Bougainville MPs to meet over Rio Tinto move
Bougainville's MPs are called to a special meeting of parliament in the wake of Rio Tinto's controversial move over shares for Bougainville Copper Ltd.
Bougainville MPs have been summoned for a special meeting of parliament tomorrow to discuss Rio Tinto's controversial decision affecting the key Panguna mine.
Bougainville is riled over the mining giant's divestment of shares in the mine's owner Bougainville Copper.
The week-long meeting from tomorrow is to deliberate on Rio Tinto's decision to give equal shareholdings to the governments of Papua New Guinea and Bougainville.
Bougainville's President John Momis had expected his province to get the full amount and he's complained to Rio Tinto and the International Council of Mining and Minerals.
Rio Tinto's already declared it's no longer obliged to make good the environmental and social damage the Panguna mine caused.
The destruction and division resulting from the mine was the catalyst for a ten year long civil war in the 1990s.
Don Wiseman asked Mr Momis what response he had had from Rio Tinto and the international council?
JOHN MOMIS: I'm still waiting for their response.
DON WISEMAN: Do you expect them to come to the table at all? It would seem very likely that Rio Tinto especially will just forget about it. They've walked away, that's it.
JM: It seems so. Rio Tinto has walked away from all their obligations which, under the ICMM they are required to meet. They've decided to walk away from, and that includes environmental damage and social disruption. It's the, you know, known mining legacy issues.
DW: You've called for a special sitting of parliament from next Tuesday. You're going to ask the MPs to do what exactly on this?
JM: In Bougainville we have adopted a very consultative process of reaching decisions. So we are asking the members of parliament to represent their different constituencies to debate the issues in respect of the latest move by Rio Tinto and the national government.
DW: Yes, well also there are a number of other issues as well, aren't there? There's the continuing debate over whether or not to lift the mining moratorium. There's been this Bel Kol process, this reconciliation. It's been going on for a long time, but it's not complete is it?
JM: Well the Bel Kol was to take place had Rio Tinto not decided to walk away. Bougainville Copper representatives - Bougainville Copper, as you know, is majority owned by Rio Tinto - they've been working very closely with us and the landowners to get the Bel Kol process going. All that means is BCL, the national government, landowners and ABG, would have a ceremonial reconciliation in order to create an atmosphere conducive to future engagements of BCL, landowners, and ABG.
DW: What level of confidence do you have that you will be able to change the PNG government's mind because that's what it's going to come down to isn't it, in terms of the shareholding, and perhaps to persuade Rio Tinto to rethink in terms of its decision that it doesn't need to pay any attention any more to environmental and other issues resulting from the mine. How much chance do you think there is of getting satisfaction from them?
JM: Well the only win-win deal is the deal that we are proposing, and that is the ABG and the landowners having the majority shareholding allowing the national government to keep its 19 percent, and the 27 percent owned by individual shareholders. Even if Rio Tinto walks away, then Bougainville Copper would go ahead with the Bel Kol and we could have the mine reopened. Outside of that, there's a lose-lose situation where the national government and BCL might have the majority shareholding but they will not have the right to operate in Bougainville. And having a majority shareholding means having access to the mining data - exploration data - on Bougainville.
DW: The fact though that Rio Tinto, by walking away, effectively you've got this multinational mining company with huge experience all over the world saying getting in Bougainville again is not worth it economically, so we're going. You must find that distressing?
JM: Well not really. If we are given a majority shareholding in the Bougainville Copper Limited company, then we are in a position under our mining regime to develop the mine. We could, for example, invite another developer to be involved with us and the national government. But if we don't have the majority shareholding then it's just not acceptable in Bougainville for the national government to own the part of the mine, especially when the people of Bougainville got a pittance from the operation of the mine in the past. Both Rio Tinto and the national government made millions and millions, but for Bougainville, we got nothing really, a pittance. The Panguna mine bankrolled Papua New Guinea's independence, Bougainville was the major contributor to the national independence in terms of the production from the mine, plus the huge amount of copra and cocoa from Bougainville, from a small island.
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