Posts Categorized: Resources development

Bougainville to get Rio’s BCL stake

By Keith Jackson

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Peter O’Neill has avoided a full frontal clash with the Autonomous Bougainville Government by agreeing to give it a majority stake in the Panguna gold and copper mine.

In a move that was fundamentally stupid, mining giant Rio Tinto in June decided to split its 53.8% stake in Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) to leave the PNG and Bougainville governments each with 36.4% of the equity.

It was a recipe for potential conflict and tragedy which only a global company with no sense of the society and culture within which it was operating could have formulated.

And now it seems that Peter O’Neill has let Rio off the hook.

BCL’s Panguna mine was closed in 1989 after attacks by secessionist rebels. The subsequent conflict in which Bougainvilleans first fought Papua New Guineans and then each other cost between 10,000 and 20,000 lives.

Rio’s decision to leave Bougainville in a hand wrestle with PNG angered the provinces’s president John Momis who consistently said his people would never accept equal or majority control of BCL by PNG.

This left Peter O’Neill facing the prospect of having half of nothing or hanging on to his existing 19% share of a potentially very rich resource.

It seems he has opted for a piece of the action as well as peace of mind.

O’Neill told the PNG parliament Wednesday that his government  would transfer the 17.4% Rio stake to Bougainville to “help to alleviate some of the legacy issues of the past”.

These issues included the continued failure of his government to honour some key conditions of the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

“With this transfer, the people of Bougainville will own a combined shareholding of 53.8% of BCL,” O’Neill stated, apparently casting asunder a range of side deals he had tried to put in place with Rio.

Bougainville is rich in minerals – especially gold, silver and copper – and the Panguna mine, when re-opened, is expected to have at least another 30 years of highly profitable production.

Bougainville is also facing a referendum before 2020 on whether it should split from PNG and become an independent state.

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Port-Mine road endangered by artisanal miners

By Leonard Fong Roka

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Panguna District police head Peter Tauna has warned gold miners that their activities are putting the road and people in danger (pictured in uniform) during an unplanned visit to the alluvial mining slope along the western side of the Panguna mine’s port-mine-access road on Monday, 2 August 2016.

“This is a public road that serves us in the Panguna District and most of south Bougainville,” Mr Tauna told a group digging for gold some 10 metres from the road.

“It provides us the access to Arawa and Buka where we receive much needed services.

“You must be aware that this road came into existence with BCL,” Tauna continued,” our government has no financial capacity to create such a road for us.”

“We are people with common sense so we have to be responsible.

“Mine the locations of the slopes that you see will not contribute in harming this public road.”

The gathered artisanal miners, most of whom came from the Bana District of South Bougainville, said that they were aware of the dangers thus they have already marked a spot where the activities will be restricted to.

Since the alluvial gold was discovered on the slopes between the former Panguna Mine’s Camp 10 site and the Shoofly Corner section of the Port-Mine Access Road in 2010, artisanal miners from all over Panguna and Kieta Districts had rushed here to make a living.

There are also miners working here who come from Bana and even some from across other Bougainville’s sister islands on the Solomon archipelago.

According to the miners a number of people have also accidentally died here. The first was a man from Wakunai District and the most recent incident saw the demise of a person from the Malaita Province of the Solomon Islands.

They also said landowners from the Moroni Village who oversee their activities also are concerned about the safety of the road that serves the public and so had enforced the boundary where all artisanal miners should not pass with their activities.

Police Officer Peter Tauna and his officers carefully walked around the rocky slopes talking to the busy miners.

Tracking up the ore veins, it is evident people have dug through the bed rock creating ditches some of which comes right near the Port-Mine Access Road bitumen.

Since the discovery of the gold, the activities of the artisanal miners have taken over a massive area of natural jungle. The area covered is roughly more than the combined space of 5 soccer fields.

Deep holes were bored into the slope with crowbars and miners were seen working inside without any safety measures in place.

People could be seen from the road downhill moving like ants. Beneath another mass of workers work on the Karona Creek. They work with sedimentation that is washed down from the slopes.

Peter Tauna, head of the Panguna Police contingent emphasized that the boundary must be respected for the good of the travelling public that use the Port-Mine Access Road.

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Effects of moratorium on small-scale mining must be considered – Momis

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The President of Bougainville, Chief John Momis, has stated that the ABG ensure the existing small-scale mining industry is protected if a decision is made to lift the moratorium on mining exploration.

The BEC will not make a decision on the moratorium until the Bougainville Mining Department has fully implemented the Bougainville Mining Act provisions on small scale-mining, which includes the reserving areas for small scale mining.

“[Small-scale mining] is an industry where benefits spread to the people in villages and hamlets,” President Momis said.

“Their interests cannot be thrown away in favour of new large-scale mining interests with exploration licences; if we do not recognise small-scale miners, there will be dangers of unrest, and even conflict.”

The Mining Department has till October 2016 to set up the new arrangements for licensing small-scale mining.

If and when the moratorium is lifted, exploration licences are then likely to cover most areas where the ten thousand or more small-scale Bougainvillean miners now operate.

Once an exploration licence is granted over an area, a community mining reservation is possible only with permission from the exploration licence holder and it is believed that most are unlikely to consent.

The President also expressed concerns about the excessive development of small scale mines.

Though the ABG Mining Act restricts the number of simultaneous large-scale mining leases to maximum of two, there is no restriction on the number of small-scale mines.

“I am also requesting the Minister [Robin Wilson] to investigate and report to me, as a matter of urgency, on how to ensure that Bougainville is not threatened by many mines being established,” President Momis urged.

“It was fear of this led Bougainvilleans to request the moratorium in 1971. It remains a real danger.

“Once the Moratorium is lifted, if exploration licences are granted for all prospective areas, it will be difficult to limit the number of small mining leases,” President Momis continued.

“Lease holders and landowners will pressure for developments to go ahead, so they can get the money on offer from mining.

“Once exploration licences are granted, we could face huge pressures to approve small mines, wherever exploitable minerals are discovered; we could perhaps have 10 or 20 such mines at the same time. The social and environmental impacts could be massive. Most of the available mineral resources could be extracted rapidly, in one generation, and all mining revenue too.

The President has sought the advice of the Mining Minister on how to address this issue.

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Reconciliation before exploration say Panguna mine associations

 

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The nine associations representing landowners of the former Panguna mine have made a request to Bougainville President, Chief John Momis, that any lift of the moratorium on mining exploration be delayed until after a Bel Kol ceremony is held with Bougainville Copper Limited.

“[Bel Kol] has been requested by the landowners,” President Momis stated.

“They want to see this customary first step towards reconciliation about mining-related issues that caused conflict completed before there is any formal step towards resumption of large-scale mining in Bougainville.

“They are asking all Bougainvilleans and outside mining interests to respect their wishes in this regard.”

The President has stated that a decision on the moratorium may not be made until October and is dependent on the successful implementation regulatory arrangement for small scale mining.

The Autonomous Bougainville Government Mining Act limits the number of simultaneous large-scale mines to two.

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Future of moratorium in the hands of BEC

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Chief John Momis, President of Bougainville, spoke today about debate in Bougainville’s House of Representatives on the future of the Moratorium on mining exploration and development. The House concluded the debate on Tuesday 7 June and passed a motion asking the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) to lift the moratorium completely

The debate followed a request from the Bougainville Executive Council in April, when all members were also asked to seek the views of their constituents.

President Momis took the opportunity to identify some of the issues around the moratorium.

“The moratorium was imposed in April 1971, by the colonial administration,” President Momis said, “it prevented mining exploration or development in all areas except those already under BCL leases.

“Bougainvillean leaders asked for the moratorium [at that time] because of deep concerns that there might be many more mines in addition to the huge Panguna mine.”

The President stated that part of the reason the motion to lift the moratorium was passed was to address problem of public revenue.

“Although I proposed to the House that the moratorium should initially be lifted partially, most members of the House preferred to lift it completely,” President Momis continued.

“A major factor here is National Government failure to fund the ABG as the Peace Agreement requires.

“The ABG’s bad financial position means we must increase our internal revenue.

“Most members see mining sector development as the best way to lift the Bougainville economy, and also provide ABG revenue; My Government has listened to and will implement the motion of the House.”

The motion passed last week by the House was for the purposes of consultation and does not lift the moratorium. Under the Mining Act, it is the Bougainville Executive Council that has power to lift the moratorium and only once it has received advice from the Bougainville Mining Advisory Committee and allowed the House another opportunity for debate on the issues.

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BCL committed to sustainable mining vision

The Chairman and Managing Director of Bougainville Copper Limited, Mr Peter Taylor, told the 2016 Annual General Meeting that the company remains committed to the vision of sustainable mining on Bougainville.

In his address to the AGM held at the Grand Papua Hotel in Port Moresby on Wednesday, 2 June 2016, Mr Taylor outlined the activities of the past year and was positive about the growing strength of the company’s relationships in the autonomous region.

“The company has had positive engagement with many of the local interest groups from the project area, including landowners,” Mr Taylor told the audience, which included shareholders.

“While there are some landowners opposed to reopening the mine for a range of reasons there appears to be a clear majority in favour of redevelopment.

“Throughout the year,” Mr Taylor continued, “the company management maintained its own fruitful dialogue with a wide range of Bougainvillean interest groups.

“There is a wide range of interests, and we are trying to listen to them all.”

Mr Taylor also stated that BCL is still committed to the potential resumption of mining.

“The vision to return to active exploration and profitable, sustainable mining remains,” Mr Taylor said.

“The company is well positioned to recognise the opportunities inherent in recent challenges, and to maintain progress in a new year.

“I believe a majority of the Bougainville people, who will soon participate in a referendum on Independence, clearly see the importance of economic self-sufficiency that could potentially be provided by mineral resource exploration and development.”

The AGM also saw the re-election of Dame Carol Kidu to the BCL board of directors. Dame Carol joined the board in April 2013.

Also present at the AGM were the other members of the BCL board, Sir Rabbie Namaliu, Robert Burns, Adam J. Burley and the BCL Company Secretary, Mark Hitchcock.

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People must inform mining moratorium decision says President

President John L. Momis has told the Bougainville House of Representatives that a decision will need to be made on the moratorium on mining exploration in the future.

He said that the Bougainville Executive Council (BEC), with advice from the Bougainville Mining Advisory Council, has the responsibility for making ultimate decision about the moratorium, but will not do so in isolation.

President Momis wants to see the issue discussed publicly to help inform whether the moratorium should be retained, partially lifted or fully lifted and implored his fellow Members of Parliament to actively seek out the views of their constituents.

“The BEC has not made any decision about the future of the ‘moratorium’,” President Momis told the House of Representatives on Tuesday 5 April.

“We are not coming to you with a proposed decision, instead, we are asking this House to debate what we should do.

“We are doing this to generate broad public discussion of the issues involved.”

The moratorium on mining exploration was imposed in 1971 in response to concerns communicated by Bougainvilleans and was been retained by the Bouganville Mining (Transitional Arrangements) Act 2014 and the Bougainville Mining Act 2015 which followed.

“Ideally we want to have a major Bougainville-wide public consultation and awareness campaign about issues of such great importance,” President Momis continued, “but because of our serious financial difficulties, that is not an option for us at the moment.”

Momis wants the second parliamentary debate on the issue to be inclusive of the variety of views from the Bougainvillean communities.

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Koromira gold hunter to return after 8 years in Panguna

By Leonard Fong Roka

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Nearly every educated man or woman from a college or university returns to go job hunting after completing their years of studying or job training, but this was not so for Joe Onake of Koianu Village in the Kokoda Constituency of Central Bougainville. He is satisfied.

“I was in Port Moresby and heard people making a fortune in alluvial gold mining around Kieta, especially Panguna,” he recalled.

“I decided I need to partake in all these activities. Life needs experimentation to make it realistically enjoyable.”

Joe Onake left Arawa High School in 2000 and headed for Port Moresby where joined the Catholic Church Don Bosco Society completing his secondary studies and holding dreams of becoming a missionary within the congregation.

He continued here, undergoing the teacher training with minors in electrical studies. But upon his graduation in 2007, instead of a job hunting spree, and with flaring tales of alluvial mining in the Panguna District in his ears, he purchased a gold weighing scale and flew into Bougainville.

“I did not go home to Koianu,” he said, “But I hung out in Arawa with a little cash and began buying gold from people from Panguna, Evo and Kupe.”

“I made some money here on the streets of Arawa and also made a few friends especially from the Panguna District. Then slowly I entered the Panguna District itself.”

Digging for gold at Panguna, the mine site, was too difficult though for Joe Onake.

“I saw up at the mine site that panning was too difficult and went into the Tumpusiong Valley or the tailings area of Panguna,” Onake said.

“I spent nights with friends, woke very early and began buying their gold dust and so on.

“When the cash went out I came down to Arawa or Buka and sold the gold and returned back to Panguna and did the buying all over again.”

Gradually, Joe made friends with the locals and the Nagovis people. He even got married to a woman form Takemari Village in Nagovis whom he met panning for gold in the Tumpusiong Valley.

By 2011, Joe Onake had made his fortune of over K100,000 and was still going on. Slowly building his reputation has a gold buyer with always-available cash on hand for the miners in the Tumpusiong Valley.

Along the way he also began to pan regularly to support his stay in the place he does not belong to. He dug for gold and then bought it himself to cater for his food and travel funds.

In late 2015 Joe Onake, with almost double his 2011 earnings, decided to look for a job and a settled life outside of gold panning.

“There are attractions of the gold rush in Torokina,” he said, “but I am now not interested to venture further.”

“I am growing old and need to go back to Koianu and building my home with the fortune I have made so far.”

Joe Onake is just one such man making a fortune while away from home in the many erupting alluvial gold mining sites around Bougainville. It is not only Bougainvilleans that crisscross their island. Many from across the Solomons are also making a fortune here.

He is now selling his few old belongings, a shelter he built to live in and a few tools, to the other mining people.

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Tumpusiong Valley faces major social challenges as alluvial mining declines

By Leonard Fong Roka

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In the early 2000s, the Upper Tailings area of Tumpusiong Valley in the Panguna District was the hub of alluvial gold mining. From the little kids to the grey haired adults everybody had cash and the marketing culture was booming.

But as the gold production declines social problems, like childhood pregnancy and extra-marital affairs, are sweeping through the valley.

Pastor James Torua, chairman of the Ioro 2 Council of Elders (CoE), recently address a village court hearing that was trying to sort a case where a 13 year old girl named four local business men and four other youngsters as the possible fathers of her unborn child.

“It was that unsustainable money culture we developed in the midst of our families that is ruining us all,” said Pastor Torua.

“Many of these young girls are the ones whose parents were active gold diggers and traders who had them know money before education.

“A lot of them did not go to school but spent their time down in the river with their parents digging gold and going shopping in Arawa.”

The area, which is occupied by a population of about 7,000, now has 11 child pregnancy cases, out of which 5 are child prostitution cases and in all 6 cases more than 5 men had been named as the possible male parents.

In the first prostitution cases the valley had ever seen, two young girls aged 14 and 13, were exploited by the local businessmen and other persons who could offer money in exchange for sex.

Extramarital affair cases are also driving the community into conflicts. A handful of wives have gone astray looking for money and husbands spending money on young local girls.

“I will do the same if they do not compensate me,” a pregnant wife of a local businessman, who had been named as one possible father to a pregnant girl of age 13 said.

“I am waiting to be compensated with K10,000.”

Many concerned locals say that there needs to be more focus from local leadership in addressing the social issues affecting the community.

The community has not produced students that have carried on to in higher institutions in PNG to help contribute to the progress of Bougainville. Most of the students put out by the local Darenai Primary School reach Grade 12 in higher secondary school but return home to the social chaos.

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Panguna mother finds opportunity in disaster

By Ishmael Palipal

Mother panning for gold at the landslide area in Pakia Gap. Picture: Ben Kinah
Mother panning for gold at the landslide area in Pakia Gap. Picture: Ben Kinah

After many long days of wind and rain in the recent weeks in most parts of Bougainville, the main Arawa-Panguna-Nagovis road was blocked by a landslide at the Pakia Gap.

Road access has not yet been brought back to the people of Panguna, Nagovis and other areas that use that road link to have access to proper services back in Arawa town.

People carrying goods from the other side of the landslide towards the village- Panguna. Picture: Ben KinahA report also revealed that many of the peoples gardens and houses in the Panguna area were destroyed during the storm.

Despite of all that, one mother was making use of the opportunity that the landslide brought with it at the road in Pakia Gap. She immediately began to pan gold from the soil that was dug out by the heavy rain onto the road.

She commented that it was a good chance to find good grams of gold from the soil that was once unreachable but was now turned over by the landslide.

Meanwhile, the road still stays blocked and the people have to carry goods if they are either going to town or from town to village as they wait for the responsible authorities to clear the area.

Recently the Red Cross, Good Samaritan Natural Disaster Volunteers and some local business houses, such as Jomik, supplied goods for the relief of those affected and suffering from the disaster.

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