Key current activities and issues that will interest stakeholders
2019 was a notable year for Bougainville with the region holding an historic referendum on its political future. In a remarkable display of peace and unity, 98 per cent of the population voted for independence from Papua New Guinea. While the referendum was non-binding in nature, the outcome is now the subject of ongoing negotiations between the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) and the PNG National Government. Any final outcome will need to be ratified by the PNG parliament.
In December – following the referendum – PNG Prime Minister James Marape reaffirmed a previous commitment to transfer the Independent State of PNG’s entire 36.4 per cent shareholding in the Company to the people of Bougainville, with the shares to be divided between the ABG and landowners. These transfers have yet to occur.
Bougainville Copper conducted a comprehensive mine redevelopment study in 2019, to build on previous bodies of work in respect of the Panguna Project. The early outcomes are encouraging in terms of identifying a potentially viable, phased re-start strategy. The latest study indicates that a staged redevelopment approach – as opposed to a single large through-put development – is a prospective option.
2020 also proved a pivotal year for Bougainville with elections for a 4th House of Representatives and a new president to succeed John Momis. Respected community leader, Ishmael Toroama, an ex-combatant, peacemaker and cocoa farmer was elected as Bougainville’s fifth president in September. The Company is committed to working cooperatively with the new president and government to support Bougainville’s continued development.
In early February 2022, landowners from the Panguna mine area and the ABG reached an agreement to work cooperatively towards the reopening of the mine.
A joint resolution was signed by the chiefs and representatives of the give major clans, including Basikang, Kurabang, Bakoringu, Barapang and Mantaa. The resolution to reopen the mine is consistent with previous support expressed by customary landowners.
Bougainville Copper maintains positive relations with customary landowners from the project area, including with members of the Panguna Development Company Limited (PDCL). The PDCL is 100 per cent owned and operated by landowners with its members and board of directors being registered agents from the blocks within the project tenement through the Land Titles Commission.
Against this backdrop, a previous ABG decision not to grant an extension of Bougainville Copper’s exploration licence (EL1) is expected to proceed in the PNG National Court during 2022. Regardless, the Company believes it continues to present the best value proposition to redevelop Panguna – emphasised by the strong majority ownership stake the people of PNG and Bougainville have in the BCL of today. The Company remains in dialogue with the ABG regarding this issue – and will continue working towards this eventuality.