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People should decide on Paguna mine reopening

Staff Reporter | 4:48 PM | ||
 The Autonomous Bougainville Government’s approach to the reopening of the Panguna Mine will continue to be driven by the wishes of the landowners and the people of Bougainville, ABG President Chief Dr John Momis says.
Speaking at the 30th Australia PNG Business forum in Cairns this week, he said: “We have strictly limited time in which to get real autonomy working, and before people are faced with a choice about independence, it is that limited time that requires us to focus on exploring the possibility of re-opening Panguna to create fiscal self-reliance on Bougainville,” he said.
“We must focus on exploring the possibility of re-opening Panguna, for all being well that could occur in the early 2020s and the ABG would be in receipt of substantial taxation revenues during the projected three year construction period,” he added.
The ABG has been working with the PNG National Government to implement the provisions of the Bougainville Peace Agreement to allow it to exercise mining powers normally exercised by the state.
This process is largely complete and has involved establishing an ABG Mining Department, the development by the ABG of its own mining policy, and preparation of Bougainville mining legislation.
Unlike what most critics claim, the ABG has continued to consult with landowners and other Bougainvilleans to prepare for possible negotiations about the future of the mine.
“We have no intention to rush and we are first ensuring that mine lease area landowners are organised in such a way as to be fully involved in every step of the process,” Momis said.
He said in spite of critics claiming the ABG’s hand in manipulating the issue and silently lobbying for the return of the Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL), the ABG has always remained objective.
He said the decision to have BCL return to Bougainville depended on the company and further stated that the landowners themselves wanted BCL to return, saying “it is better to have the devil you know than the devil you don’t”.
Momis said if the mining goes ahead, it should provide economic opportunities for as many Bougainvilleans as possible.