Bougainville President hails mining law
Bougainville passes a transition mining law, which the ABG says ensure the landowners own their resources.
The Bougainville Government says a new mining law in the autonomous Papua New Guinea province will ensure landowners own the resources on their land.
The Bougainville Transitional Mining bill became law on Friday and formalises the province's control of its own resources as laid out in the Bougainville Peace Agreement.
It means that national PNG mining law no longer applies, eliminating the Bougainville Copper Agreement under which Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL) ran the Panguna mine for 20 years up to the civil war.
President John Momis told Don Wiseman it is an historic development.
JOHN MOMIS: It means that henceforth, we will have a good mining law that will protect the interests of the landowners and of course which of the developer that reaches an agreement will the landowners and the ABG [Autonomous Bougainville Government], who develop the resources. And the major thing is that we have now legally given the landowners the right of ownership. And I think this is the first time anywhere in the world where any government legally gives a right of ownership to the landowners.
DON WISEMAN: What is it that landowners own under this law?
JM: The landowners own all the resources in Bougainville. And any developer that wishes to develop the resources must have the consensus of the landowners otherwise it won't happen. Not even the government of Bougainville owns resources. It's the landowners.
DW: So the landowners will sit down in any negotiations with the likes of say a BCL before anything is agreed?
JM: That's right, yes. We have a negotiation programme comprising of many, many, many people that represent different factions, including the ABG, land-owners, women, churches and others. And it is this negotiation forum that gives clear directives to negotiate on our behalf, to negotiate with a developer.
DW: It's called transitional, so what does that mean?
JM: Well we are still working on environmental, the provision for environmental standards, safety standards, and hopefully by the end of the year, or January next year we will have the complete mining law passed.
DW: I know we've had a lot of discussions on this, and there has been a lot of consultation across Bougainville, but I also know that there remains some disquiet with some. Are you concerned about that?
JM: No, not really. We have an obligation as a government to lead what we have done in our consultation and we will explain. We will take measures now to embark on a massive awareness programme. None of these, we've had to have this transitional law, is to prevent foreigners who come here and go straight to the landowners and sign all kinds of MOUs and MOAs and create high expectations without any real commitment. And also they don't come through the front door. From now on, any dealing with the people must come through the ABG. Anything else will be prohibited.
DW: You must feel pretty pleased to have reached this stage?
JM: I am very pleased. And I think once you explain things to the landowners, they will be very happy. They have been misled by some of these people who come through the back door, who have the support of some of our locals who are not really genuine. It is for personal economic interest that they are courting them.
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