Post Courier | May 7, 2019
All mining, oil, and gas powers and functions belong to the Autonomous Bougainville Government, says ABG vice president and mining minister Raymond Masono.
Mr Masono said this in response to a news article titled “Bougainville admonished by O’Neill over planned mining change” which was posted on social media through Radio New Zealand on Monday, April 29.
The ABG mining minister said the the transfer of these powers from the national government to the ABG was signed in March 2008 at Alotau between the late president, Joseph Kabui, and the then deputy prime minister, Sir Puka Temu.
“This process was in turn completed when the ABG passed its own mining law in April, 2015,” Mr Masono said.
“The ABG mining act is unique in the sense that it recognises landowners as owners of the minerals beneath the ground and not the crown or the state as in Papua New Guinea.
“The proposed amendment further consolidates this ownership rights by giving landowners and the ABG controlling interest in any major mining development project, starting with the Panguna mine through a Bougainvillean mining entity that would own 60 per cent of the shares on behalf of the landowners, ABG and the people of Bougainville.
“The Bougainville entity is not Caballus, it is the Bougainville advance mining company,” he said
Mr Masono said contrary to the Rio Tinto Group-aligned special mining lease Osikaiyang landowners association (SMOLA) that the amendments take away landowner rights, the proposed amendments give landowners more and better benefits in terms of equity and royalties than they are currently entitled to under the existing law.
“But the Panguna mine no longer belongs only to the RTG sponsored SMOLA, rather the mine belongs also to the other eight mine-affected landowners, whose land was used for mining purposes in the 17 years of operations and who support the amendment,” he said.
“It also belongs to all Bougainvilleans because the blood of 20,000 lives was spilled over the mine by Bougainvilleans, who died fighting to protect these resources.”
He said Bougainvilleans have consented that the Panguna mine must reopen, but not with Bougainville Copper Ltd and certainly not with RTG, two firms that are no doubt sponsoring those opposed the amendments. Mr Masono said relevant agencies have conducted and continued to carry out awareness to correct the misinformation, deliberate misinterpretation that are being propagated by those opposed to the proposed amendments.
The ABG is not rushing its work, it will continue to consult with landowners and the people of Bougainville before it passes the amendments.
“In addition to these consultations, the people of Panguna are now engaged in their own traditional social mapping process called ‘tangurang’ to identify the true landowners,” he said.