Report – By the PMC news desk
The autonomous Bougainville government will grant mineral ownership to customary landowners, says President Chief John Momis.
The landowners will also be involved in major mining project decisions and can say ‘no’ to exploration on their land.
Momis said this at the weekend to counter what he says were “misleading statements” by former Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) rebel commander Sam Kauona, who recently alleged that the “colonial administration” was drafting the autonomous region’s new mining policy.
“Mr Kauona should not think that an ABG led by me could ever ignore Bougainvillean concerns about mining. We will never be told what to do by an outsider,” the veteran politician, who first entered politics in 1972, said in a statement.
The former BRA commander has in recent days criticised Australia over what he claimed was its involvement in the draft policy, however, Chief Momis in response said Bougainvilleans were playing leading roles in the ABG’s mining department, the law and justice division and the Office of Panguna Negotiations.
“Many Bougainvillean officials are involved in our mining department, law and justice division and office of Panguna negotiations.
“They develop policy proposals to be considered by the ABG cabinet. We make our own decisions. Take issues of ownership of minerals.
“The administration presented three options. Cabinet discussed them over several long meetings. We decided to reject all three options. Instead we came up with our own. Minerals will no longer be owned by the State.
“Instead they will be owned by both customary landowners and the ABG,” he said.
According to the ABG president, equitable distribution of revenue from mineral resources was at the core of his government’s policies.
“As part owner, the ABG will act on behalf of all Bougainvilleans because of the blood shed by all Bougainville groups during the conflict. The ABG will also ensure equitable development and the use of mineral resources in the interests of both present and future generations.
“Landowners will have the right to say ‘no’ to exploration and to be fully involved in all decisions on mining projects. The ABG will have the power to grant all exploration and other licenses and authorise mining revenue distribution.”
The exchange between the former rebel commander and the ABG president adds to the debate on the island surrounding the closed Panguna copper mine and proposed plans to reopen it. Kauona is reportedly the president of the Bougainville Resource Owners Representative Council.
Source: PNG Post-Courier