PNG PRIME MINISTER SKATE WORKING ON BOUGAINVILLE PEACE

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (July 27, 1997 - PACNEWS)---The newly-elected Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Bill Skate, has called on Bougainville leaders to reconcile their differences and take the lead in the search for a Bougainville peace.

Skate says his government will ensure that a conducive atmosphere is created for reconciliation among Bougainvilleans themselves.

He also has indicated that a Bougainvillean Member of Parliament will be appointed to serve as the minister responsible for Bougainville in the government's new Cabinet, to assist with peace-building activities.

Skate says past efforts were directed more toward political gain and his government is determined not to repeat that mistake.

Meantime, when peace is secured, it's projected that the re-opening of Bougainville Copper Limited's Panguna mine could cost as much as $US435 million. The estimate is contained in the company's half-year results statement.

The statement said the estimate had increased from the 1991 calculation of $US217-325 million. The company said access to the mine was still not possible so a fully reliable estimate of restoration costs could not be made.

The huge mine, which is capable of producing both copper and gold, has been closed since May 1989, when Bougainville secessionists began attacking mine workers.

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