“At this stage, the ABG does not know whether Panguna will ever re-open, but we also know that there are leaders and communities in other parts of Bougainville that want mineral exploration and as always, my government remains ready to talk to such areas,” President Momis told Bougainville Parliament at the second reading of the legislation.
The ABG is currently considering allowing large-scale mining again is because of its need for revenue.
“We lack even the most basic acceptable standards in essential services, like health and education,” Dr Momis said.
“We lag behind the rest of the world. Without significant ABG revenue, that situation will never change.”
“The best possible hospitals, health centres, early childhood centres, schools, universities, technical education centres, clean power, good roads to all accessible areas and good shipping services; these things are the essential basics for us gradually developing a sustainable economy where all share in benefits.
“Right now we Bougainvilleans are not much better than beggars. We beg for our entitlements from the National Government. We beg and cajole the donors,” Dr Momis continued.
“True autonomy, or true independence, will only come when we have our own sources of revenue, capable of providing the best possible services to our people.
“It is an unfortunate truth that the only way any of us can see of generating this revenue is mining, but we need to approach this with great care.
“Mining itself is not a sustainable activity, as the minerals are a finite resource, and once they are gone they are never replaced, so the key will be to use the mining revenue wisely, to promote and generate sustainable economic growth.”
Bougainville will need to invest in in health, education, clean power, and good transport, but there is still uncertainty about a potential future mining project.
“[I have] no idea if BCL will return,” Dr Momis said.
“BCL’s parent company, Rio Tinto, is in the process of undertaking a review of its investment in BCL.
“It’s entirely possible Rio will decide to walk away from that investment; if that happened, we would have to look at other options.
“There are many difficulties involved when considering re-opening Panguna; there are divisions about the issues involved.
“There are high expectations about compensation and related issues and if demands of this kind are too high, the project will not be economically viable.”
The ABG is not focused solely on large mines and is strongly supporting small-scale mining through an innovative system of Community Mining Licences administered by Councils of Elders.