Misinformation spread on Bougainville mining bill - Govt
Bougainville confident all the people will embrace new mining law despite sniping from some quarters
The Chief Administrator in the Papua New Guinea province of Bougainville says once the public are informed about the new mining law they will see the protections it offers.
Bougainville's parliament last week passed what President John Momis says is a world first, with the legislation ensuring landowners will own the resources on their land.
It removes existing licences and shuts the national government out of the province's mining sector.
Critics claim the measure will make it easier for foreign companies to gain a foothold but the Government says there is no basis to that claim.
Chief Administrator, Chris Siriosi, told Don Wiseman people with vested interests have spread mis-information but awareness building will overcome this.
CHRIS SIRIOSI: Discrepancies have originated from people who have vested interest in the mining industry here in Bougainville, people who have come in the absence of a law in Bougainville and have gone directly to landowners, landowner groups in the village and have talked about established exploration, establishing mining permits without any form of guidelines from the government in terms of government policies as well as the law, a framework laid down specifically by the law. A lot of misinformation has been perpetrated right throughout Bougainville, the vast majority of people who can read, understand what the law is all about, and it's more and more people who understand what the law is about, what the law has done in terms of correcting the rules of the past, this negative misinformation that's going on will eventually be dealt with.
DON WISEMAN: I know through last year and perhaps the year before there was a fair degree of public consultation on this measure, and it went through several drafts. But at this point now it has become law. Clearly there is still a need to get the word out there, so are you going to do more awareness?
CS: Yes, awareness is an ongoing activity. There will be intensifying of awareness about the law, and that's as far as I'm aware. The confusion has been caused by misinformation. That misinformation has to be rebutted, people have to go in and explain the real purposes of the law and get people to understand that contrary to what other people are saying, the law is actually intended to protect them.
DW: Why was it such a concern that the national government may increase its shareholding in BCL?
CS: I think it has always been a concern, long before we had any form of government here, long before any form of government was established, even long before the first provincial government was established here in Bougainville, it was decided that Bougainville shouldn't have any shares in the mining, especially in Paguna mine. People from Bougainville, raised this, especially the landowners, raised this concern to the national government over a number of years. So this really is based on long-term aspirations of the people of Bougainville to gain control of resources here and resources that affect their livelihood. Basically they want to be in control, and this law gives them control, I think they will be in absolute control as far as I'm aware.
DW: And with BCL I know they have expressed some degree of upset at this measure, because of course they have got an agreement, well they had an agreement, that involved the Paguna mine, and this deal wipes that, doesn't it?
CS: Yes, if a company that wants to protect the rights of its shareholders will realise that there will be difficulties with the company, difficulties with the way the law takes away their rights to certain valuable assets that devalues the assets of the company.
DW: Are you expecting they might contest this measure in the courts?
CS: Not just yet, not immediately. Because the law doesn't really, what the law is saying is that because of the desire of the people to negotiate with BCL rather than anyone else then BCL will be given the first right of refusal. So that recommendation is there, and I think today it is incumbent upon the company to try and come up with a suitable agreement in place of the Bougainville agreement, an agreement that matches the times, this day and age, an agreement that gives additional wealth to the people of Bougainville. The people of Bougainville are not going to allow BCL to come back, under an agreement that was done without their consent some years ago.
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