19 Mar 2013

Bougainville militants oppose Panguna re-opening without independence from PNG

2:34 pm on 19 March 2013

A leader of the Me'ekamui militant group in Papua New Guinea's Bougainville Province, Chris Uma, says his group is opposed to any re-opening of the Panguna mine until after independence has been achieved.

Bougainville is due to hold a referendum on possible independence from 2015.

Mr Uma has told the Post Courier newspaper that discussion on re-opening Panguna is non-negotiable until that vote and independence is gained.

The huge mine was at the centre of the province's civil war and has been closed for 24 years, but there is a drive from several quarters for it to eventually resume production.

Mr Uma, who controls the Me'ekamui faction in central Bougainville where the mine is located, says only after independence is achieved can there be talk about opening the mine.

Last week, the Autonomous Bougainville Government, the ABG, began considering a new Bougainville mining bill, which President John Momis says is being widely circulated for public discussion.

He says the Bougainville constitution requires that the ABG ensures widespread consultations before it makes major new laws.