6 May 2024

Canadian miner exploring for gold and copper on Bougainville

11:14 am on 6 May 2024
Panguna open pit copper mine in Bougainville. Shows the copper ore deposits and road networks around the mine.

Panguna open pit copper mine in Bougainville. S Photo: 123RF

A Canadian mining company, Island Passage Development Canada Limited (IPDC) is undertaking a mining exploration programme in Bougainville.

It says its subsidiary, Island Passage Development Limited, has an exploration licence for a site in the centre of the main island in the autonomous Papua New Guiea region.

It is working jointly with local company, Isina Resources, exploring a 261 square kilometre site in south central Bougainville in the Crown Prince Range, which is close to the shut down Panguna mine.

The company said this marks the first large-scale mineral exploration programme in Bougainville outside of the Panguna development since 1965.

The company started the exploration programme in March with a team led by several Indonesian geologists who are experienced on the island and who specialise in porphyry copper geology and exploration in similar terrains and climate from around the Ring of Fire.

The company's geologists are supported by a team of over 30 Bougainvilleans who have undergone field operations training.

IPDC chief executive Donald McInnes said the world is chasing new supplies of critical and precious metals, and demand is driving gold and copper to new highs.

He said they are committed to working with the customary landowners of Bougainville through an innovative partnership to reassess the mineral potential of Bougainville and to provide a sustainable future.

Mining without a tenement

Meanwhile, the Bougainville Executive Council has endorsed 21 October as the designated date on which transitional arrangements for mining without a tenement cease.

According to section 369 of the Bougainville Mining Act, an individual Bougainvillean may, without being the holder of a mineral licence, carry out mining activities that would otherwise require the person to be the holder of a relevant mineral licence, the Bougainville government said in a statement.

However, the government's decision means that after the expiry of the designated date, any mining activity being carried out by a Bougainvillean without a mineral licence will be deemed unauthorised under law and will be subject to the offences and penalties provisions of the law.

The penalties and offences provisions include provisions for unauthorised mining, unauthorised equipment and unlawful possession of minerals to name a few.

Offenders also will risk having their gold and mining equipment confiscated and forfeited to the Bougainville gvoernment.

President and minister responsible for mineral and energy resources, Ishmael Toroama, is appealing to stakeholders to support the government towards responsible and sustainable mining sector practices.

"This includes discouraging unsustainable small-scale mining practices and providing support to small-scale miners to work in a more structured and regulated environment," he said.

"We want to mitigate the negative socioeconomic and environmental impacts caused by unauthorised mining activities and regulatory and enforcement capacity is being strengthened to achieve this."