By Stephanie Elizah
Media Release/12th February, 2014:
The Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) remains fully committed to supporting negotiations regarding the possible reopening of Panguna Mine, said President of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville Chief Dr. John Momis.
President Momis said the ABG reinforced this commitment by allocating from its budget K5 million per year in 2014 and 2015 to continue supporting the process. This is in addition to a specific allocation of K350,000 in infrastructure support for the associations in 2014.
The President issued this statement today at the official opening of the Inaugural Panguna Landowners consultative forum held at the Kuri conference centre, Buka, North Bougainville.
The forum was attended by representatives of the Panguna landowner associations, Bougainville Acting Chief Administrator Mr. Chris Siriosi and Divisional heads of the Bougainville Administration.
President Momis added that at the same time, the ABG is increasingly concerned about the divisive behaviour of a minority of landowner leaders who are pursuing their own political and financial agendas at the expense of landowners and all Bougainvilleans.
“This minority of leaders risk destroying the positive partnership that landowners and the ABG have worked so hard to create and undermine preparations for negotiations with Bougainville Copper Limited and the National Government.
A successful outcome from negotiations is also threatened by the many outsiders who, in alliance with these disruptive leaders or with armed factions, are pursuing their own selfish financial interests”.
President Momis stated also another concern of the ABG.
“The only way in which people’s understandable expectations for compensation and restoration can be achieved is if a profitable project is established at Panguna. This cannot happen if people insist on large compensation payments as a condition for allowing mining to start.
Bougainville stakeholders must understand that we need a profitable project before restoration and compensation can occur.”
He said bearing all of this in mind, the ABG must be careful that it does not rely solely on Panguna as its source of revenue for its political future, even though the time frame for the referendum might encourage it do so.
“I have therefore instructed the Bougainville Administration to actively pursue other opportunities that may exist to capitalise on Bougainville’s mineral resources.
“Once Bougainville has its own mining legislation, the ABG will have the power to selectively open geologically promising areas for exploration. Where landowners have indicated their support for development, the ABG intends to grant exploration licences to reputable mining companies, possibly in partnership with landowner associations.”
The President reiterated that the ABG is fully committed to achieving a positive outcome for Panguna Landowners.