Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) marked its full-time return to Bougainville by holding its first board meeting there in more than 27 years, at Buka, on 3 August.
The board, led by chairman Robert Burns and including Sir Rabbie Namaliu, Dame Carol Kidu and Sir Moi Avei were joined in Buka by members of BCL’s senior management team.
BCL has established an office in Buka and has appointed the respected Ephraim Eminoni to manage its local team.
Mr Burns said it was a new dawn for BCL as an independently managed PNG company following Rio Tinto’s complete exit in the middle of 2016.
Many everyday PNG citizens, including Bougainvilleans are among BCL shareholders in addition to the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) and Independent State of Papua New Guinea, which are major shareholders.
“The Buka board meeting was something of a historic moment for us as a company and demonstrates our high level of commitment to Bougainville going forward,” Mr Burns said.
The BCL board and senior management separately met with ABG President John Momis and Vice President Raymond Masono to discuss important issues regarding BCL’s Panguna redevelopment plan.
“We certainly appreciate the ABG’s ongoing support and the fact they strongly re-stated their position regarding a new Panguna mining project with BCL as its developer,” Mr Burns said.
The company also continues to further build relationships with landowners from project areas and again met with representatives from the nine landowner associations who were in Buka for their bi-monthly meeting.
“Key members of our team, including executive manager Justin Rogers and senior project officer Ezekiel Burain, who are both very well-regarded in Bougainville, had the opportunity to update landowners on our more immediate community engagement plans as well as on the process for finalising the 1990 statutory compensation payments,” Mr Burns said.
“We are pleased that since the first visits to project communities in December last year, we have now completed 90 per cent of the block title holder payments, which goes to demonstrate our commitment to building trust with the landowners.”
Mr Burns said that during the meeting, landowner representatives voiced their support for BCL and expressed a desire to see the Panguna project advance.
“The endorsement, for example, of some of the women’s leaders who were present was most encouraging,” he said.
Mr Burns said the show of support at this meeting was consistent with the company’s landowner engagements to date and contrasted with some of the negativity of vocal minorities.
“We of course understand there are people with legitimate issues and I can only say that we are happy to engage with any reasonable stakeholder to discuss any issues they may have,” Mr Burns said.
Mr Burns also acknowledged that a dispute over the chairmanship of the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA) needed to find a timely and satisfactory resolution that represented the best interests of its members, other landowners in the project areas and the people of Bougainville more broadly.
He noted that the matter is currently before the National Court.
Mr Burns also reminded third parties that BCL’s exploration rights under the Bougainville Mining Act 2015 remained in place and should be respected.
He said the company would take any necessary steps to defend these rights in the interests of its shareholders.
Media contact: Cameron Hill on +61 400 940 968