.

I hope this clears up any confusion or misunderstanding for anyone currently interacting with these individuals on the false hope of future business partnerships in PNG and Bougainville.

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Bougainville voted yes to becoming the world’s newest nation. Now begins the gold rush

PHOTO: The people of Bougainville voted overwhelmingly in favour of independence. (ABC)

Natalie Whiting | ABC News | December 14 2019

A ceremony to announce the results of Bougainville’s historic referendum opened with a chorus of the Bougainville anthem. When the overwhelming result for independence was handed down, people spontaneously started singing it again.

It was a clear sign of the separate identity that Bougainvilleans have long maintained. The thumping result for splitting from PNG was an even clearer sign.

But the path to potential nationhood remains complex and far from guaranteed, despite the mandate from an almost 98 per cent vote of support offers.

The end of the referendum not only starts another political process, but it will also turn eyes back to a massive open-cut mine that has been sitting, waiting in the mountains since the 1980s.

PHOTO: The Panguna mine hasn’t produced a pound of metal in 30 years.

As Bougainville looks for a way forward politically, it also needs to look at economic options.

That’s something Papua New Guinea is keen for it to focus on as it grapples with how to respond to the vote.

PNG is known as the land of a thousand tribes and many in the Government are worried about keeping the rest of the country united if Bougainville leaves.

PNG Prime Minister James Marape has offered economic control but stopped well short of committing to independence for Bougainville.

Economically, the most obvious income stream for the resource-rich area is mining, but that would involve revisiting the issues that started the bloody conflict in the region.

Landowners at the site of the Panguna gold and copper mine, where the violence first broke out, say they are ready to see it reopen in the wake of the referendum.

Up to 20,000 people died in the secessionist conflict that followed, before the peace agreement which guaranteed the vote brought it to an end.

PHOTO: A small settlement has been built at the bottom of the Panguna mine. (ABC News: Natalie Whiting)

Several companies are already circling, keen to make a move now that the vote is over.

Whether they have the capital and the ability to reopen it peacefully remains to be seen.

PNG Prime Minister offers Bougainville economic control

PHOTO: PNG’s Prime Minister James Marape was welcomed at the airport with a guard of honour from police and a traditional sing sing group. (ABC News: Natalie Whiting)

As the referendum ballots were being counted in Bougainville’s capital Buka, speculation about the movements of Mr Marape were swirling.

Initial indications that Mr Marape would be coming to Buka for the announcement were replaced by rumours of him instead going to Panguna in the days after the result.

In the end his visit was moved to the town of Arawa, near the mine. But Panguna and building Bougainville’s economy featured throughout his speech.

Thousands of people gathered in the middle of town to hear him speak. The people even wanted to carry him to the stage on a specially built chair, an offer he graciously refused.

PHOTO: Thousands turned out to hear Mr Marape speak in Arawa during his first visit after the referendum. (ABC News: Natalie Whiting)

Mr Marape has been seen as being more supportive of the referendum than previous leaders, but PNG has nevertheless made no secret of the fact it wants Bougainville to remain a part of the country.

The independence vote is non-binding, and amid the celebrations of the result, PNG has been quick to remind people that years of discussions between the two parties will follow and a negotiated outcome will then be presented to PNG’s parliament.

In the lead-up to the referendum, Mr Marape had been discussing a “third option” beyond independence and greater autonomy which the people were asked to choose between — what he called “economic independence”.

His speech was in a similar vein, focussing on economic development and self-determination, but avoiding mention of independence.

He presented a cheque worth 50 million kina ($21 million), promised another 100 million kina ($42 million) next year and control over income generated in Bougainville, including tax powers.

“The only thing I will ask you, is that I will look after the border and both of our flags must fly until we reach the conclusion of this process,” he told the crowd.

Certainly, Bougainville is currently in no position to support itself and the call to focus on building the economy is warranted. But Mr Marape wouldn’t be drawn on whether he could envisage independence for Bougainville.

“That’s something for the future. I can’t pre-empt the outcome of the consultations that will take place,” he told the ABC.

PHOTO: Bougainville President John Momis heads to the polls on referendum day. (ABC News: Natalie Whiting)

After such a comprehensive vote, there may be little appetite in Bougainville to accept something less than full independence.

But for the moment his speech was well received by the crowd, and Bougainville’s President is confident of productive discussions going forward.

The greatest expectation from Bougainvilleans after the referendum is for change — people want improved services and infrastructure. Both governments will need to make that a priority and it will require funding.

Landowners split over who should reopen mine

PHOTO: The disused mine has divided locals, some of whom have blocked access to the site over the years. (ABC News: Eric Tlozek)

In the base of the massive open pit of the Panguna gold and copper mine, a small settlement has been built and people work digging up gold that remains buried there.

It’s thought there is still $84 billion worth of copper and gold in the site, but re-establishing operations would likely take a decade and billions of dollars.

Keeping the mine closed has been seen as part of maintaining peace ahead of the referendum.

PHOTO: People dig for gold at the base of the Panguna gold and copper mine. (ABC News: Natalie Whiting)

The local landowners now largely want to see it open, however, a split is already forming over which company should be brought in.

The most prominent landowner group is backing Australian company RTG, but there is another group of landowners who want to see the original company, Bougainville Copper Limited, brought back. The Bougainville Government has supported a third company, Caballus, which is also Australian.

That, combined with the ongoing political discussions, could create an uncertain investment landscape.

Mr Marape has said the PNG Government’s 39 per cent stake in Bougainville Copper Limited will be given to Bougainville, but he urged people to look at other industries as well, like agriculture.

It’s not just Panguna that has been attracting attention — landowners say they’ve received visits from other companies, some from Australia and some from China, interested in looking at other greenfield sites in the region.

Australia could face difficult diplomatic waters

The current geopolitical climate in the pacific — where China and the west are seen to be in a battle for influence — has thrown another filter on the vote.

Much has been made of possible offers from China to help Bougainville develop if it is a fledgling country.

However, Bougainville President John Momis has said there have been no offers from the Chinese Government and it was unclear if money being offered by companies, including some said to be interested in Panguna, would actually materialise.

PHOTO: The Panguna gold and copper mine sparked a war that killed 20,000 people. (Reuters: Trevor Hammond)

He said: “These are complex issues, which we’re not going to deal with right away.”

The geopolitical and diplomatic complexities of either a new nation in the region, or of a disagreement between PNG and Bougainville during the upcoming negotiations, is undeniable.

Nowhere will that be felt more keenly than in Australia, which is a key financial and development supporter of both.

Already a key former combatant from the crisis is calling for the international community to “ask PNG to accept the reality and let Bougainville go”.

PNG’s Bougainville Affairs Minister Sir Puka Temu has urged the international community “not to interfere in the consultation phase”.

“What we want is to achieve an outcome like what we did 18 years ago, that is a joint creation — the Bougainville Peace Agreement was a joint creation,” he said.

In a statement, Australia’s Foreign Minister has passed on congratulations for the vote and says Australia “looks forward to continued productive engagement” between the two governments.

PHOTO: Flags were proudly flown around the region when the people of Bougainville overwhelmingly voted yes to independence. (Reuters: Melvin Levongo)

But as the cobalt blue of Bougainville’s flags flickers from buildings and cars across the region in the wake of the vote, credit must be given to both it and PNG for almost 20 years of peace and an incredibly well-run referendum.

Hopefully, the next phase will be as successful.

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RTG Mining inks deal for Mt Kare gold project in Papua New Guinea

RTG Mining has signed a deal to potentially acquire a majority stake in Papua New Guinea’s controversial Mt Kare gold project.

Lorna Nicholas | Small Caps | December 10, 2019

RTG Mining has inked a deal in the hopes of acquiring an 80% stake in the historic 2.1 million-ounce Mt Kare gold deposit in Papua New Guinea.

The junior explorer today announced it has signed a memorandum of understanding with Canada’s GMG Global Mining Group and Tribune Mt Kare, the two priority applicants for the project.

Under the deal, RTG will acquire the majority interest if and when the applications are converted into a new exploration licence.

RTG said the terms of the agreement equate to a purchase price of about US$8.80 per ounce of gold in total historical mineral resource.

The total resource estimate currently stands at 2.1Moz, including 1.2Moz of measured gold resources and 900,000oz of indicated and inferred resources, valuing the deal at about US$18.48 million (A$27.06 million).

An additional payment of US$2.40 per ounce of gold in historical mineral resource is payable upon a decision to mine.

Mt Kare project

Mt Kare is located about 600km northwest of Port Moresby in PNG’s Enga Province. It lies 15km southwest of Barrick Gold’s Porgera gold mine, the country’s second largest mine and considered to be one of the world’s top 10 producing gold mines.

Gold was first discovered at Mt Kare in the 1980s and it is estimated that more than A$60 million has been spent on the area by several companies, including 454 diamond drill holes totalling almost 74,000m.

Delisted ASX company Indochine Mining had acquired the project in 2011 and announced the 2.1Moz historical mineral resource estimate in 2013. However, the company was placed into voluntary administration in 2015 and the exploration licence, which expired in 2014, was not renewed.

In 2017, the PNG Mineral Resource Authority confirmed GMG had priority over the exploration licence application, but this was challenged by Tribune in the courts. The two parties ended up settling their disputes and agreeing to work together.

RTG said it would focus exploration on the depth potential of the deposit, with Mt Kare being situated on the same north-east trending structure as the Porgera mine with similar geology including the same host rocks, mineralisation types and age, and similar geological structures.

The area recently came into the spotlight in July when French news agency AFP reported on an alleged link between the control of Mt Kare and a PNG tribal massacre. However, this connection appeared unclear and Indochine reportedly told media it was no more than “speculation”.

Other gold projects

RTG also has a proposal with a landowner lead consortium to secure an exploration licence at the high-tonnage Panguna copper-gold project on PNG’s island of Bougainville.

The company’s other projects include a 40% stake in the Mabilo copper-gold-magnetite project in the Philippines and during the September quarter, RTG entered into a sale and purchase agreement with White Cliff Minerals  to acquire its 90% stake in the Chanach gold-copper project in the Kyrgyz Republic.

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‘The revolution is ongoing’: Bougainville to revive radical mining proposal

Heavy trucks sit rusting on the edges of Panguna copper mine, closed in 1989 as a result of sabotage. CREDIT: FRIEDRICH STARK / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

* Bougainville mining proposal to go before parliament in December

* Plan gives a 60% share of mines to Bougainville

* Bougainville is currently voting on independence from PNG

* Proposal was shelved ahead of independence referendum (Adds BCL share price, quotes, context)

Jonathan Barrett | Reuters | 28 November 2019

Bougainville Vice President Raymond Masono said he will revive a plan to overhaul the region’s mining laws after its ongoing independence referendum, which could strip the former operator of the Panguna gold and copper project of its interests.

The proposed changes, which have been criticised by Panguna landowners, would also erase an interest in the project held by the Papua New Guinea government, potentially complicating negotiations between the two governments after the referendum.

Under the proposed mining law amendments, Bougainville would take a 60% share in all projects and retain all mining licences, leaving a 40% share that investors can bid for.

“Panguna is the most likely project that can bankroll Bougainville’s independence from Papua New Guinea,” Masono, who is also Bougainville’s mining minister, told Reuters by telephone from the town of Buka.

“They don’t own the licence and the mine, we own it – they come on our terms. The revolution is ongoing.”

He said companies like former Panguna operator Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL), which counts the PNG government as a major shareholder and claims exploration rights at Panguna, would not get “special treatment”.

“They can only come in through the new framework. If they have money they can invest as will other investors.”

BCL declined to comment. The PNG government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Masono said he would push for the plan to go through Bougainville’s parliament in December, after it was shelved in the lead-up to the referendum amid a backlash from some landowners and government members.

Once the economic engine room of PNG, Bougainville has fallen to the bottom of almost every financial indicator, despite boasting mineral riches, fertile volcanic soil and stunning geography.

The autonomous region is now grappling over how best to re-establish a mining industry while maintaining peace, 20 years after the last shots were fired in a bloody conflict between Bougainville rebel fighters and PNG forces, killing 20,000 people.

As part of the peace agreement, Bougainville is holding a non-binding vote on independence that ends on Dec. 7, with the results to go before the PNG parliament and be subject to negotiation.

BCL is one of at least two companies, alongside a group including explorer RTG Mining Inc , that claims the rights to develop Panguna, with the dispute currently being tested in the PNG courts.

BCL shares had been on a bull run since the start of last week, rising almost five-fold to hit A$0.49 on Nov. 26, underpinned by positive sentiment flowing out of the independence vote.

BCL shares have since retreated to trade just under A$0.30 on Thursday.

Another Australian company, Kalia Ltd, is exploring for gold and copper on land located northwest of Panguna.

The mining law amendments, which have previously been backed by Bougainville President John Momis, were put on hold before the referendum amid concerns that landowner rights would be eroded, with control over assets being handed to the Bougainville government.

“It is totally unacceptable to be trying to steal Panguna from the customary owners,” Panguna landowner, Lawrence Daveona, said in a statement in June.

A Bougainville parliamentary committee was also heavily critical of the proposed changes, and noted that there had been a lack of consultation.

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The High-Stakes Race For Bougainville’s Copper And Gold

Satellite imagery of the Panguna Mine located in the autonomous region of Bougainville in Papua New Gunea. GETTY IMAGES

Tim Treadgold | Forbes | November 27 2019

Fat profits are being made by speculators confident they can beat a Chinese takeover of one of the world’s great copper and gold deposits on the Pacific island of Bougainville even though it hasn’t produced a pound of metal in 30 years.

The once fabulous Panguna mine was closed in 1989 during a civil war which pitted locals, fighting as the Bougainville Revolutionary Army, against troops of the government of Papua New Guinea which claimed control of the island.

An estimated 20,000 people died from the fighting and disease in what ranks as the worst conflict in the South Pacific since World War Two.

An uneasy truce in 2001 formally ended the conflict but Bougainvilleans have continued to push for independence which is being tested in a two-question referendum which started this week and will end on December 7 with voters being asked whether they want complete independence or just greater autonomy from Papua New Guinea.

Strategic Location In The Pacific

Strategically placed to the north-east of Australia, Bougainville commands a large area of the South Pacific Ocean and is seen as a perfect location for China to extend its influence in the region.

The island’s population has closer demographic connections with the Solomon Islands than Papua New Guinea with a culture clash one of the civil war causes.

Another contentious point which help trigger the war was the Panguna mine operated by a subsidiary company of the Anglo-Australian mining giant, Rio Tinto.

In its peak years between 1972 and 1989, Panguna was producing an average of 175,000 tons of copper a year and 18 tons of gold, but the mining and ore-processing methods at the time where not environmentally friendly with heavily-polluted water running off the mine site.

Unfortunately for local residents Panguna was a critically important asset for the Papua New Guinea government accounting for an estimated 44% of national income, which is one reason why the government fought hard to keep the mine operating, a task which proved to be impossible in a war zone.

The promise of independence has sparked interest in the abandoned mine which is estimated to still contain one billion tonnes of ore, an attractive target but one which will be hard to mine, and even harder to process.

High Cost Of Restarting

The first challenge will be the need to mine a large amount of ore annually to compensate for the low grade of the raw material. A second challenge will be spending an estimated $5 billion on a new processing plant because the original has rusted away in Bougainville’s tropical weather.

But the cost of restarting Panguna might be worth it because a “gold equivalent” calculation, which is the combination of the value of copper and gold in the ore, produces a world-class estimate of 45.3 million ounces of gold equivalent (a mix of copper and gold).

Papua New Guinea soldiers guard the Panguna mine. January 26, 1990. (Photo by Miller/Fairfax Media)

It’s the large amount of unmined copper and gold which explains the race which has developed among rival companies seeking permission to redevelop Panguna with companies from Australia and China leading the way.

Interest in the mothballed mine reached a high point yesterday when two were asked by regulators from the Australian Stock Exchange why their share prices had risen rapidly over the past two weeks.

Shares On Fire

Bougainville Copper, a company in which the local government (known as the Autonomous Bougainville Government) has a 36.4% stake is up 200% over the past three weeks with a rise from 6.5 cents to 20c — though at one stage on Tuesday the stock hit a 10-year high of 33c, triggering an exchange “speeding” inquiry.

RTG Mining, another Australian-listed hopeful in the race for Panguna, also received a speeding inquiry when its shares rose by 37.5% to 7.5c. RTG has secured a development agreement over the mine with a local land owners association.

There is a long way to go before Panguna can be redeveloped, if at all, given the history of conflict and fractious nature of the local politics.

The result of the referendum will be a first step in the mine re-start process. Choosing a company acceptable to all Bougainvilleans to do the job will be next, followed by funding and then proving that the mine can operate profitably and in an environmentally acceptable way.

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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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