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
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.
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.
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’.
‘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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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?
Despite 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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
Francis Ona died in May 2005. He was an inspiration to many, Francis stood up against Rio Tinto, the Australian government and PNG in order to secure a way of life free from exploitation by foreigners. Only by securing the land and environment, could Bougainville regain the harmony and balance that has been its rudder throughout the ages.
One thing that really angered those who conspired against Francis was that he evaded the PNGDF bullets. And as a result, his towering figure remained a major barrier to the recolonisation of Bougainville by Rio Tinto and its collection of political clowns.
When he died, we were TOLD it was natural, we were TOLD that it was malaria. There was no autopsy, and no more questions were asked.
Interesting at the very same time Rio Tinto suddenly reversed its position on mining on Bougainville.
In 2004 its subsidiary BCL said ‘company policy is still to ultimate divest the Bougainville assets’. An explanation was given on its website:
‘There is no indication from landowners or Bougainville leaders that mining will be welcome. It must also be assumed that mine site assets continue to deteriorate with time and therefore the cost of a restart increases. Although some assets like the port, access road and pre-stripped ore are all positives, any potential developer seeking funding to restart the project is faced with the additional issues of PNG country risk and the long period of civil disturbance originating in the violent closure of the mine’.
Then in February 2005 several months before Ona’s death, BCL’s Chairman said in his annual statement:
‘I have spoken to a number of Bougainville landowners who have expressed an interest in allowing exploration on their land. Gold is continuing to be recovered from Bougainville. Based on exploration that took place prior to the moratorium and an airborne survey carried out by the German Government in 1985, there is good prospectivity in a number of areas of Bougainville. Although the company has stated publicly it does not rate highly its prospects of mining at Panguna that is not to say it would not consider an exploration proposal for its licence areas’.
The door was suddenly opened – and its not hard to guess who these ‘landowners’ were, the very same ‘landowners’, who Francis Ona deposed in 1987 through an election, and the very same ones who now head the illegitimate umbrella landowners association.
Then in May 2005, Francis Ona suddenly died. At the time, two mysterious visitors arrived in the mine area, they were suspected of being South Africans. This put people on edge, after all the mercenary outfit, Sandline-Executive Outcomes, who had been contracted in 1997 to blast Bougainville into the stone-age included many ex South African special forces who had previously been used to enforce brutal apartheid policies.
Sandline-Executive Outcomes also have links with Rio Tinto (RTZ) according to one newspaper report published in 1997,
‘One of RTZ’s newest partners is the “ugly Canadian” Robert Friedland. Friedland is Rio Tinto’s junior partner in the Lihir gold mine in PNG. Executive Outcomes, the apartheid-linked mercenary force that was contracted by the PNG government to invade Bougainville and reopen the Panguna mine, is largely controlled by a Friedland company, according to Roger Moody, writing in Multinational Monitor’.
Was he executed by mercenary thugs? We dont know. People on the ground say yes.
So what happened after Ona’s death. Miraculously BCL went from dis-investing in Bougainville, to heralding the reopening of the mine AND its expansion. This is what the Chairman of BCL said in February 2006.
‘In anticipation of the exploration moratorium being lifted and encouragement from both the National and Autonomous Governments the company has commissioned a report on possible exploration targets within its licence areas’.
He goes on to claim:
‘PNG, Bougainville and the company are well placed to take advantage of this upturn in the resource sector. They need to work together now to develop a strategy that is mutually beneficial. BCL will be doing what it can to ensure the opportunities are not missed’.
Perhaps this is all just coincidence, a very lucrative and fortunate one for Rio Tinto. But many on the ground believe he was killed by assassins.
And the fear of violence continues as outspoken critics of the mining company, face a barrage of death threats.
Recolonisation is rarely a bloodless affair, the question is will Rio Tinto’s proposed return be bathed again in blood, and I include in that Francis Ona’s?