Bougainville postpones controversial mining bill

12:19 pm on 14 June 2019

The government in the autonomous Papua New Guinea region of Bougainville is to delay plans to change the Mining Act until after the independence referendum has been held.

Bougainville's Panguna copper mine

Bougainville's Panguna copper mine Photo: Supplied

This comes after a legislative committee called for a delay following consultations that found the bill was faulty and had been poorly communicated.

The changes to the Mining Act, and two other measures planned by the government, would turn the sector on its head. The government has claimed they would give landowners greater control over their resources but there has been widespread opposition.

The acting President Raymond Masono said the government dismissed the legislative committee report, saying it was biased.

But he said they are a democratic government and have listened to the people, so will accept the recommendations and delay the bills' re-introduction.

He said with the referendum due in October the government is planning to bring the bill back in December.

Mr Masono said before then staff from the Department of Minerals and Energy Resources will visit communities around Bougainville to explain the benefits of the bill.

One group delighted with the delay in the legislation is the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association at the site of the Panguna mine.

Its chair, Philip Miriori said the legislation an "attack on landowner rights [that] was hyper-aggressive, brutal, heartless, callous, inhuman,heinous, atrocious and dreadful.'

He said Osikaiyang hoped the ABG will now recognise that the amendments were fundamentally unlawful and that the only way forward is through bilateral talks.

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