Bougainville considers its own gold refinery
Bougainville may move to formalise the alluvial mining industry and to boost tax coffers.
The financially struggling Papua New Guinea autonomous region of Bougainville is considering building a gold refinery.
The president John Momis says they want to tap into the informal but lucrative alluvial gold mining industry that thousands of Bougainvilleans rely on for income.
This comes as Bougainville threatens the PNG government with legal action over its failure to fulfill funding commitments and while the region contemplates a resumption of mining at the derelict Panguna mine.
Panguna was forced to shut down by the civil war in 1989 and most Bougainvilleans blame it for that unrest.
The alluvial mining is generally done in the Panguna tailings in central Bougainville.
It is dangerous, not least because of the miners' use of mercury to extract the gold.
John Momis told Don Wiseman the ABG wants to control and profit from the sector.
JOHN MOMIS: This is potentially a real - not only real but a great money earner for Bougainville. And yet we haven't really done anything about it, so therefore we are saying we will have to do something quickly, including perhaps setting up a small refinery so we can entice the alluvial gold miners to sell to us rather than selling to outsiders through Solomon Islands or even PNG, different ports, and paying nothing, no tax all to the ABG. So it is a real opportunity for the ABG which is cash strapped right now to raise money. I don't know the exact amount but it is a lot of money that is being sent out through the sale of alluvial gold. We have now made up out minds that we have to do something about stopping this money flowing out. You know, the ABG not benefitting at all.
DON WISEMAN: What is your sense of how the people are going to react if it's been, essentially this underground business activity? How will they react to being brought into the fold?
JM: I think they will be happy because they are just looking for someone to pay them a good price and I don't think they are given a very good price at the moment. As long as we pay them reasonably for the alluvial gold they will be happy. First of all it will be regularised and formalised, and we will have a refinery in Bougainville to process the gold."
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