Over the past month, there has been a sudden spike in reporting on Bougainville Copper Limited and the Panguna mine. The reports vary notably. Some suggest an opening date of 2020. Others suggest something closer to 2025.
Curiously no journalist has asked, who is the man being described variously as BCL’s new CEO or CFO, Mr Mark Wallace Hitchcock?
Given that he appears to be a key source for these various bold claims over BCL’s ambitious objectives, it would seem a question worth asking.
BCL’s website is notably sparse. In contrast to most corporate websites, there is no detailed biography available on its head. Does he have mining experience? What are the blue-chip mining concerns he previously managed? Its impossible to know.
Yet given Hitchock is claiming his company will lead Bougainville to the promised land of milk and honey, one would expect details.
We do know, however, through some detective work that Hitchcock is in a close commercial relationship with a tycoon who is close ally of Peter O’Neill.
Company records reveal that Mr Mark Hitchcock is Director of Vane Mata Quarry Limited, a company majority owned by none other than the Australian magnate, ‘Sir’ Theophilus George Constantinou [through his company Monier Limited]. Constantinou is a man who is deeply involved in business relations with Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill.
It must be asked, is this a push by the Port Moresby club to take over Panguna?
Another fact that appears to have been overlooked by media commentators is BCL’s share registry. Despite the considerable passage of time since Rio Tinto ‘gave’ its shares to the PNG and Bougainville governments, there is no record of this on the IPA database – a list of the registered shareholders is included below.
For Bougainvilleans concerned over their sovereignty and independence, this should not come as a surprise. The ABG big men talk the talk about independence and speaking with one voice, in reality many in Cabinet are criminals stealing meagre resources – this is no secret, its on the public record in the national court.
These men trade on peoples’ love for their country and government. They know this goodwill gives them virtual impunity. And with no free press on Bougainville, where would alternative sources of information come from. Who can access blogs like this from the village?
But the ABG are asleep at the wheel. Some may talk nationalism, but their main devotion is to money – a sickness Francis Ona reported on way back in 1988. If that means getting into bed with Port Moresby, at the cost of compatriots, they will do it, if the price is right. They only see the gold, not the blood.
When the referendum returns a yes vote, it will become apparent that the ABG is poorly administered and incapable of managing independence without in effect surrendering its sovereignty to a donor such as Australia, or China, who could fleet in consultants to prop up an ailing structure (whether they will is another question). The Big Men will blame the people of Panguna for resisting the mine. They will not take responsibility for the criminal thefts, and corrupt transactions, that are now well documented within the ABG. They will blame the people.
Many years ago Francis Ona called out fake nationalists in love with money, one of whom is currently President.
In that spirit we should all be asking, if the ABG is placing the entire country’s chips on BCL reopening Panguna. Who is leading this keystone company? And who is this individual tied to?
BCL Share Registry
Number of shares 642157
CITICORP NOMINEES PTY LTD
Number of shares 4931743
JP MORGAN CUSTODIAL NOMINEES LIMITED
Number of shares 1620157
Thomas John BERESFORD
Number of shares 57977361
Company Share Register COMPANY SHARE REGISTER
Number of shares 214887996
RIO TINTO LIMITED
Number of shares 76430809
THE INDEPENDENT STATE OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA
Number of shares 6027187
WESTPAC CUSTODIAN NOMINEES LIMITED
Number of shares 1657958
NATIONAL NOMINEES LIMITED
Number of shares 3600000
1-3263 BOUGAINVILLE COPPER FOUNDATION LIMITED
Number of shares 2561500
PUBLIC OFFICERS SUPERANNUATION FUND BOARD
Number of shares 30725632
ANZ NOMINEES LIMITED
Recent media reports say a Chinese company, Jaba Joint Development, is illegally dredging for gold on the Jaba river in Bougainville.
It is claimed Jaba Joint Development was allowed into the Panguna area by the Autonomous Bougainville Government and its suspect Commerce Minister, Fidelis Semoso, originally to make bricks, but has now set up a substantial gold dredging operation.
Bougainville News has quoted local landowners as saying Jaba Joint Development is 95% Chinese owned with a small minority interest held by ‘certain landowners’ and the ABG.
Official company records, however, show a rather different ownership picture involving New Zealander Liqun Pan, Bougainville local, Chris Dendai and links to Hong Kong, Australia and the British Virgin Islands as well as property in both Cairns and Auckland.
Jaba Joint Development Limited was registered with the Investment Promotion Authority in Port Moresby, in November 2014.
According to IPA records, the company is owned by two individuals, Chris Dendai and Liqun Pan, a New Zealand citizen. They are also the company directors. Dendai and Pan each holds 50% of the shares in Jaba Joint Development.
Interestingly, although the IPA shows Dendai and Pan as the shareholders of Jaba Joint Development, in the original application to register the company two different shareholders were proposed: Tumpusiong Resources Limited and a Hong Kong registered, Chinese company, Timesview Resources Development Limited.
Tumpusiong Resource Limited is a PNG registered company with 14 men listed as shareholders, including Chris Dendai, all from Darenai village in the Panguna region of Bougainville. According to its filed annual returns, Tumpusiong is a company that is involved in brick making.
Timesview Resources was registered in Hong Kong on 26 November 2014, the same date as the application to register Jaba Joint Development in PNG was made. Timesview Resources was deregistered in Hong Kong in August 2016.
Timesview Resources was majority owned by Timesview International Group, which has Liqun Pan listed as a minority shareholder. The largest shareholder in TIG is Chuen Hing Petroleum & Chemicals Holdings Limited – a company registered in the British Virgin Islands.
Documents filed with the IPA in Port Moresby do not show how or when the ownership of Jaba Joint Development was switched from Tumpusiong Resources and Timesview Resources Development to Chris Dendai and Liqun Pan, which prompts the question whether the people of Darenai village are aware of the switch?
Liqun Pan, who remember holds half the shares in Jaba Joint Development, has a registered address at 4 Bramley Drive, Farm Cove in the south Auckland suburb of Manakau and is also the owner of two New Zealand registered companies; Niae Trustee, with Li Hui, and Cypco Biotechnology.
Liqun Pan and Li Hui also own the Australian registered company Niae Pty Limited and together own a home in Cairns, North Queensland. No. 4 Finchley Close in the suburb of Redlynch was purchased by Pan and Hui in May 2013 for $570,000.
Liqun Pan and Li Hui are also connected through their joint ownership of Inae Limited, a company registered in the British Virgin Islands. That connection is revealed in the ‘Panama Papers’ leaked from the now infamous law firm Mossack Fonseca…
Can anyone explain how Liqan Pan and Chris Dendai ended up running an allegedly illegal gold dredging operation on the Jaba river?
In November 2015, Petromin sold the Tolokuma mine to a foreign speculator, Singapore businessman Philip Soh Sai Kiang, for a reported K81.35 million [US$25 million]. Soh Sai Kiang acquired the mine using a Singapore registered front company, Asidokona Mining Resources.
The mine has been closed since April 2015 when Petromin shut down gold production claiming it could no longer cover the mining costs.
At the time of the sale in November 2015, Petromin Chairman, Brown Bai said the decision was based on commercial considerations and refuted claims of ‘political overtones’. He said the Petromin Board had sole responsibility for the decision to sell.
Mining Minister Byron Chan said the buyer, Asidokona Resources, was “reputable, committed, has integrity and capacity” (LOL).
Now, just eight months later and with the mine still mothballed, another Singapore outfit, LifeBrandz, an entertainment company that owns six nightclubs, bars and restaurants is reported to be paying US$212 million [K670 million] to acquire the mine.
How can a State asset sold by the government for K80 million in November 2015 now be worth K670 million? That represents a huge profit of around K590 million for a Singapore based company, Asidokona Mining Resources, and its owner Soh Sai Kiang.
And why is Petromin House the registered address in PNG for Asidokona!
Papua New Guinea cooks up bond debut
Source: Finance Asia
The Independent State of Papua New Guinea (PNG) is set to embark on international roadshows next week for what it hopes will be its debut international bond deal.
The B2/B+ rated nation has hired ANZ, Bank of China, JP Morgan and Societe Generale for a dollar-denominated transaction.
Central bank governor Loi Bakani and Department of Treasury secretary Dairi Vele will lead presentations in London on June 21, followed by Boston on June 22 and New York on June 23.
The prospective deal comes at a critical time for the country, which is running short of US dollars and wants to raise funds to manage government finances, which are under pressure as a result of low oil prices.
PNG will be hoping it is third time lucky given it has made at least two active attempts to raise dollar bonds over the past decade-and-a-half, both of which failed. Has it got the ingredients right to serve up a successful deal this time round?
One new addition to the mix is the presence of Bank of China on the syndicate.
Its inclusion underscores a new stage in the internationalisation of Chinese banks as they become more active in the global capital markets. Historically, they have only been able to win mandates from their own credits before, with the exception of ICBC, which was joint global co-ordinator on a deal for the Republic of Angola due to oil-related ties between the two countries.
Bank of China’s inclusion also reflects the greater role Chinese companies are playing in PNG too. Over the past few years, Chinese companies have started to build up their presence in the country, particularly in the mining sector; something that was not the case when the sovereign last tried to access the market in 2013.
That year state-owned Guangdong Rising Assets Management purchased a $3.6 billion copper project from Glencore (PanAust), which it is still seeking approval for, while Zijin Mining purchased Barrick Gold’s Porgera gold mine in 2015. China Metallurgical Group also has a $2.1 billion nickel-cobalt project.
As such, Chinese investors may well provide some form of backstop for the deal, especially given they have a reputation for being far less bothered about political risk than the emerging and frontier market investors PNG will still need to win over.
In PNG’s case, that may be just as well since political risk will be one of international investors’ chief considerations.
Even by Asian standards, PNG has had a colourful time trying to launch itself into the international capital markets.
Its first attempt occurred in early 1999 when the then B1/B+ rated sovereign awarded JP Morgan and UBS a mandate to bring a $250 million five-year bond.
But its plans rapidly fell apart when the leads discovered proceeds might end up being used for re-payment of mercenaries. The previous government had hired one such group, Sandline International, to deal with a crisis in Bougainville where protests relating to environmental damage by a Rio Tinto copper project had provoked an attempt at secession.
London-based Sandline had a legally binding contract with the government and had been awarded costs of $18 million by an international tribunal after the government failed to pay its fees in full.
PNG similarly failed in its efforts to get a bond deal off the ground in 2013 after mandating Barclays, BNP Paribas and JP Morgan.
A second key variable, which may act in its favour this time round, is the completion of a $19 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) project run by ExxonMobil, which is now operational and has the potential to help transform the country over the longer-term. Revenues from the project, which account for 118% of GDP, had been earmarked to lift the country to a new stage of development but have been hit by falling oil prices.
As a result, the government has had to rein in spending by 17% so far this year. Standard & Poor’s believes it will be successful and achieve a budget deficit of 4.6% compared to 5.6% in 2015.
In terms of pricing a new bond deal, there are a number of Asian nations with ratings close to PNG including Sri Lanka with its B+/B1 rating, Pakistan on B3/B-/B- and Mongolia on B2/B.
Sri Lanka and Pakistan both have 2019 bonds outstanding, which yield 5.1% to 5.2%. However, it seems far more likely that Mongolia will provide a better comp given it is also struggling with an economy that has been hit by declining commodity prices.
Its 2021 bonds are currently trading at the 10.2% level and it seems highly unlikely PNG will be able to better this given Mongolia already has an established track record.
PNG’s credit ratings are also heading in the wrong direction. Earlier this year it was downgraded by Moody’s from B1 to B2 and is now on stable outlook.
However, it has been on negative outlook with S&P since 2007.
In its most recent ratings release, S&P said low global energy prices are “weighing on the economy, export receipts and government revenues”. It added that this is coinciding with large increases in external and fiscal imbalances but noted the government is responding “forcibly” to deal with them.
The agency also highlighted how the country ranks a lowly 155 out of 188 on the UN’s Human Development Index and flagged a high level of urban crime: something international bankers who have visited the country are very familiar with given the presence of armed guards as escorts every time they leave their hotel.
It was 1989, blood was spilling on the streets of Bougainville after landowners closed Rio Tinto’s controversial Panguna mine. Yet while mobile squad officers and the BRA traded fatal blows, a number of political heavy weights were trying to lift Bougainville’s moratorium that forbade any further mining activities.
According to internal records published for the first time here (see below), senior government figures wanted exploration licenses over the island to be exclusively issued to Bougainville Resources Pty. Limited (formerly Patana Company No. 86 Pty. Limited), a corporate entity which they had a 49% stake in through their shares in the holding company Patana Company No. 89 Pty Limited (see below).
It can be revealed that President John Momis was one of the individuals with shares in this company. He was also directly implicated in this effort to open up Bougainville to mining exploration, at a time when Panguna was provoking a war that would end up taking 20,000 lives.
Just two years prior John Momis had written to Bougainville Copper Limited, denouncing the devastation that mining had caused to his island. Then he described the company as a “cancer”.
Two years later Momis’ colleague the North Solomons Premier wrote to Papua New Guinea’s Mining Minister, to ask that the mining moratorium be lifted, and exclusive prospecting license be issued to a company Bougainville Resources Pty. Limited.
This company was co-owned by a Chinese-Australian consortium, Bougainville Gold Enterprises Pty Limited (50.1%), and a second concern, Patana Company No. 89 Pty. Limited (49.9%). Bougainville’s current President held 33% of the shares in Patana Company No. 89 Pty. Limited.
In a second letter to the Mining Minister the North Solomons Premier insisted that the lifting of the moratorium and the award of a prospecting authority to Bougainville Resources Pty Limited, would help to stop the Bougainville crisis in its tracks. He also implies that a failure to comply with this request, may lead to a loss of provincial support for the upcoming Bougainville Copper Agreement renegotiation, which was seen as critical to the national government’s Bougainville peace package.
As part of this high risk strategy being pursued by those behind Bougainville Resources Pty Limited, the Mining Minister is asked to steamroll over existing regulations through an amendment to the Mining Regulations – this would ensure there was no time for objections to be lodged by potential “opponents” to this mining exploration monopoly over Bougainville.
“It is a matter of urgent priority that the Prospecting Authorities sought by our company (Bougainville Resources Pty Ltd) be awarded immediately. Applications for Prospecting Authorities through the current regulatory framework would take time which in this instance is a luxury we cannot afford ourselves. The long period of time involved under current application procedures would also permit opponents to orchestrate a deliberate campaign of misinformation which could jeopardise our aspirations and our venture”.
The letter continues:
“I suggest that the solution can be found through a change in the Mining Regulations (Chapter 195) whereby so far as the applications for Prospecting Authorities related to the North Solomons Province, the time period as prescribed under the above regulations for objections (Section 69), time for hear(ing) (Section 70), and such other procedural impediments to an immediate consideration and granting of our Prospecting Authority application – be minimised as far as possible”.
While these letters to the Mining Minister were never made public, the press did uncover links between Momis and the Chinese-Australian consortium who would be the primary beneficiary of this secretive deal.
The Australian Financial Review revealed in 1990:
“A detailed plan is in place for a joint venture between Bougainville’s Provincial Government and Australian business interests to acquire the prospecting rights for virtually the whole of the island, once security is restored. Although Bougainville MP and the national Minister for Provincial Affairs, Father John Momis, conceived the venture, its true architect is Sydney-based notary, Mr Benedict Chan. Associated with Mr Chan in the Bougainville Resources joint venture is Sydney media consultant Mr Martin Dougherty, through the PNG-listed company Patana No 82 Pty Ltd [renamed Bougainville Gold Enterprises Pty Ltd]”.
At the time it appears reporters were not aware that Joseph Kabui, John Momis and James Togel each held shares in the company partnering with the Chan led consortium. Therefore, no questions were asked about the nature of this involvement.
Nevertheless, when Benedict Chan was confronted with general allegations of corruption, he claimed “Why would I need to ‘grease’ people? It is a commercial venture”. The Australian Finance Review also noted:
“Mr Chan denied he was a financial backer of Father Momis’ Melanesian Alliance Party … But, Mr Chan said, he was a ‘personal supporter’ of the Melanesian Alliance and was also a trustee of the Melanesian Awareness Campaign, another organisation of which Father Momis was a trustee”.
This historical revelation comes as John Momis in his capacity as ABG President has overseen discussions that could potentially lead to a lifting of the mining moratorium on Bougainville. This began with the passing of the Bougainville Mining Act 2015 – drafted by controversial British company Adam Smith International – and it continues as parliament debates the moratorium question at this very moment.
There are public concerns that any lifting of the moratorium will be used by today’s political heavyweights on Bougainville to benefit a small national minority and their foreign business partners. Already misgivings have been expressed over the considerable payments made to businessmen such as Henry Chow by the Momis government.
These new revelations over Bougainville Resources Pty Limited, also raise important legacy issues. For example, why were certain political leaders trying to lifting the moratorium at a time when the mining question on Bougainville was throwing the nation into civil war? Could the war have been averted, if more time had been spent dealing with Panguna landowner grievances, rather than engineering a scheme to open up Bougainville to the Chinese-Australian exploration company?
A new report [pdf file] published by Aid Watch (UK) and Global Justice Now lifts the lid on the British based aid- entrepreneur, Adam Smith International (ASI).
ASI is no stranger to Papua New Guinea. With funding from the World Bank and the Australian government’s aid programme it has drafted controversial new mining laws [pdf file] in Bougainville, that deny landowners fundamental human rights. It is also strongly involved in advising the O’Neill government on extractive sector policy, in addition to transport, infrastructure and public administration.
Following an investigation into foreign aid contracts won by ASI in the UK, the Aid Watch report claims ASI’s work is cloaked in financial secrecy, big corporate profits and fat pay cheques for its executives.
The report observes, ‘despite the government’s repeated transparency pledges, it remains difficult to get a full picture and a detailed breakdown of how funds are actually spent’. As a result, ‘it is unclear how much of a certain contract will be consumed by transport and accommodation for ASI consultants, for example, or how much the company will pocket in fees and administration costs’.
However, it is noted, ‘a look at the company’s financial statements … show just how lucrative the “aid industry” has been for it. In 2014 ASI reported revenues exceeding £110m – up more than 20% from £90m in 2013, and 50% from 2012 (£72m)’.
The report continues:
“The rewards of ASI’s aid-funded business have been particularly rich for the company’s directors. ASI is owned by a holding company called the Amphion Group, which is in turn owned by Adam Smith Advisory Group. In 2014, the Adam Smith Advisory Group said its seven paid directors shared just over £1m in salaries and benefits, with the highest-paid receiving almost £250,000 which is far more than what DfID’s top official, or even the UK prime minister, takes home”.
The report also inquires into ASI’s past. It claims ASI’s origins lie in the similarly named Adam Smith Institute, a right-wing think tank that is known for supporting tax cuts for the most wealthy and the privatization of public assets. Both organisations, it is argued, have a strong overlap of personnel and objectives. They are also closely connected to the UK’s ruling Conservative Party, which has been slashing budgets while opening up new opportunities for the most wealthy to park their money in British overseas tax havens.
Perhaps not surprisingly given its status as one of the world’s leading aid entrepreneurs, ASI has strongly lobbied for more aid to be delivered through private companies rather than government agencies or the not-for-profit sector. ASI has also argued that particularly in countries facing instability, private contractors such as itself can help the UK government exert its influence over local policies through the exercise of ‘soft’ power.
Indeed, the report notes in 2011 ASI ‘told a House of Lords committee that using private contractors for projects in conflict environments better “allows the projection of soft power” by increasing the UK’s ability to influence policy in these countries’.
“Technical assistance is very much complementary to ‘harder’ exercises of UK power such as military force”’.
This prompts a range of questions for PNG and Bougainville.
Has ASI been funded by the World Bank and Australian government to ‘influence’ PNG and Bougainville policy, in ways that benefit foreign powers and companies, rather than the citizens of PNG and Bougainville?
And just how much money does ASI pay its consultants and contractors who come into our country to exercise ‘soft power’ on behalf of their paymasters, whether it be Australia or the World Bank?
In a press conference, President Momis has declared Bougainville a backward nation that needs to catch up with the rest of the world [see story below]. He has promised his government will help those communities who wish to ‘catch up’, by backing mega economic projects in their area, presumably with ‘help’ from foreign ‘investor’ (they put in, and take out a whole lot more!). Expect the Chinese. Expect more fly-by-night businessmen. Expect special economic zones. Expect the sell off of natural resources. There will be no imagination, no creation, no sustainability, it will be sell sell sell.
And when Bougainville catches up with the rest of the world, what prizes will it seize? Well the rest of the world holds the clues. We can expect landlessness, the destruction of soil fertility, mass environmental damage, the depletion of natural resources, the emergence of a destitute landless class, the creation of poverty, growth in inequality, food insecurity, starvation, endemic war, crimes of desperation, crimes of greed, all those wonderful things the outside world has, which Bougainville should evidently aspire to.
It is a scary ride into misery. The President wants to know are you on board?
President Momis warns and challenges Bougainvilleans to be ready for any major economical developments in their area.
Joe Elijah | New Dawn
A warning has been made for every Bougainvilleans in the three Regions of Bougainville, to be prepared and be ready to start implementing developments in their respective areas in Bougainville.
The warning was issued this morning during a media press conference organized by the office of the ABG President at his Kubu office, for the people to start thinking very seriously about bringing in major development which will improve their living standards.
President Hon Chief Momis said, Those who do not want to work with ABG will be left behind and those who are willing to work and implement ABG major economical projects, ABG will assist and help them in any way they can, even by securing partnership with other stake holders to bring and generate much needed revenue for Bougainville.
President Momis said that, we cannot hold the people at ransom, when some people are acting irresponsible, the Government cannot wait any more for them to change their mind set, attitudes and behavior.
Bougainville must open up now, because time and the world is changing, President Momis wants to see Bougainville to change with today’s new technology and its knowledge.
President Hon Chief Momis added that once documentations are finalized, he will announce the ABG economical projects that will help and assist the people of Bougainville rebuild and improve their living standards.