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By Aloysius Laukai

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Jan. 2) – The Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) is yet to give a safety guarantee for an environmental audit team to carry out a survey before any mining project can be established on Bougainville.

Mining Minister Sam Akoitai made these remarks a fortnight ago in Buka whilst commenting on ABG’s push to have the National Government cede to them the powers relating to mining.

The ABG wants those powers by the end of last year.

The minister told The National in Buka that environmental issues must be addressed before any discussions on opening the Panguna copper mine or any other mine can commence on Bougainville.

Minister Akoitai said that environmental issues that ignited the Bougainville conflict were real issues and that ABG must not ignore them.

Mr Akoitai said environmental laws had changed in recent years, thus, making environmental waste disposal plan a number one requirement before any approval can be given to any mining project anywhere in PNG.

The minister said that dumping wastes into the river system like what Bougainville Copper Limited used to do were not allowed anymore and would not be allowed to happen again.

Mr Akoitai said there needed to be a review of the Bougainville Copper Agreement to address outstanding landowner issues and other issues that started the Bougainville crises.

And before the review can take place, his office had requested that the ABG give a safety guarantee to experts that can carry out this environment audit that Bougainville can use as one of its information papers during the Bougainville Copper Agreement review.

He said without this environment audit information, Bougainville did not have substantive evidence that could be used as one of its bargaining powers at the review.

On the draw down of powers, Mr Akoitai said since the 12 months notice was given by the ABG, several meetings had been held between the officers of the National Government and ABG and another submission is now before the National Executive Council for deliberations this week.

Mr Akoitai said that under the Bougainville Peace Agreement in which the Autonomous Bougainville Government was formed, Bougainville was entitled to these powers.

He, however, said Bougainville must be ready before it could request that power.

He said Bougainville must develop its manpower capacity to make sure they could manage and regulate mining policies once they get the powers.

Bougainville must have the resources to sustain these new powers, he added.

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