Panguna Mine

Govt reminded of ‘forgotten agenda’

Panguna landowner and Bougainville’s Minister for Community Government, Theonila Roka Matbob, issued the reminder on the second day of the Community Affairs and National Content Conference and Expo (CANCONEX) in Lae, Morobe Province.

PNG’s largest copper mine, which operated for 17 years from 1972 until 1989, abruptly closed due to the Bougainville Conflict.

“We fought amongst each other and we all forgot that the initial agenda was fixing the law,” said Matbob, who lost her father during the 10-year conflict.

Panguna’s truth shared at Lae expo

The second day of PNG’s inaugural event started with discussions on lessons learnt from the closure of the Panguna mine, which was operated by Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) from 1972 until 1989, when the Bougainville Crisis forced its closure. 

Sharing their experiences were the former chief executive officer of the Bougainville Development Corporation, Paul Nerau, PNG Council of Women’s former president, Theresa Jaintong, and Bougainville’s Minister for Community Government and Member for Ioro Constituency, Theonila Roka Matbob.

Bougainville's Goldmine: A $90 Billion Key to Independence

Families have set up makeshift houses in the gaping pit, and men, women and children pass their days digging for whatever gold and copper they can reach.

It's risky and dangerous work, but many feel they have no other option.

They live among decaying infrastructure and the skeleton of the mine's concentrator, left over from the massive operation run by Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) between 1972 and 1989.

President calls for undisrupted assessment

President Toroama issued the statement following the move by several parties who are trying to raise a class action suit against Rio Tinto for their role in developing the Panguna Mine and the effects it had on the environment and the communities around the mine.

The Panguna Legacy Impact Assessment is being funded by Rio Tinto through Tetra Tech Coffey who are conducting the assessment.

It is also the first time Rio Tinto has made any commitment to Bougainville since the cessation of mining operations in Panguna, Central Bougainville.

Healing in the heart of Panguna

The conflict proved to be one – if not the darkest periods – of modern Papua New Guinea’s history with the destruction of billions of kina worth of property, the loss of over 20,000 lives and the largest single call out of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force.

Whilst talks on reopening the mine are pending, the Autonomous Bougainville Government, under the leadership of President Ishmael Toroama, has embarked on ensuring the landowners of the Panguna area come to a mutual agreement on the issue and are properly reconciled.

President emphasises stance on Panguna reopening

The president made this statement after a landowner group announced that they have partnered with Caballus Mining, a firm based in Perth, to re-open Panguna Mine. 

“The idea of Caballus operating a mine on Bougainville has long been shelved after their failed attempt to co-sponsor the mining amendments with the former Momis-led ABG,” said Toroama. 

“Let me make it clear that the current ABG under my Presidency is not colluding with Caballus, RTZ, Bougainville Copper Limited or any landowner group. 

Moratorium on Panguna mine

ABG Treasury and Finance Minister, Robin Wilson, said the move was to avoid further disputes until a common ground is reached on a way forward.

He said this during the presentation of the ABG’s budget to Treasury yesterday.

Wilson said the ABG Government implemented the moratorium on Panguna given various views of stakeholders which could potentially escalate problems.

He informed Deputy Prime Minister Charles Abel of the moratorium that is in place.

Meetings to determine Panguna’s future

According to Business Advantage, Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) chairman, Rob Burns, says the meetings, to be held in November and December, include a mediation as well as a wardens’ hearing.

The first meeting on November 23 and 24 is the third round of mediation talks to settle a dispute over the chairmanship of the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA).

SMLOLA is one of the nine landowner associations in the project area.

​Women leaders oppose Panguna reopening

A high delegation of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville Government (ABG) representatives, who conducted a mining forum in Panguna and Arawa last Wednesday and Thursday, was met with stiff opposition from locals.

In Panguna, Regina Eremari, a landowner who represented the grassroots women of the area, said the ABG leaders were not considering the voice of the women.

PNG interfering in ABG affairs, claims Momis

The President’s comments followed remarks in Parliament by PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill yesterday that the ownership of the 17.4 percent shareholding of Bougainville Copper Ltd will be given to the landowners and people of the semi-autonomous PNG province.

"These shares are not given to the ABG, it is given to the landowners and people of Bougainville,” O’Neill said.

"I have deliberately done that so ABG does not control the shares."

O’Neill added that PNG Government will have no say in any discussion to open Panguna Mine in Bougainville.