Bougainville Landowners Will Never Accept BCL Back To Operate Panguna

Miriori says resumption of mining is welcome, but Bougainville Copper unwelcome

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, June 22, 2017) – The head of a landowners group controlling the site of the Panguna mine in Papua New Guinea's Bougainville says it is keen to see a resumption of mining but will always be opposed to the return of Bougainville Copper Ltd.

BCL was the operator of the mine up to the outbreak of the civil war.

The chairman of the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association, Philip Miriori, was speaking after a protest by his supporters stopped the autonomous Bougainville Government from signing a memorandum of agreement with other landowners last week.

Mr Miriori said there cannot be any progress at Panguna without his association's backing and they would not accept BCL.

"It is a common sense that the people have here in Panguna, that by not accepting BCL to come back they had to stand for their rights," he said.

"So they [Autonomous Bougainville Government] can make any tricks under the sun but with the records that BCL have in the past it is just not going to work.

"The protest march was right, you know."

The ABG said it has given the protesters two weeks to 'sort themselves out" after which it claims the MOA will be signed.

[PIR editor's note: On June 22, 2017 PNG Post-Courier reported that 'The Vice President of the Autonomous Bougainville Government Raymond Masono has expressed disgust at the action of those calling themselves hardliners that recently prevented the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA). ... Mr Masono said the signing would have started the process of removing impediments to reopening the Panguna mine but the ABG team was prevented from travelling to Panguna for the signing by a group opposed to the reopening of the mine and Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL’s).']

BCL was the operator of the mine up to the outbreak of the civil war and for nearly 30 years Bougainvilleans have been demanding billions of dollars in reparations for the environmental and social destruction wrought by the mine.

The principal owner until last year was multi-national, Rio Tinto, which has since walked away, giving its shares to the PNG and Bougainville governments.

The Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association group has links with an Australian mining group RTG and Mr Miriori said a mining arrangement could be put in place immediately, benefiting the Bougainville economy well ahead of the crucial vote on independence in 2019.

Radio New Zealand International
Copyright © 2017 RNZI. All Rights Reserved

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