13 Jun 2013

No discussions on Panguna re-opening until groups funded

6:11 pm on 13 June 2013

Despite reports in the Papua New Guinea media that negotiations to re-open the huge Panguna mine on Bougainville are ready to start, a landowner leader says there are a number of pre-conditions that must be met first.

Lawrence Daveona grew up in Guava village on the lip of the open cast mine and is closely related to Francis Ona who led the revolt against Bougainville Copper Ltd that sparked the civil war.

Mr Daveona has just been made the chair of an umbrella group representing the six land lease associations in the area affected by the mine.

He says the first of these pre-requisites is that each of these bodies be properly funded to undertake their work keeping their members informed.

LAWRENCE DAVEONA: The issue of funding has been there for close to two years, and really nothing has happened with the outstanding commitments by ABG, a lot of money. But all that's happened is this has come to a non-attendance by the ABG on the ground. If ABG wants us to speed up the process of reopening Panguna and to start off with the negotiations, they have to get ourselves properly established.

DON WISEMAN: Once properly established, what happens after that? What's the next thing on the agenda for you?

LD: That's the second prerequisite to starting negotiations. It's what we call 'bel kol' - it is the cultural compensatory practises that we practise here for parties that have gone into conflict. And this has to happen before any talks or renegotiation on the Panguna mine reopening.

DW: What would the nature of the 'bel kol' be in terms of compensation? Because there has in the past, as far as the mine goes or the damage, been discussion of many millions of dollars. Is that what we're talking about here or is that something different?

LD: No, this is something different. It is something to do with the crisis in itself. And in this case the parties that must come into play for funding this cultural compensationary practise, people on the ground see it as the national government, the Australian government and the New Zealand government. This is what they say at home. It is because the Australian government supplied Iroquois helicopters during the conflict and there were pilots who were flying these Iroquois helicopters. You won't believe this, but their way of reasoning all these things is not the way you and I would understand and reason. So what they're saying is that the Australian and New Zealand and Papua New Guinea governments would have to fund this 'bel kol' customary practise arrangement, which will kind of compensate the families of the deceased, the families of the injured, the families of the PNG soldiers, security force soldiers, that lost their lives or got wounded and are disabled now and all that. So that's the second prerequisite that my association is looking at. The third is the outstanding compensation payments that BCL has not paid for 1990 titleholders compensations. And BCL has agreed already to help sort it out as soon as the details of the process as to how this payment will be sorted out are agreed to between us, the ABG and BCL.

DW: Alright. And once that's done, essentially, it'll be a matter of agreeing to reopen the mine, will it?

LD: The fourth matter that we have not addressed, and we got sucked up into the quick pressure from ABG to start talks on reopening Panguna mine, is the reconciliation all over Bougainville. They say there's about 20,000 people that have died. At present, in Panguna mine pit, there are some leaders from other areas of Bougainville who have been killed and buried there. This reconciliation orders the return of the bones, the remains of those buried there, to be undertaken. We cannot really talk about the reopening of Panguna mine unless we attend to these very important cultural practice requirements that our people believe in.

DW: As it's been said before, it will be a significant number of years before that mine does reopen because there are all these stages to work through first.

LD: Yes, yes, you are right. And our president is saying he'll start negotiating in November. But I don't believe for one moment he'll be able to do that. And the actual reopening of Panguna mine may even take up to 2015.

DW: Take up to what year, did you say?

LD: 2015.

DW: Well, that's fairly close, isn't it?

LD: If this prerequisite happened as soon as practically possible. And the other major thing we have agreed to do for our own people is this area of villages, which I did for 2 months in 2012, when I was on leave, is properly educating our people as to the ways and how foreign companies, major multi-million dollar companies, operate anywhere around the world, and what we call 'global financial literacy awareness'. When BCL came in 1972 and the first tonne of copper was shipped out and all that. How companies operate is something new to our people. And for me, at that time, too, at the university, there was really nothing I knew about. The only thing I knew about was news that had a benefit to myself. BCL was sponsoring me at the University of Papua New Guinea, but after that, I soon realised this big monster had these tentacles almost everywhere in the world. So it's hard to explain this on the phone, but I have actually done a lot of work as to how we can educate our people in the villages to understand how multinational corporations actually operate with their relationship with whatever company that they have links with wherever around the world.