Landowners in Bougainville, an autonomous region of Papua New Guinea, have expressed backing for an RTG Mining-led consortium to take over the abandoned Panguna mine instead of Bougainville Copper (BCL). The landowners are expected to present a 2000-signature petition in opposition of BCL.
The long-dormant copper mine, abandoned since 1989 due to local conflicts, is currently under consideration for redevelopment by BCL, which is now partially owned by the Bougainville Government.
The rival consortium, Central Me’ekamui Exploration, said it has the backing of local landowners, including the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA), however, and representatives of RTG Mining said that the BCL’s problems regarding its legacy in the region were “insurmountable”. The mine, while non-operational for three decades, was owned by Rio Tinto until last year.
The Bougainville Government has accused the consortium of bribing landowners.
“The Autonomous Bougainville Government will not entertain companies who use the back door or break and enter through the window using self-centred individuals who think they have a monopoly over the people’s resources or represent their interests,” said mining minister Raymond Masono.
The mine’s relaunch remains a keystone of Bougainville’s upcoming independence plans; Bougainville’s regional cabinet is expected to finalise Panguna’s exploration licence next year.