Bougainville leaders consider lifting exploration moratorium


BAI logo no textBougainville leaders are considering lifting the moratorium on mineral exploration which has been in place since the 1970s, in case the Panguna gold and copper mine does not re-open.

The President of the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG), Dr John Momis, has told Business Advantage PNG in an exclusive interview that he wants work to re-open the mine to begin later this year.

‘We’ve already started the initial discussions with Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) about some of the issues that must be resolved before they start their construction work.

ABG President John Momis

ABG President John Momis

‘Procrastinating on opening the mine, even five years, is a bit far.

‘We must come to an agreement to allow BCL to come and set up their liaison office in Arawa to deal with some of the practical problems, which are not immense, which are not insurmountable, to enable BCL to start spending money on reconstruction work, and that will bring a lot of income to the people and revenue to the ABG, and I think that is what we need.

‘The former commander of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army, Sam Kauona, is now on side and in agreement with the need to re-open the mine.’

In a joint media statement this afternoon, Dr Momis and Kauona said they had agreed that while re-opening the Panguna mine was ‘the first priority’, it may be necessary to allow ‘limited new mineral exploration’.

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They said however it would not be good for Bougainville to have numerous mines.

‘There should be no more than two mines operating at any time.’

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Read our exclusive interview with Bougainville President John Momis here.

Momis also said that he and Kauona had reached a common understanding on key principles underlying the development of a new mining law.

‘We share the view that in deciding the future of mining development in Bougainville, both customary landowners and the Bougainville people’s government—the ABG—have essential roles.

‘When considering any future mine, customary landowners must be recognised as the owners of the minerals.

Momis said this was a reversal of the position decided by the ABG last December, which determined the minerals would be jointly owned.

A revised draft Mining Act is expected to be available in Bougainville in the next few weeks.