11 May 2005

PNG' s Bougainville eyes re-launch of mining

1:21 pm on 11 May 2005

Reports from the Papua New Guinea province of Bougainville say the resumption of mining is likely.

But, political candidates in next week's election of an autonomous government say mining remains a sensitive issue.

Don Wiseman reports from Buka.

"The huge Bougainville Copper Limited, or BCL copper mine at Panguna, was at the heart of the years of conflict on the island. But, the provincial executive council recently called for the national government to lift its moratorium on mining exploration. Presidential candidate, and former governor, John Momis, says they made the call to signal to the world that Bougainville has a responsible government in place which wants to be fiscally self-reliant, and wants to attract responsible foreign investors. Mr Momis says mining or any other economic projects would have to wait until the government and administration are well established. Another presidential candidate, Joseph Kabui, says given the province's mineral riches, mining has to be seriously considered but not yet, and before any mining venture would get the go-ahead, a referendum would be held"

Don Wiseman says the outgoing government has called for a review of the BCL agreement to ascertain whether any of the remaining assets of the company can be ceded to Bougainville.

He says it also wants to determine whether current company earnings going to the national government should be handed over to Bougainville.