Posts Categorized: Artisanal mining

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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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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Small scale mines operate at gold deposits throughout the region

595-gold-conveyorBy Gideon Davika

Local people in Central and South Bougainville are now discovering gold deposits in new areas outside of Panguna and the old mine at Kupe which was started by German settlers.

In the Central region newly discovered gold deposits are Dangtangnai in Kokoda Constituency, Komana in South Nasioi Constituency and Isina in Kongara Constituency.

In South Bougainville in Buin gold has been discovered at the foot of Mount Leuro in the Konnou constituency.

The local miners in most areas are using conveyors and gold washing dishes to extract the gold.

However in the Konnou one particular group from Tobago, lead by ex-combatant Damien Koige, uses hired machines to dig and make stockpiles.

In some areas, such as Komana and Isina, small scale mining has been banned due to issues such as water pollution and land disputes.

A village leader from Isina, David Dapoung, stated that washing gold has been banned in their area because the water becomes dirty every day.

“This land is our customary land,” said Mr Dapoung.

“We don’t want people to dig here and there and spoil our land which is for our future generation.”

Most of the locals in that area suggested that gold which is found on their land shouldn’t be dug but kept as their treasure.

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Gold panning industry slumps in Tumpusiong Valley

By Leonard Fong Roka

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Alluvial gold panning in the Tumpusiong Valley of the Panguna District is dwindling and the locals are now looking for alternative means to earn money in the ever changing environment of Bougainville.

According to one veteran gold miner, Mr Peter Tapumato, the main issue leading to the drop in gold production in the valley is that sediment washed down from the Panguna site has been mined to the limits of manual labour.

“There is gold and it is now difficult to get that gold,” said Mr Tapumato, “Many of us are now moving out of the Kavarong River and are trying out other means to earn money to support our families back at home.”

“The problem is that over the years, as we dug up the sediment and extracted the gold, we have exhausted the layers of soil and rock which our human labour can work on safely.

The main area affected is what is known as the Upper Tailings, comprising of Darenai, Onove, Enamira, Dupanta, and Pirurari villages.

“The layers of sediment and rock need heavy equipment to work on for us to extract the gold we want,” Mr Tapumato continued.

“The days of our human labour has come to an end, thus we are now becoming penniless at home.

“Many retail outlets are now suffering with the lower customer turnover and soon they will also collapse if they do not adapt.”

Many of the people are now engaging in cocoa farming at home and outside the Panguna District where they are buying cocoa blocks in areas like Wakunai, Tinputz and Buin.

Some others, such as Tapumato, have found employment with local companies.

“I left earlier and got employed by the Island Corps security firm owned by former [Bougainville Revolutionary Army] leader Ishmael Toroama,” he said.

“I saw earlier that I could not support my kids in their education with the drop in gold production so I had to look elsewhere.”

The fall will affect the businesses and living standards of the Tumpusiong Valley people unless they are economically creative enough to adapt and work more to financially sustain themselves.

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