4 Jul 2013

BCL to buy local in Bougainville mine relaunch

4:56 pm on 4 July 2013

The autonomous government in the Papua New Guinea province of Bougainville says it will require a rejuvenated Bougainville Copper Ltd to source most of its basic supplies from within the province.

There are increasing expectations that the huge mine, which has been shut down for 24 years, will re-open.

The Autonomous Bougainville Government president John Momis told Don Wiseman it would give the economy a big lift and he hopes they can begin negotiations with BCL soon.

JOHN MOMIS: So that construction work can start, and that means employing people. They earn money, then they earn income, and the government can earn revenue, and also other subsidiary economic activities can come to Bougainville, attracted by the mine.

DON WISEMAN: You've been conducting these forums around the province and getting a fairly good response, as I understand. How soon do you think you can sit down with BCL and start nutting out a contract?

JM: Well, as a political leader with a vision, I believe we should start negotiating with BCL towards the end of this year. Because by then we will have conducted all the forums, not only on reopening the mine as such, but also on our proposed new mining law. We believe in consultative and consensual methods of making decisions, and that's why we spend quite a bit of time consulting people.

DW: One of the outcomes of the forums has been the need for reconciliation and compensation. Some of that, at least, has to be discussed with BCL. Do you think BCL will be open to compensation?

JM: From where we stand and from the proposals that we are making, I think BCL will come to the table. In fact, it's not completely new to them - they won't be surprised. We've already consulted and had meetings with BCL, as well as the national government, the landowners, the ex-combatants and ABG.

DW: One group still holding out, elements of the Mekamui. They have talked to you about what's going to happen if their houses go in terms of development for the mine and this sort of thing?

JM: Yes, the next consulted forum will be in Panguna itself. So we will have to address they are raising. And the issues they are raising are not insurmountable, in fact they're quite legitimate. And I don't think they're beyond our scope to address fairly in a just manner.

DW: People have to be relocated. Does the ABG have land available?

JM: Yes, we have a lot of land in Bougainville, and fertile land, for settlement as well as for other economic activities such as farms, cocoa and castor oil farms, palm oil and bananas and pineapples and others. 'Cause once the mine starts, this time around, they are not going to allow BCL to import everything from outside. They'll have to buy our beautiful fruits, pineapples, fish, chickens. We'll have farms and so on and so forth. But that needs a bit of funding and technology to get the people to be professionally prepared so that they can have a sustainable business with Bougainville copper.