Tag Archives: SMLOLA

Panguna landowners applaud ABG

Local residents hold banners and placards during a protest at the former Bougainville Copper Limited’s Panguna mine. | Photo: Reuters

Meredith Kuusa | Loop PNG | January 4, 2018

A landowner’s association has expressed appreciation towards the efforts of the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) in giving Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) every opportunity to step up and win landowner support.

The Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA) said as evidenced by the recent warden’s hearing, the landowners for the first time were given the opportunity to speak their mind.

“The hearing clearly showed that BCL does not have the support of the community at large, even after a two- year exploration licence and a further period of nearly 18 months were given,” said SMLOA chairman Philip Miriori.

“We feel the ABG has been more than fair to BCL. However, BCL have not even taken responsibility for the past or offered us any compensation, just lots of broken promises.

“The professionalism of the hearing has brought much hope to our people, where many feel they were being listened to for the first time.”

Miriori acknowledged President John Momis for his prompt response to the warden’s hearing, making the result known on a timely basis to allow for all landowners to come up with a new proposal.

The opposition to BCL was on many fronts. Repeatedly outlined by members, they include:

Legacy issues – both environmental and social impacts

  • BCL not offering compensation for legacy issues
  • The insurmountable liabilities that arise directly from these legacy issues
  • Legal advice that the BCL 2 year exploration licence actually expired 15 months ago on 7th September 2016 but LOs allowed the warden’s hearing process to continue
  • The decade long $6 billion BCL development plan
  • The absence of any meaningful community assistance over the 30 years, in particular over the 2-year term of the BCL exploration licence

Miriori said there is broad support within the Panguna community to re-establish the Panguna mine as most understand that Bougainville requires economic development urgently.

“We simply cannot continue to rely entirely on the PNG Government for handouts,” Miriori said.

“We have done a lot of work in the community over the last couple of years and despite the horrific past, we have been able to show the members that with the right people – people who respect both the environment and the importance of a social license, people with a track record we have seen for ourselves – the mine can be a success for everyone.”

Following the warden’s meeting last month, President Momis announced an indefinite moratorium on exploration and mining in Panguna.

He said the Bougainville Executive Council made a “thoughtful and considered” decision to impose an indefinite reservation moratorium in the best interest of the landowners and the people of Bougainville.

“The voice of the Panguna landowners was clearly heard during the mining warden hearing that decided in a narrow split between those supporting the mine reopening by Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) and the opponents,” said President Momis.

He stated that to develop the mine by any other developer would be “untenable” under current circumstances.

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Bougainville landowners say no return for miner BCL

Bougainville’s Panguna Copper mine

Radio New Zealand | 4 January 2018

The Bougainville landowners association that controls the former copper mine at Panguna says it is pleased the mining company Bougainville Copper Limited, or BCL, will never be welcomed back.

The company operated the mine until the outbreak of civil war in 1989.

BCL, which is part owned by the Autonomous Bougainville Government, had been vying with the Australian company RTG to reopen the mine until last month when the government placed an indefinite moratorium on mining at Panguna.

In a statement, the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association said BCL failed to win community support as it would not take responsibility for the environmental and social impacts of its previous operation, or offer any compensation.

The association’s chair Philp Miriori said it was time for Bougainville to attract a mining partner that would respect the people and make sure they all benefit.

He said there was broad support within the Panguna community to re-establish the mine as it was understood that Bougainville urgently required economic development and could not rely on the Papua New Guinea government for handouts.

“President (John) Momis has said he will now meet with the Panguna Landowners and develop an alternative plan for Panguna and we welcome the opportunity to work with the ABG,” said Mr Miriori.

“We have invested a great deal of time in this agenda over the last couple of years and believe now the road is clear to deliver a solution where all can win and we do not need to look backwards but can focus on the future.”

Last month, RTG claimed to have the association’s backing.

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BCL Panguna extension denied

PNG Industry News |  03 January 2018 

THE Bougainville Executive Council has confirmed that Bougainville Copper Ltd’s application for extension of the term of its expired mining licence at the Panguna copper mine has not received necessary landowners’ consent.

Autonomous Bougainville Government President John Momis said his government would consult with the Panguna landowners on an appropriate arrangement or the best alternative model for the development of the mine.

Until the consultation process is complete, the ABG will impose a moratorium over the grant of new licences for Panguna. 

Under the Bougainville Mining Act, a moratorium can only be implemented if there is no existing exploration licence.

Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association chairman Philip Miriori thanked Momis and the ABG for respecting the association’s opposition to BCL.

“The Panguna community broadly wants the mine to reopen,” he said. 

“We welcome very much the statement of the president that the ABG will consult with the Panguna landowners to determine the best alternative model for the development of Panguna.” 

RTG Mining Inc, the Australian mining company proposing a restart for the abandoned mine, also thanked the ABG for supporting Panguna landowners.

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Has Momis admitted defeat over plan to bring back BCL?

The Panguna mine was a catalyst for the civil war on Bougainville in the 1990s. It has sat abandoned since 1989. Photo: supplied

Conscious of old wounds, Bougainville halts mine development

Radio New Zealand | 23 December 2017

Bougainville is to put on hold any new development at the controversial Panguna copper mine.

The mine was the catalyst for the civil war in the Papua New Guinea region and has been shut down for nearly 28 years.

The autonomous Bougainville government has been keen to re-open it in order to boost the region’s economy as it prepares for an independence referendum in 2019.

But local journalist Aloysius Laukai has reported President John Momis saying his government has imposed an indefinite moratorium on exploration and mining at Panguna.

Mr Momis said this was in the best interests of the landowners and people of Bougainville and was made on the advice of the Bougainville Mining Advisory Council.

He said his government ”will not allow this project once again to reignite the wounds of the Bougainville crisis and distract our focus for restoring peace and our preparation for our referendum in 2019”.

It comes amid a battle by the former operator Bougainville Copper Ltd, or BCL, and Australian company, RTG, to win the right to proceed.

Mr Momis said BCL, in which his government has a major interest, cannot secure the consent of the landowners while it is untenable for any other developer under the “current circumstances.”

RTG had claimed to have the backing of the Special Mining Lease Osikaiang Landownwers Association, which controls the land at the site of the mine, but the ABG has been strongly critical of the company’s involvement.

Meanwhile Mr Momis said his government would ”continue to consult with Panguna landowners and the people of Bougainville over an appropriate arrangement or best alternative models of development of the mine if the people still had an appetite” to develop Panguna in the future.

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Court Orders Panguna Mine Mediation To Continue

Post Courier | December 19, 2017

Mediation over the leadership of the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA) in Panguna, Bougainville is continuing following directions from National Court Judge Andrew Kandakasi.
The matter returned to court on December 8, and adjourned to Tuesday this week where Justice Kandakasi ordered the mediation process continue.
His orders are in relation to the current leadership tussle between Philip Miriori and Lawrence Daveona claiming chairmanship of SMLOLA.
Legal action was then sought to determine whether or not the reconciliation between Mr Miriori and Mr Daveona had been resolved to the satisfaction of the broader SMLOLA membership.
According to Bougainville Copper Limited’s company secretary Mark Hitchcock following three earlier mediation sessions, a fourth has now been scheduled for January 29, 2018 before the matter returns to court on February 6, 2018.
Mr Hitchcock said it was misleading for rival exploration companies to claim the matter had been resolved when the process was still in progress.

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Bougainville ban on businessman called heavy handed

The Panguna mine Photo: supplied

Radio New Zealand | 13 December 2017

An Australian mining company says a ban on businessman Renzie Duncan entering Bougainville imposed by Papua New Guinea’s acting chief migration officer is unfair.

Mr Duncan has worked with the Special Mining Lease Osikiang Landowners Association which opposes the autonomous government’s plans for the development of the Panguna mine.

Mr Duncan was banned back in May with the Immigration Authority saying his presence on Bougainville may be detrimental to the government’s efforts relating to mining.

The mining company, RTG, which also works with Osikiang and Renzie Duncan, calls the action overly heavy handed.

RTG chairman Michael Carrick said Mr Duncan had worked with the community around Panguna for about five years and won their support.

“Not because of money provided to them but because he has lived and worked with them for many many years. Renzie and the landowners [SMLOLA] could not have worked more closely with the previous two mining ministers and President Momis. Over 20 meetings to ensure that he was working in accordance with the objectives of the ABG. It was only on the appointment of the new mining minister [Raymond Masono] that that attitude changed.”

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Bougainville Copper Limited Opposed Strongly by Landowners at Warden’s Hearing

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

RTG Mining | Stockhouse | 12 December 2017

The Board of RTG Mining Inc. is pleased to provide an update on the Warden’s Hearing for Bougainville Copper Limited (“BCL”) held in Panguna yesterday.  Despite BCL not having been to Panguna in over 28 years (given landowners had refused to even allow them access), to ensure a full and fair hearing amongst the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association members, Autonomous Bougainville Government representatives, including the Warden and BCL, the landowners in a show of good faith allowed BCL access on this special occasion (despite BCL not having followed custom).

At the outset, it is important to acknowledge the Autonomous Bougainville Government representatives on the day being the Warden and Mining Registrar conducted an orderly forum, ensuring both the opposition to BCL and its supporters were given an opportunity to express their views.

BCL has stated it lodged a compliant extension application for Exploration Licence (“EL”) 1 in July 2016, which legal advice to the SMLOLA states was not validly lodged.  Based on this legal advice, the SMLOLA filed an objection to the extension application with the Warden stating it is invalid because it was submitted out of time and was incomplete which means that the EL expired 15 months ago. This was also consistent with statements to the SMLOLA members on several occasions by the ABG confirming they had not received an extension application from BCL, as early as 8 September 2016. Interestingly BCL’s position only yesterday changed, within just four days, suggesting now that it was not processed on time, blaming the ABG. 

Despite the right to do so, the SMLOLA chose not to stop the Warden’s Hearing yesterday as it was keen to give its members the opportunity to speak their mind, given the depth of emotion behind their views.  The purpose of the Warden’s Hearing was to determine whether the purported extension application by BCL has the necessary support of the SMLOLA members, being the owners of the minerals and customary land within the EL boundary.

SMLOLA’s objection is only one of in excess of 100 formal written substantive objections lodged in respect of the Extension Application. Other objections call on the ABG to cancel BCL’s EL pursuant to the ABG’s own Notice to Show Cause dated 21 July 2016, based on a blatant breach (admitted by BCL) of section 112(1) of the Mining Act because RioTinto transferred more than the statutory maximum 25% shareholding without seeking the ABG’s approval. Another objector lodged a Petition with 2,000 supporters expressing opposition to BCL. Another objector points out that BCL’s EL was granted without consent or compensation to the customary landowners and therefore constitutes the unfair (and unconstitutional) deprivation of their lawful property. Other objections make the point that BCL was granted a 2 year EL, but was unable to gain landowner consent and access before its expiry on 7 September 2016, having made no progress on the redevelopment during the full 2 year term.

The Warden’s Hearing was held yesterday, with a strong majority held message from the SMLOLA members, they will never grant BCL access to their lands and do not support an extension of BCL’s previous EL1 or the grant of a new EL to them. 

This position was also supported by a Petition, signed and supported by around 2,000 members of the SMLOLA stating “No to BCL Forever” which demonstrates the position of many of the landowners.

All those who supported BCL, for the most part, were calling on BCL to compensate them for the past atrocities which they hold BCL accountable for, which to date BCL have neither accepted nor compensated them. 

Update on Recent Media Comments

Following on from the announcement on 5 December 2017 confirming the resolution of the Leadership dispute over the SMLOLA in favour of Mr Philip Miriori, we can now advise that the discontinuance papers have also been lodged with the Court, bringing the dispute to a formal end.

Since that announcement, media publicity has demonstrated a lack of understanding of the new Bougainville Mining Act (“Mining Act”) introduced in 2015, which is understandable given this is the first time many of the provisions are being applied and considered. 

RTG has taken extensive legal advice and wishes to provide its understanding of how the Mining Act applies to the Panguna Mine area and to provide an update on matters related to the previous BCL exploration licence (BCL’s EL) over that area and the application for an exploration licence by the joint venture company with the SMLOLA (“SMLOLA’s ELA”) over the same area. 

The Mining Act is both new and unique, with significant changes from the PNG Mining Act (which formerly applied to mining on Bougainville). Understandably, all stakeholders, including both the landowners and the ABG are still in the process of working through the implications of the key changes. As a result, it is therefore understandable in this learning process that there may be different interpretations and views expressed prior to determining what is allowed for under the new Mining Act.

What is absolutely clear however is that the Mining Act has expunged the State ownership of mineral rights in Bougainville (which applied under the PNG Mining Act) and conferred ownership of them, not on the ABG but on customary landowners. All minerals are owned by the customary landowners whose land contains the minerals. In the case of the old 1.5bt Copper-Gold Panguna Mine, the SMLOLA members are the customary landowners.

However, the role of the ABG is also important.  It is the administrator of the Mining Act and the regulator – an independent umpire that is responsible for issuing mineral exploration licenses and mining leases, in accordance with that Act, in a manner which is both fair and impartial, to assist the landowners to ensure both their interests, and the interests of all Bougainvilleans, are properly protected in the process. 

SMLOLA’s ELA embodies the very rights conferred on the customary landowners under the new Mining Act, allowing them to take control of their property (being the minerals at the old Panguna Mine) and their destiny (being the conditions on which access is permitted to their land for exploration and mining).

SMLOLA and RTG respect the ABG’s role as the independent regulator to fairly and impartially grant and administer exploration licenses. Contrary to recent false allegations published in the media, the SMLOLA plan for the Panguna Mine has been developed over the last 5 years, in full consultation with the ABG. This included full and comprehensive briefings to President Momis (over 20 meetings) and the two previous Mining Ministers of the ABG, to ensure the plan had the ABG’s support. Following a suggestion of the ABG, it also included flying a number of ABG Ministers to the Masbate Mine in the Philippines (being the last mine developed by the RTG Management) in late January this year. 

The ABG was fully supportive of the SMLOLA plan until a sudden change in March this year, with the appointment of the new Mining Minister who then expressed support for BCL, the previous operator of the Panguna Mine.

The consortium of the customary landowners was only established after 30 years of inactivity at Panguna without resolution or compensation by BCL for any of the major environmental and social damage and human misery resulting from it.  SMLOLA’s ELA is the only application that has the required support of the customary landowners. SMLOLA has confirmed they remain committed to working co-operatively with the ABG, fully respecting their role in the process, ensuring all Bougainvilleans and the ABG also benefit from the redevelopment.

RTG accepts that, in representing the owners of the land and the minerals contained within it, the SMLOLA executive are charged with the responsibility of seeking to commercialise their mineral ownership interests in a manner that protects the members, a role which RTG can see they take very seriously.  This has been a full time job for the executive, which has also required the employment of a team of landowners to assist in negotiations, awareness campaigns and protecting the members’ rights. For this Central has ensured these persons have been fairly compensated on arms’ length terms in an honest and transparent manner and at normal commercial rates.  The ABG were in fact advised of that plan long ago (before the current Mining Minister’s appointment, which may explain the confusion) and expressed no concerns.

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