2 Sep 2013

Bougainville memo clear

5:23 pm on 2 September 2013

The chairman of the group representing landowners around the Panguna mine in Papua New Guinea's Bougainville says an agreement with a Chinese company has nothing to do with mining.

News that a memorandum of understanding had been signed by the landowners' chair, Lawrence Daveona, the local MP in the national government - Jimmy Miningtoro, and a Chinese company - Beijing Aerospace Great Wall Mineral Investment, angered the Autonomous Bougainville Government.

The MOU was widely condemned on Bougainville with the government presuming it involved an unsanctioned restart of mining at the Panguna mine, but Mr Daveona says that is not the case.

He says the MOU is about establishing tourism projects, developing agriculture and rehabilitating land that is covered in old tailings from the Panguna mine.

Mr Daveona told Don Wiseman any firm deal with the Chinese company is still some way off.

LAWRENCE DAVEONA: There are a lot of things you have to go through before you even start talking about who to deal with. It's a process we have to follow.

DON WISEMAN: The one thing I guess you'd need to answer, I imagine some people on Bougainville would be interested to know is, is why is a Panguna landowner or the representative of a Panguna landowner group involved in a discussion about tourism and things like this because that's not going to be a very likely thing around Panguna, is it?

LD: My reasons are very clear. I would like the people of Bougainville to benefit, first, in agriculture and tourism. I made that very clear during our discussion and unless I see the people of Bougainville benefitting first then I won't be talking about the reopening of Panguna mine. That is my stand. That is why I'm talking about agriculture and tourism. Because Bougainville depends very much on agriculture right now. Tourism is something new that I want to bring in, so that people on Bougainville - north, central and south - will benefit from tourism. There's a lot of money in tourism. Even if we do not open the Panguna mine we can make more money out of tourism to sustain 250,000 to 300,000 Bougainvilleans plus have more surplus money to give out. I'm not into mining, I'm not. I don't want mining to be open. Personally, I want Bougainville to benefit some other way. I will stand by it, and that was my stand before I signed that MOU.

DW: So what's the next stage, then, Lawrence?

LD: They've invited us to China to go and have a look at this technology we wanted to see. But before that I want our minister and president and us, we are working on a reconciliation for the minister and us together so that we can move forward on our plans. Without having this reconciliation, without the president, we cannot at this stage think about going to visit China through the MOU.