1 Jul 2005

Bougainville rebel leader Ona against renewed mining at Panguna

3:59 pm on 1 July 2005

A secessionist leader in the Papua New Guinea province of Bougainville, Francis Ona, says he and his followers will not allow the giant Panguna copper mine on the island to reopen.

Mr Ona who is also a self-styled king does not recognise the island's new autonomous government and says if it has no money it should be shut down and he should run Bougainville.

The new government under President Joseph Kabui wants a resumption of mineral exploration on the island where the Panguna mine sparked a secessionist conflict in the late 1980's.

Mr Kabui has said any return to mining would follow a plebescite and rather than reopen Panguna, other options could be pursued such as helping local landowners collect gold on the mine's tailings.

PNG's Mining Minister, Sam Akoitai, has said the reopening of Panguna was a sensitive issue and it would remain closed for an indefinite period.