BOUGAINVILLE LANDOWNERS WANT MINE REOPENED

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Oct. 25) – Landowners in the Panguna copper mine area in Bougainville want to see the Bougainville government open discussions on mining on the island.

They support a call by Bougainville President Joseph Kabui to open discussions on mining and reviewing the Bougainville Copper Agreement.

The review process is currently between the Papua New Guinea national government and Bougainville Copper Limited. But the landowners want themselves and the Bougainville Government to be included in the review process.

Spokesman Lawrence Daveona said the immediate family of the late Francis Ona met in Buka recently after they were separated for more than 17 years as the result of the Bougainville crisis.

Mr. Daveona said in a statement that their discussions were centered on reconciling the landowning families of the Special Mining Lease of the Panguna mine.

The mine was operated by Bougainville Copper Limited, a subsidiary of multi-national mining company Rio Tinto, and has been dormant for the last 17 years.

[PIR editor’s note: According to its website, Bougainville Copper Ltd. is owned 53.5 percent by Rio Tinto Limited; the Papua New Guinea Government owns 19. percent; while public shareholders hold the remaining 27.3 percent of the share capital. The Panguna mine has not operated since 15 May 1989. Parent company Rio Tinto Ltd. is based in Melbourne, Australia.]

Mr. Daveona said the landowners are the smallest recipients of benefits from the mine.

Over the mine life from 1972 to 1989, dividends received from the mine were distributed as follows:

In addition to this, landowners received compensation payments of PGK19 million (US$6 million) for restitution of losses but this amount cannot be counted as a benefit as it was a payment for the losses in a lifetime of a livelihood that had gone for good.

This inequality was further compounded by the fact that over the 17 years of the mine’s operations for every PGK1 (US 33 cents) received by the landowners, outsiders received PGK500 (US$169) - statistics from the Bougainville Copper Limited annual report.

October 26, 2005

Papua New Guinea Post-Courier: www.postcourier.com.pg/

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