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
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?
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.
Every barrier is an opportunity in the amoral universe of western capitalism.
Take for example Panguna – two decades of spiritual, environmental and social devastation, topped off with a decade long war, has sparked landowners to say ‘never again … in the future development will be done according to our means and our objectives’.
Sound like a pretty large barrier for Rio Tinto’s return to the scene of the crime, which it left smouldering two and half decades ago.
Cue the mediation capitalists. With global miners around the world wanting a foothold in land and environments that is not theirs, a new class of foreign entrepreneurs have emerged who want to make money through a unique specialism – they know how to wrench consent out of unwilling landowners.
Numerous companies are panting at Rio Tinto’s door, with their hands open. One is the Australian company RREDD, Risk Response Engage Design Deliver, who specialises in helping miners disarm landowner opposition.
Fresh from its work with Judge Kandakasi at PNG LNG, RREDD’s Principal Craig Jones recently sent this email::
“Judge [Kandakasi] I’m back in Australia. I remain interested in the Bougainville issue… It may be that your success with the PNG LNG matter may give us some credibility around conducting a process in Bougainville where we are the neutral 3rd party.
I have a close relationship with the most senior Rio Tinto person responsible for communities.
If there is any angle you can push it might give me an angle to push with Rio to fund a process”.
It is hard to accept the logic, on the one hand RREDD claim they are neutral, but on the other have good friends at Rio Tinto who might help boost their annual profit margins by funding a mediation process. Their loyalties are not to the heritage of Panguna but the moneybags and those companies who hold the purse strings.
And shame on a Papua New Guinea national court judge for selling his national role like some high priced wine. Where was this judiciary when people were being butchered by the military? Nowhere!
Landowners at Panguna know a trojan horse when they see one. They know these companies have one thing in mind, their own pockets, and they know Rio Tinto has no interest in resolving the past, unless they see profits at the end of the table.
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.
Who is writing Bougainville’s new mining policy and law? Some background on Adam Smith International
It has recently been publicised that Adam Smith International is the organisation who will assist the Bougainville government to draft a permanent mining law and policy. This law and policy will have far reaching impacts on future generations, so it is important they reflect the wishes and interests of all Bougainvilleans, but especially landowners. Adam Smith International sadly does not have a history of working with communities or defending their interests.
Here are some key facts about Adam Smith International:
1) ‘Far Right Wing lobby group’
Adam Smith International was set up by staff from the British based Adam Smith Institute, an organisation that is described by the respected UK journalist, George Monbiot, as a ‘far right-wing lobby group’; which means they support a world where big-business can own and exploit all key resources, such as land, minerals, oil, and water, in addition to using labour cheaply, without protecting workers rights. The Adam Smith Institute in particular champions policies that minimise or remove taxes and regulations for corporations/big companies (like environmental/labour protections). Corporations (big companies) are also among their primary donors.
2) Community ownership
Both the institute, and Adam Smith International, do not believe in the common or community ownership of property, and strongly advocate for the privatisation (private company ownership) of resources, including land and water.
3) Pushing privatisation on ‘unwilling populations’
In a statement to the UK Parliamentary Select Committee on International Development the respected NGO, World Development Movement, which campaigns against economic injustice, claimed Adam Smith International makes money from aid by pushing privatisation on unwilling populations. That is, they push for changes in property systems so big companies can buy up land, minerals, water and other communal or publicly owned resources. The NGO observes:
‘The consultancy firm Adam Smith International (ASI) received £270,000 of UK aid money in 1999 to produce a PR campaign in Tanzania involving the use of a national comedian in a series of TV adverts as well as a pop video—all promoting the country’s privatisation programme. The pop video had the following lyrics: “Young plants need rain, businesses need investment. Our old industries are like dry crops and privatisation brings the rain. When the harvest comes, there is plenty for everyone.”
More generally, ASI notes that it has the ability to “help muster the critical political support necessary to carry policies through to their successful conclusion”. It has built up a reputation as the consultant that “sells” privatisation to an unwilling population. In Ghana, DfID funded a “public awareness raising programme” about the benefits of privatisation. In India ASI was given aid money to produce a film about the benefits of privatisation’.
4) Mass suicide
In India, Adam Smith International were paid £1.65m by the British government to support local government policies that convinced local farmers to shift from subsistence gardens to cash crops. Many fell into debt they could not pay, which led to mass-suicides. According to The Independent ‘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’.
5) Boomerang aid
Adam Smith International has made large amounts of money in Britain from aid work (sometimes known as boomerang aid). According to Britain’s Foreign Minister the company was awarded the following amounts between 2008-2013: 2008-9: £42,266,339 (K170 million); 2009-10: £13,785,832 (K60 million); 2010-11: £33,273,602 (K133 million); 2011-12: £66,409,259 (K260 million); 2012-13: £16,356,209 (K65 million).
6) Large fees and salaries
According to Britain’s Public Accounts committee, a parliamentary committee responsible for making sure public money is not wasted, Adam Smith International award its executives and directors large fees and salaries. The committee observed:
‘Our attention has been drawn to Adam Smith International, which received £37 million (K150 million) from the Department [of International Development] in 2010-11. One of Adam Smith International’s Directors received remuneration of over £250,000 (K1 million) in 2011. A Director also received a dividend in 2010 of over a million pounds. Such excessive payments undermine public confidence that the Department’s aid money is being spent well. We were told that the Secretary of State has committed to holding discussions with those involved in delivering its international aid, including Adam Smith International, to emphasise the need to ensure value for money for the taxpayer’.
The Chair of the Public Accounts Committee added:
this ‘feels like an absolutely outrageous and appalling waste of this very precious money that you have secured to invest in developing countries and it is really depressing to read about’.
7) ASI in Bougainville
Adam Smith International have been contracted by the Autonomous Bougainville Government to design Bougainville’s mining policy and help draft the final mining legislation.
8) Errors in Bougainville reporting
Adam Smith International reporting on Bougainville features serious errors. They refer to the conflict as ‘social unrest’. In some reporting they claim the war lasted for several years, in other they suggest it went from 1990-2000.
9) Professor Otto and the World Bank
A leading expert taking charge of the ASI project is Professor Otto, who has done contracted work for the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, organisations that share Adam Smith Institute’s ideology (all resources should be privately owned and controlled by large companies). He was also the Rio Tinto Senior Lecturer at the University of Dundee, and a Director at Battlefield Minerals.