13 Apr 2015

Bougainville ready to start talking mining

7:47 am on 13 April 2015

If Bougainville's caretaker president John Momis is re-elected in next month's elections his government will immediately begin discussions on re-opening the Panguna mine.

The President of Bougainville, John Momis

The President of Bougainville, John Momis Photo: RNZI

Bougainville goes to the polls for two weeks from May 11th.

The huge mine was the catalyst for the civil war that engulfed the Papua New Guinea autonomous region for much of the 1990s.

Mr Momis says a resumption of mining is the only way Bougainville can become economically viable and meet the conditions for a referendum on independence which must be held by 2020.

He says with the new Mining Law now in place guaranteeing local landowners control of their resources, he is confident Bougainville can safely resume mining.

"After the election we will be taking immediate steps to talk to Rio Tinto [the parent company of Bougainville Copper Ltd, which had operated the Panguna mine]. We will find out whether they are interested. If they are not we will try another company. Look you know, we can try others."

John Momis says the region needs leaders with experience to prepare it for a referendum on independence.

Mr Momis says it is the critical issue in front of the next parliament and it must be conducted whether the region is ready or not.

"Hence the critical importance of having a leadership that can take the necessary steps to prepare the people of Bougainville despite the shortage of funds, the lack of capacity and so on and so forth. It is inevitable. You cannot put it off. You cannot put off the referendum."