By MALUM NALU
Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL) remains committed to reopening of the controversial Bougainville copper mine, according to chairman Peter Taylor, The National reports.
He reaffirmed at BCL’s annual general meeting in Port Moresby on Tuesday that the vision to return to active exploration and profitable mining remained, with active support of local stakeholders.
“We face the coming year with enthusiasm for the tasks ahead, and anticipate good progress toward the vision of reopening the mine,” Taylor said.
“We have many initiatives in place, we believe we are ready to go, we are engaged with the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) and the landowners, and we recognise that to a large extent, the time table rests in their good hands.
Taylor said prime minister Peter O’Neill had confirmed in parliament that BCL had, by right of the Bougainville Copper Agreement (BCA), permits to operate at Panguna for a further 21 years from 2011.
“There are also encouraging indications that funding for Bougainville and the drawing down of powers to the ABG including the power to license and regulate mining will be invigorated under his government,” he said.
Taylor said several new developments had occurred which should help facilitate the re-negotiation of the BCA.
“To make things clear, the BCA is an act of the PNG national parliament, and as such can only be modified or repealed by the parliament,” he said.
“However, it is recognised by all stakeholders including BCL that the agreement was drawn up in times and circumstances that differ from those prevailing today, and that significant changes need to be made to accommodate the views, rights and aspirations of all stakeholders including the landowners and the people of Bougainville.
“There is widespread agreement today that Bougainville’s economic future needs mining if it is to be able to fund services for the people from its own resources, as well as address future opportunities for economic and social development.
“A re-commencement of mining at Panguna cannot take place unless all parties: the landowners, the ABG, the national government of PNG, and BCL, are acting in close accord, now and into the future.
“Funding and sovereign risk assurance for the project will require a united effort.
“There will need to be a fair and stable regulatory regime that gives investors the confidence needed to commit to a project that will cost in excess of US$3 billion
“It is pleasing to note that Landowners and others in nine areas most closely affected by the mine’s operations, including Panguna, the tailings areas, Arawa, and the road and port leases, have all but completed the formation of legally-based associations capable of providing genuine representation to the process of reviewing the BCA.
“The process of incorporation, which involves both legal and customary commitments, is most welcome, and should bring us closer to the capacity required to review the BCA to the benefit of all stakeholders.
“It is a process conducted by the landowners themselves with the support of the ABG and president (John) Momis, and without the participation of BCL.”