13 Aug 2013

Anger in Bougainville at secret Panguna deal

5:48 pm on 13 August 2013

The president of the autonomous Papua New Guinea province of Bougainville has expressed anger at a deal between landowners around the Panguna mine and a Chinese company.

John Momis was reacting to a deal between the chair of the group representing the Panguna land lease groups - Lawrence Daveona, the local MP and minister in the national government - Jimmy Miningtoro, and a Chinese company - Beijing Aerospace Great Wall Mineral Investment.

Mr Momis told Don Wiseman the deal undermines the months of work to bring all parties together on restarting mining at Panguna.

JOHN MOMIS: Because we spent a lot of time, energy and effort to form a collaborative situation with landowners - BCL, that is the company, PNG government and ABG - to work together. We have formed what is known as the Joint Panguna Negotiation Co-ordination Committee, and what Jimmy Mingtoro, the member for Central Bougainville who is also the minister in the national parliament for communication, together with the chairman of the landowners, Lawrence Daveona, have signed an MOU with this Chinese company completely out of any knowledge of...

DON WISEMAN: ..out of the blue.

JOHN MOMIS: Out of the blue, yes.

DON WISEMAN: Do they have any right to do that?

JOHN MOMIS: I don't think they have, because we have our own mining law which took us a long time. It's not even completed yet, you know? It still has to go before parliament. But I'm sure we will have it passed. And it took us a long time to get the ex-combatants, the land owners and ourselves and the national government and Bougainville Copper Limited to agree to work together in a structure which enables us to do that. And now, out of the blue, Jimmy Miningtoro comes up with this company and signs an MOU with the landowners, purportedly. I don't think the landowners agree with it. It's just a chairman signing something with them.

DON WISEMAN: Yes. So have you spoken with Lawrence Daveona and Jimmy Miningtoro?

JOHN MOMIS: No, I've been trying to contact them. I've been very busy with other issues and I haven't as yet. But I will certainly get in touch with them tomorrow.

DON WISEMAN: Is your belief and hope that once the new mining law is passed, that this will negate any extraneous deals that have been made or any deals that don't comply with that legislation?

JOHN MOMIS: Once the new law is passed then any company, whether foreign or local, will have to strictly adhere to our policies and our laws. I think they're really wasting their time. Except that they are confusing the people, because a lot of people are still not used to the fact that the autonomous government of Bougainville can have its own mining law and its own mining policy that is quite independent of the Papua New Guinean mining law.

DON WISEMAN: Do you know anything about the deal? What's so attractive?

JOHN MOMIS: That's a good question. We don't know why the lack of transparency, which they've demonstrated. I would have hoped that they'd come to this joint committee that processes proposals from foreign companies regarding mining.