PNG, B’ville Mining Law Compromises Local Rights

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PNG, B’ville Mining Law Compromises Local Rights New law gives much less rights to customary landowners

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, August 25, 2014) – A legal analysis commissioned by the Mineral Policy Institute says Bougainville’s new Mining Law fails to protect the rights of local people.

The law is also in breach of Bougainville’s own Constitution and is inconsistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, reports PNG Minewatch.

The opinion finds the rights given to customary landowners under the new mining law are "vastly inferior" than those given to the Autonomous Bougainville Government and the consultation provisions fail to fulfill the universally recognised principles of prior, free and informed consent.

By giving joint ownership of customarily owned mineral resources to landowners and the Autonomous Bougainville Government, the law contradicts Bougainville’s Constitution which requires laws to protect the ownership of mineral resources by the people of Bougainville in accordance with custom.

The opinion was provided in August 2013 and considers an earlier draft of the Mining Law, but none of the key provisions of the law that was passed earlier this month are materially different, says PNG Minewatch.

However, the Chief Administrator in the Papua New Guinea province of Bougainville, Chris Siriosi, claimed critics were misinformed, adding that once the public was informed they would see what protections the law offers, reports Radio NZ International.

Bougainville’s Parliament last week passed what President John Momis said was a world first, with the legislation ensuring landowners would own the resources on their land.

It removed existing licences – including stripping Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL), operators of the Panguna mine closed by the 10-year civil war – and shut the national government out of the province’s mining sector.

Critics claim the measure will make it easier for foreign companies to gain a foothold but the government says there is no basis to that claim.

Siriosi told RNZI’s Don Wiseman people with vested interests had spread misinformation but awareness building would overcome this.

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