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Renzie Duncan and Philip Miriori team up in another illegal Bougainville venture 

June 29, 2017 2 comments

Sydney lawyer and mining venture capitalist, Renzie Duncan, is on the prowl again for Bougainville’s mineral wealth, with his old friend Philip Miriori,  the scandal-plagued, self-appointed head of the Me’ekamui Tribal Government.

This time its through Central Me’ekamui Exploration Limited, which is in partnership with Australian mining firm RTG Mining.

Company extracts indicate that Central Me’ekamui Exploration Limited, despite its very local name, is in fact a foreign enterprise.

This assertion is based on the fact it is 50% owned by Australian company, Central Exploration Pty Ltd.

Central Exploration Pty Ltd’s thriving head office is 266 Burns Bay Road, Lane Cove, New South Wales, Australia. This leafy address on Sydney’s north shore, is also the registered home address for Renzie Duncan.

Under the Investment Promotion Act 1992, a company which is 50% owned by a foreign entity is deemed a foreign enterprise and must apply for certification to conduct business in Papua New Guinea.

Section 41 of the Investment Promotion Act 1992 states it is an offence to carry on business without certification, punishable by a K100,000 fine.

There is no record with the Investment Promotion Authority that Central Me’ekamui Exploration Limited has applied for certification, despite the fact it has been clearly conducting business with RTG Mining.

However, this is not the first time Duncan, Miriori and the other Central Exploration Director, Michael Etheridge, have conducted business in Bougainville. 

The last time it was through Transpacific Ventures Limited.

In that case Transpacific Ventures informed investors:

‘In the past 12 months, TPV has negotiated and signed an Agreement (the “Cairns Agreement”) with the Sovereign Me’ekamui Tribal Government on an exclusive basis for 20 years, renewable, to advise customary landowners (the Me’ekamui) in developing their natural resources sector, including potential oil and gas, on the island of Bougainville, PNG and surrounding atolls and marine territories, and to participate with the Me’ekamui in such development and other business opportunities’.

Yes, that’s right, Philip Mioriri and his self-styled tribal government proposed to sign away the natural resources, landed and marine, across Bougainville. Clearly, he had no right to, and Transpacific Ventures had no legal business publishing this information to investors.

Of course the claim by President Momis that RTG mining ‘doesn’t have any money’, is rather ironic given that his preferred operator, BCL, cant even afford permanent staff – and has no means whatsoever to raise the sort of capital to develop Panguna.

But the core point all this squabbling between various minority interests distracts from is this – 98% of the people in and around Panguna oppose mining, under any industrial guise. They have suffered the environment and human loss.

The ordinary people – real landowners – don’t have government support, nor do they have access to the internet or media. Their voice is unheard, except when they protest and resist.

The re-entry of Duncan and Mirori, will be cynically used by the government to label all landowner resistance, simply a plot to bring in an alternative developer by the backdoor. If this is argued, it is a lie.

Landowners throughout the mine area remain opposed, like they have since 1963, when the first rumblings of Panguna began. Journalists will not report this. They don’t leave their offices, much less speak with someone who cant reply in english.

On the rare occasions they do leave their office, they knock on the door of Lawrence Daveona, Philip Mioriori and other individuals, who falsely claiming they somehow speak for all landowners, which they don’t. Of course the colonial powers did this back in the 1960s. Some poor old man, was wielded out to say yes, while the mothers cried no.

History has been a cruel teacher, it is unlikely the mothers of the land will allow the bulldozers through this time.

Is PNG taking over Bougainville via the backdoor?

March 7, 2017 Leave a comment

 

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

Bundle 1

Number of shares 642157

CITICORP NOMINEES PTY LTD

Bundle 2

Number of shares 4931743

JP MORGAN CUSTODIAL NOMINEES LIMITED

Bundle 3

Number of shares 1620157

Thomas John BERESFORD

Bundle 4

Number of shares 57977361

Company Share Register COMPANY SHARE REGISTER 

Bundle 5

Number of shares 214887996

RIO TINTO LIMITED

Bundle 6

Number of shares 76430809

THE INDEPENDENT STATE OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA

Bundle 7

Number of shares 6027187

WESTPAC CUSTODIAN NOMINEES LIMITED

Bundle 8

Number of shares 1657958

NATIONAL NOMINEES LIMITED

Bundle 9

Number of shares 3600000

1-3263 BOUGAINVILLE COPPER FOUNDATION LIMITED

Bundle 10

Number of shares 2561500

PUBLIC OFFICERS SUPERANNUATION FUND BOARD

Bundle 11

Number of shares 30725632

ANZ NOMINEES LIMITED

Dame Carol Kidu and the Paga Hill documentary

April 4, 2016 4 comments

Last week numerous articles appeared in the Australian and PNG press on Carol Kidu’s legal action against filmmaker, Hollie Fifer.

We are informed Kidu is furious at Fifer for a feature length documentary – The Opposition – which she made on the brutal series of demolitions at Paga Hill and the illegal land transactions underpinning this human rights abuse.

Kidu has also made serious accusations against the central protagonist in this film, Port Moresby human rights advocate Joe Moses.

Working with local communities, the national museum and other stakeholders, for the past five years Moses has tried to save Port Moresby’s historic Paga Hill from the developer’s knife through the Paga Heritage Foundation.

For his efforts Moses has suffered police harassment, character assassinations and anonymous death threats.

It is unclear who is behind this campaign of intimidation. However, the movement led by Moses has annoyed a number of powerful figures in Port Moresby’s expatriate elite, and their political allies in government.

At the heart of this struggle is Icelandic-Australian businessman Gudmundur Fridriksson. Based out of his sizable home in Cairns, Fridriksson has been at the centre of numerous corruption scandals uncovered by the Auditor General, Public Accounts Committee and the Commission of Inquiry into the Department of Finance.

gummi mansion

Fridriksson’ Queensland mansion.

Fridriksson is also the CEO of the Paga Hill Development Company (PHDC), which has been working with Chinese investors to erect a luxury development at Paga Hill. Despite the efforts of Joe Moses and other conservationists, residents’ homes, a school, a church, and historic relics were destroyed in a series of demolition exercises between 2012-2014. PHDC has only acknowledged involvement in the first demolition.

Gudmundur Fridriksson, PHDC’s Chinese investors and NCDC Governor Powes Parkop

Gudmundur Fridriksson, PHDC’s Chinese investors and NCDC Governor Powes Parkop

When this issue originally erupted on the national stage four years ago it was Carol Kidu who became the figurehead of the struggle to save Paga Hill from PHDC. She was appalled that an area once reserved as a national park would be entrusted to someone slammed in numerous corruption inquiries. Kidu rallied behind Joe Moses and became the political face of the campaign to save Paga Hill.

This is what she wrote in the Post-Courier during 2012:

‘the media have continually portrayed me as an emotional woman, protecting settlers, and anti-development. Yes I am emotional about the blatant corruption, greed and land theft in “modern” PNG and I am emotional when I personally witness gross abuse of human rights’.

She continued:

‘there was no tender process for the land and the company owes the State of Papua New Guinea millions of kina in unpaid land tax. They have paid nothing for this land and their so called relocation scheme [of existing residents] was laughable’.

A more detailed criticism of the company was provided in a press statement released by Kidu, where she details the flagrant violations of the Land Act 1996 committed by PHDC, all of which was tabled to parliament in 2012.

Police Pointing Guns

Dame Carol Kidu is escorted from Paga Hill by police in May 2012

Yet no apparent attempt was made by the O’Neill government to investigate. To the contrary, the government has give the developer tax breaks and offered its full support for the luxury real estate development.

Behind Gudmundur Fridriksson and PHDC stand some powerful business figures. One PHDC shareholder, is Michael Nali. A former Deputy Prime Minister, Nali was the first to sponsor the Paga Hill Estate as one of “national significance” when Tourism Minister. He then acquired a stake in the company, when he lost office.

Nali remains a major Southern Highlands powerbroker, who is a close business partner of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.

Another important player is PHDC’s lawyer, Stanley Liria, who now holds a majority stake in PHDC which he evidently acquired from Fridriksson. Liria is known to have ties with the Prime Minister, and the Southern Highlands Governor, William Powi.

There is no evidence on the public record Prime Minister O’Neill or other politicians connected with PHDC have broken the law. But clearly the company’s local collaborators enjoy access to some the most influential political networks in the country.

Despite the controversy over the project in 2012, PHDC survived the initial public outcry. Then in 2013 there was another major twist.

Much to the surprise of those trying to save Paga Hill, Kidu announced she was now working under contract with PHDC, after she was personally approached by Gudmundur Fridriksson, and offered a consultancy deal.

The contract with PHDC is facilitated through a company fully owned by Kidu, C K Consultancy Limited.

Entity_Extract-CK_CONSULTANCY_LIMITED-1-850281

Entity_Extract-CK_CONSULTANCY_LIMITED-1-850282

This is not the first time Kidu has angered friends and colleagues fighting against companies involved in serious human rights abuses.

Take the example of Australian miner, Bougainville Copper Limited, who had been implicated in atrocities committed on Bougainville by government security forces.

In a bid to clean its public image, BCL appointed Kidu non-executive Director. For this role Kidu was paid K150,000 in 2014, and K135,000 in 2015.

Kidu Director BCL

Kidu has also worked for Canadian miner, Barrick Gold, after it was discovered the company’s security forces at its Porgera mine were involved in rapes and gang rapes against local women. In a bid to avoid a costly legal case and potentially sizable court awarded damages, Barrick Gold successfully reached out of court agreements with victims.

Most of the victims were evidently given less than USD 6,000 in compensation, and offered counselling services.

The Barrick package was heavily criticised in a 129-page report released by legal experts at the Columbia and Harvard law school, who referred to it as ‘deeply flawed’. One of the lead authors of the report claims:

‘These are some of the most vicious assaults I have ever investigated. The women and local communities had to struggle for years just to get the company to admit what happened. They had been suffering for far too long, and deserved much more’.

Much to the surprise of many in the human rights community, it was Carol Kidu who rallied behind Barrick Gold, and agreed to oversee their ‘deeply flawed’ remediation process. She even defended the company when complaints were lodged with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Porgera Letter Kidu

There is nothing illegal about working for, or providing services to, foreign companies implicated in rapes, killings and home demolitions, that clearly comes down to an individual’s moral code. However, clearly there are ethical dilemmas involved, especially for those who proclaim to uphold the highest social standards.

Peter O’Neill recently claimed that many retired politicians leave parliament destitute, which might help explain Kidu’s consultancy contracts with companies implicated in serious human rights abuses.

However, according to Queensland property records Dame Kidu purchased a home at the Machans Beach on 19 April 2011, for approximately K822,368. The property is a few streets away from a second home registered in the name od Dame Kidu’s daughter, which was purchased for approximately K690,000 on 10 June 2009.

Machans Beach is a popular holiday spot for those seeking tranquillity and unspoilt ocean

Machans Beach is a popular holiday spot for those seeking tranquillity and unspoilt ocean 

If these property records are accurate, it would appear that these decisions cannot have been motivated by matters of economic survival.

We live in a free country. Kidu is welcome to do what she wants, make money how ever she wants, and work with whoever she wants, no matter what those foreign companies have done.

But why is she attacking and endangering the life of human rights defenders, she once supported?

Although no doubt unintentional, since Kidu went to the press, those close to him report report Joe Moses’ life has been put in danger by angry supporters of the Dame. He is now scared to walk the streets.

In addition to this a filmmaker who has captured one of Papua New Guinea’s most inspiring stories, is facing litigation in the NSW Supreme Court.

It has not been a good week for Papua New Guinea’s human rights community.

What hope do human rights defenders like Joe Moses have when they are under assault from PNG’s most powerful and influential political figures?

Can a little person ever truly stand up to a revered politician and the expatriate business elite? And if they do what will it cost them?

Ask Joe Moses, he is paying the price.

Australian advisor revealed to be behind Bougainville President’s attacks on Panguna landowners

December 15, 2014 6 comments

Bougainville President John Momis has been very persistent and vocal in attacking a Jubilee Australia over a report that gives a voice to the marginalized people of the Panguna area. Momis attacks have characterized Jubilee as an interfering outsider. How ironic that we can now reveal Momis’s virulent attacks were written for him by an Australian ‘advisor’ who is paid by and regularly briefs the Australian government…

In September this year the Bougainville Voices report was released giving Panguna landowners an opportunity tell their story to the rest of Bougainville and the world.

They spoke with pride about their culture but this then changed to bitterness when landowners from Panguna recounted how their heritage and land was stolen from them by Rio Tinto and their Australian colonial partners. Then when the custodians of Panguna resisted this resource theft their homes were burnt, women raped, and loved ones murdered by PNG troops armed by the Australian government and fed by Rio Tinto.

This story of dispossession and revolution exploded in the media during September and October – up until the report’s publication we had been told that the people of Panguna welcomed the return of Rio Tinto, because it was their only chance to escape ‘poverty’ and develop. Doesn’t this sound like the talk of foreign exploiters, not landowners who shed blood to evict a foreign invader?

cartoon showing ASI and AusAID pulling momis's stringsDespite once being an outspoken critic of Rio Tinto, strangely the President launched a bitter attack both on the landowners, and the NGO/researcher organisations who helped publish the Bougainville Voices report. Over many long letters he claimed the testimony of those in the report was simply the lies of anti-mining activists in the landowning communities, who had been hand-picked by foreign troublemakers.

All of this venom sounded less like the President and more like the divisive talk of his controversial Australian adviser, Anthony Regan, who has launched attacks on the MP for central Bougainville Jimmy Miringtoro, in addition to former BRA General Sam Kaouna, because both had called him an ‘activist’ working for the Australian government and its corporate friends.

It can now be revealed that these bitter attacks on the Bougainville Voices report were authored by none other than Anthony Regan, President Momis’ so called legal advisor.

You see Rio Tinto’s faithful Public Relations spin doctor Keith Jackson, who has used his popular blog to broadcast these attacks, published one of the letters online. And analysis of that letter tells us who originally authored the document. And who should come up as the author? Not our President, but none other than Anthony Regan.

Regan Jubilee Letter

This is a legal expert on the payroll of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade who has helped write mining legislation that has allowed Rio Tinto to hold on to its colonial possessions. This is a man who returns to Australia and has closed door meetings with the Australian government, where he tells Ministers and government officials all about whats happening on Bougainville.

Regan Julie Bishop SSGM ANU

Regan regularly briefs the Australian government

Australia is responsible for the deaths of many thousands of Melanesians. It is not sorry, instead it is sending its advisers to win back an island it lost through armed struggle. These efforts must be resisted with the same skill and endurance in the political realm that our boys showed in the military realm.

And don’t be surprised if the President now comes out and labels this blog racist. And don’t be surprised if he also claims that he simply dictated these letters to Anthony Regan, who must be one of the best paid secretaries in the world with a consultancy contract of approximately K300,000 which comes out of the Australian ‘aid’ budget.

ABG advisors on mining implicated in Indian suicide epidemic

September 10, 2014 Leave a comment
According to Christian Aid, Adam Smith International, the consultancy firm now leading the development of mining policy and long-term mining laws on Bougainville, was an expensive paid advisor to the Andhra Pradesh government in India whose trade reforms and free-market economics led to a suicide epidemic among poor farmers…

 _____

 

India’s suicide epidemic is blamed on the British

Trade reforms backed and funded by the British Government have caused an agricultural crisis in India which has sparked an epidemic of suicide among impoverished farmers, a leading charity claims.

More than 4,000 farmers have killed themselves in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh since a programme of free-market measures was implemented by a “hardline liberalising regime” with the help of a £1.65m grant from the Department for International Development (DfID).

A study for Christian Aid claims that the dramatic increase in the suicide rate, which saw 2,115 farmers take their lives last year compared with 588 in 2003, is directly linked to British support for policies joining aid to economic liberalisation in developing economies.

Research found that farmers in Andhra Pradesh who had traditionally grown their own food were persuaded between 1999 and 2004 to swap to cash crops and incurred large debts which they were unable to pay due to wildly fluctuating global prices.

The result has been a catalogue of family tragedies among thousands of peasant farmers who were forced to approach unscrupulous money lenders to fund fertilisers, pesticides and water boreholes that produce little or no financial return.

Among the methods of suicide chosen by victims has been to drink the pesticide they hoped would transform their economic prospects.

Daleep Mukarji, director of Christian Aid, said:

“It is a scandal that the British Government has backed policies and pumped British taxpayers’ money into schemes which have contributed to poor Indian farmers killing themselves.

“The report shows in stark detail the damage that is done to poor people when the dogma of so-called ‘free’ trade is pursued in the name of poverty relief.”

The study commended DfID, which has spent £248m on aid to Andhra Pradesh since 2000, for its work on improving health and education in the region.

But it found that the ministry was also bankrolling the closure, restructuring and privatisation of 43 state-run enterprises, including agencies supporting farmers.

The programme, run by the ultra-liberal state government of Andhar Pradesh until it was voted out of office last year, was advised by consultants from the London-based Adam Smith International – a commercial enterprise affiliated to the right-wing free-market think tank, the Adam Smith Institute.

The consultants were working for the Implementation Secretariat – a body set up by the state government with the help of a £1.65m grant from DfID.

Professor Jayati Ghosh, an academic in Delhi who chaired a commission on farmers’ welfare charged with investigating the results of free market reforms, said it was clear that there was direct link between the suicides and the liberalisation measures.

He said:

“The crisis of suicides is very clearly a result of public policy. And this has been guided by and substantially determined by agencies like DfID.”

The Christian Aid study found that the reform programme, which was also backed by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, aimed to turn much of farming in India into “agribusiness”.

Among the measures taken by the Implementation Secretariat in Andhra Pradesh between 1998 and last year was the closure of four state agencies, including one which sold farmers machinery and tools at subsidised rates. Another body which provided a reliable source of seed to poor farmers was reduced to a “dormant” state.

In the decade from 1991, the area of farmland in India used to grow traditional grains such as rice declined by 18 per cent. In the same period, land dedicated to the production of cotton and sugar cane increased by 25 per cent and 10 per cent respectively. At the same time, subsidies for fertilisers were slashed and cheaper loans from banks were reduced, resulting in farmers going to private lenders charging interest rates of at least 36 per cent to fund new crops that rapidly became worthless on the global market because of over-production and cheap imports.

A survey of 40 farmers who committed suicide in Andhra Pradesh found that each on average owed 106,000 rupees (£1,300) – roughly five to 10 times their normal income.

The Christian Aid report said:

“These are not deaths from just one area or from just one type of farming. This is suicide on a scale that is surely unique in modern times. The immediate cause of these deaths is debt. This debt was brought on by a number of factors, all of which, except for the weather, can be ascribed to liberalisation.”

Both Adam Smith International, which said it had had no role in drawing up the liberalisation policy, and DfID denied that there was a direct link between the high levels of suicide and the market reforms.

The Government announced earlier this year that there should no longer be a formal link between aid and economic liberalisation.

A DfID spokesman said: “Our support for economic reform in Andhra Pradesh, including the privatisation of state-owned enterprises, has helped safeguard the livelihoods of around 2 million people. Without reform, the state government would have continued to spend hundreds of millions of pounds subsidising loss-making enterprises.”

Bougainville landowners find new champions – the World Bank and Adam Smith International

September 8, 2014 4 comments

Bougainville’s new Mining Law is being orchestrated by ASI, a British organisation set up by an ‘ultra right wing lobby group’, and paid for by the World Bank.

ASI’s lead architect for Bougainville’s future has outstanding antecedents – including stints as ‘Rio Tinto Senior Lecturer’ and as a director of Battlefield Minerals, together with numerous contracts for the World Bank, IMF and International Finance Corporation.

With these characters in charge the people of Bougianville clearly have nothing to fear… 

Over the past year the Autonomous Bougainville Government has slammed critics who have suggested its mining policy and laws were being drafted by outsiders, who serve the interests of the mining industry in general, and Rio Tinto in particular.

These critics have been silenced by recent revelations that the Autonomous Bougainville Government’s long term mining policy and mining legislation are being overseen by experts funded by the World Bank –  you know the World Bank, that institution with a global reputation for putting the environment and people first, and miners a distant second.

And who is the cheery brigade of international experts being brought in now to set the course of Bougainville’s cheery future? The outfit goes by the name of Adam Smith International or ASI for short. The name couldn’t be clearer, these guys are on the side of the people!

ASI is the ‘sister’ organisation of Britain’s Adam Smith Institute, a think-tank that has won hearts throughout the UK for its campaign opposing taxes on corporations, regulation of corporations, and ah any initiative being run by anything other than a corporation.

One of the institute’s biggest fans is investigative journalist George Monbiot who describes the Institute as a ‘ultra-rightwing lobby group’. And he claims ‘Big business already contributes generously to this good cause. It gets what it pays for. The Institute’s purpose is to devise new means for corporations to grab the resources which belong to the public realm’.

ASI was set up by Adam Smith Institute staff to spread the love and goodwill to all nations of the world – for a price of course. Britain’s The Sunday Telegraph reported in 2012 that ASI was ‘paid £37 million by the Department for International Development to promote the free market in the Third World. Its total turnover that year was £53.6 million, with profits of £5 million’. Added to that ASI’s Managing Director got a minuscule £1.3 million in 2010 (K5.3 million), and its Directors a tiny £125,000 (K500,000).

These truly are minor payments given the fantastic work ASI does. Look at the example of Tanzania. The Guardian reported in 2005 that the UK Department for International Development paid ASI more than £500,000 to provide advice to the Tanzanian government on privatising water. And was the money spent wisely? Absolutely, £250,000 was spent producing ‘what was described as the world’s first privatisation pop song’, which included the famous line’our old industries are dry like crops and privatisation brings the rain’. Sing it loud!

Finally, Bougainville is destined for a great big bear-hug from this people loving and earth loving organisation.

ASI has a flawless – FLAWLESS – understanding of the internal dynamics on Bougainville just take a look at their factually accurate website:

‘The mineral sector on the island of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea has played an important role in defining the nation’s economy and history, despite a prolonged period of civil war between 1990 and 2000 [well technically 1988-1997, but whats a few years in the grand scheme of things]. After several years of civil conflict [or is it 10 years, ahhhh whats the difference right!], the region has now begun to develop, with the potential for the area to become a significant producer of copper, gold and other mineral deposits and raise substantial revenue [yes yes yes, it has worked such a treat for PNG what could go wrong]’.

After schooling its audience on the history of Bougainville, ASI announce they have a  strategy to make minerals work for Bougainville. Phew, these guys aren’t amateurs!

‘The strategy included a number of recommendations to raise departmental capacity and performance to a world-class level [‘world class’, oh well this is exciting stuff], with a view to sustainably managing a sensitive minerals sector environment, and ultimately resulting in Bougainville’s mining sector moving away from issues causing social unrest [ah, um, a brutal war which the sector was a sponsor of, but sure ‘social unrest’], to promote effective and sustainable development of the sector [brilliant!]’.

Leading these efforts to produce ‘world class’ legislation and policy on Bougainville is Professor James Otto – as President Momis points out, mining laws and policy is not the business of bush kanakas, we need educated white men. And Professor Otto certainly is educated!

James Otto

Otto has been a director for Battlefield Minerals (!) and Rio Tinto Senior Lecturer

Among Professor Otto’s many illustrious posts, none is more salubrious than his stint in 1991-1995 as the Rio Tinto Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Petroleum, Mineral Law and Policy. Yes that IS right – the post was actually called Rio Tinto Senior Lecturer. Since then he went on to become Non-executive Director of Battlefield Minerals, a disarmingly frank name for a mining company if ever there was one! In addition to that, Professor Otto has spent plenty of time doing work for organisations known to be the enemy of miners, and the friend of traditional landowners – examples include,  World Bank, the IMF and the International Finance Corporation.

Finally, Bougainville has found its saviour, and the landowners have found a champion who will defend their interests against the likes of Rio Tinto who have decimated their land, and participated in the wholesale slaughter of the people. Happy happy days.

And were the people of Bougainville not happy enough, lets get schooled again by ASI on Bougainville’s history and bright mining-led future!

‘The minerals sector in the Autonomous Bougainville Region (ABR) has played an important role in defining the nation’s economy and history to date [is this tongue-in-cheek for ‘started a bloody war’, British humour at its best]. After several years of civil conflict [again with the several], the region has now entered a development stage [phew, finally development after several thousand years of stagnation], with the potential for the country to become a significant producer of copper, gold and other mineral deposits [hoorah!]. In order for ABR to maximise the benefits from these resources, it must facilitate and manage large-scale investment, ensure a fair financial return to the  nation, and promote and protect the well-being of the environment and  its citizens, to enable pro-poor and pro-peace objectives [Flawless logic – take comfort Bougainville’s ‘poor’! Of course all this can be achieved by destroying, once again, the source of the peoples’ wealth and recreating an industry that sparked a 10 year war, oh whoops we mean ‘several years’ of ‘social unrest’]. Achievement of these objectives is being managed by the Government, which has embarked on a process of reforming how it manages the minerals sector.  The two major components of this reform agenda to now be undertaken are institutional and legislative reform, which ASI has been invited to address’.

With such a flawless understanding of Bougainville’s history, ASI couldn’t be a better choice for steering its future!

Rio Tinto stripped of nothing on Bougainville – and the ABG knows it!

August 25, 2014 1 comment

 MRA records show BCL’s mining lease over Panguna expired in 2011 and its exploration licences will expire next year. BCL’s own Annual Report and a previous statement from John Momis appear to confirm this state of affairs. So where does that leave all the media of the last few weeks…

So the plot thickens. Over the past fortnight, the media has gone into a fervour after Rio Tinto declared it will reconsider its majority stake in Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL).

This change of heart occurred, so we are told, after the Transitional Mining Act ‘stripped’ Rio’s subsidiary BCL of its mining leases and exploration licences. Some more shrill shareholders have called this expropriation, pure and simple.

Indicative of the recent headlines is the following remark which appeared in the Wall Street Journal:

‘The Anglo-Australian company [Rio Tinto] on Monday said it was reviewing its options for its controlling stake in Bougainville Copper Ltd, after the [Bougainville] government passed new laws that could strip the company of its lease on its Panguna mine’.

This seemingly bold step has been trumpeted by the Autonomous Bougainville Government as evidence that it is no stooge of Rio Tinto or the mining industry.

But it seems we may have all been fooled by what appears to be an elaborate hoax, which has been played out through the national and international media.

In their eagerness to trumpet the headlines ‘Rio Tinto stripped …’, no one has actually bothered to verify if BCL still actually holds a lease over Panguna!

Tsk tsk.

Now, according to PNG’s Mining Resources Authority BCL’s Special Mining Lease over Panguna expired in 2011.

mra map of mining lease area

Yet on 12 August this year President John Momis wrote to BCL’s Chairman to advise him that:

‘Prior to that [Transitional] Act coming into operation, BCL is the holder of an SML [Special Mining Lease] over the area of the current Panguna SML, primarily by virtue of the operation of the relevant provisions of the Mining (Bougainville Copper Agreement) Act concerning the SML.  As a result, when the Bougainville Mining Act commences, section 212(2) will vest BCL with an Exploration Licence for the area of what will then be the previous SML’.

Surely the good President is well aware that the SML had lapsed? From the above ‘letter’ it would seem not.

But the plot thickens further. Here is a very interesting report which the Post Courier published on 29 November 2011:

‘BOUGAINVILLE president John Momis last week thanked PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill for his decision not to approve the renewal of the Special Mining Lease (SML) held by Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) in Panguna for the last 42 years’.

So the President would seem to KNOW the SML has expired, yet has maintained publicly it is still in place. Why would he do that? And why would BCL play along? Or has the SML been renewed since November 2011 under the table, without public consultation (though this would presumably be reflected in the Mineral Resource Authority system)?

If it has not been renewed, why did BCL inform the Australian Stock Exchange on 25 June this year that ‘BCL holds a number of resource tenements in Bougainville, including a Special Mining Lease (SML), various  Leases for Mining Purposes and several Exploration Licences’.

The significance of this statement must be read in light of corporation laws. Giving materially false or misleading information to Australian Stock Exchange potentially breaches section 1309 of the Corporations Act. Doing this knowingly is a criminal offence punishable by a fine of up to 200 penalty units and/or imprisonment for up to 5 years.

At the very least this June 2014 announcement would appear to contradict not only Mineral Resource Authority records, but admissions made in BCL’s 2013 Annual Report, which states:

‘The company’s special mining lease lapsed through effluction of time on 10 April 2011 and in accordance with the applicable legislation the company is entitled to a 21 year extension which has been applied for but not as yet granted‘.

And then there is the issue of the exploration licences. They are ALL set to expire early next year, something that has not been mentioned in the media.

mra map of exploration licences

Owing to the time frame they are basically worthless given that there is little chance of any exploration activity taking place before their expiration.

So what exactly has Rio Tinto been stripped of, or have they  been stripped of anything at all?

We dont know – its not clear.

Has the transitional legislation actually strengthened BCL’s position?

According to the legislation passed earlier this month, ‘If, on the commencement of this Act, an application for a tenement (other than an alluvial  mining lease) under the Mining Act 1992 in respect of land situated in the Autonomous Region of  Bougainville is pending, the application has effect, on and after that commencement, as if it were  an application for the corresponding tenement under this Act and must be dealt with under this  Act’.

The Mining Resources Authority records suggest the renewal of the Special Mining Lease is pending – so will it now be treated as a pending application for a mining lease under the transitional legislation?

If so, what does this mean for the landowning community? As they have no enforceable right to contest the grant of mining leases over resources they ‘evidently’ ‘own’, will this in effect mean that BCL can return to Panguna without landowner consent?

Other questions must be asked.

Was this transitional legislation rushed in place to facilitate the renewal of BCL’s expired interests? If so, why is Rio Tinto so ‘upset’? Is it all a facade?

Once again, the answer is not clear.

And why has the Autonomous Bougainville Government not alerted the media to the misreporting, given that the ABG must knows that the lease has expired and the exploration licences are nearly expired?

Now that is an important question!

What is clear is the real story is much more complex than the media narrative, and no one is prepared yet to reveal the truth behind the headlines.