At last, BCL listens

Business, Main Stories

AFTER more than 20 years, the management of the Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL), would finally be hearing first hand how the people on Bougainville island feel about the 10-year crisis that led to the closure of the gold mine in May 1989.
A BCL representative, company secretary Paul D Coleman, was in Bougainville last week “to see and hear for himself how the people on the ground felt about the 10-year-crisis”.
Mr Coleman was in Buka at the invitation of Autonomous Region of Bougainville President James Tanis.
“The conflict (Bougainville) must end where it started … at Panguna,” Mr Tanis declared in a statement released to the media yesterday.
He said he sees his role only as a mediator between the different factions with great stakes at the idled gold mine. 
“It arose out of disputes between landowners, members of the North Solomons provincial government, the Government of Papua New Guinea, and BCL and multinational company CRA.
“Therefore, it is these stakeholders who need to be assisted to come together to end the Panguna conflict.”
Mr Tanis told Mr Coleman that as president, “my role is to ensure that these parties come together to solve the problem once and for all”.
Mr Coleman’s visit was the first for the company, after 20 years.
In his talks with Mr Tanis, the BCL official noted the willingness of the people of the region to discuss issues in an open and friendly manner.
In a statement released yesterday, Mr Coleman said he was “very pleased” to visit Bougainville at the invitation of Mr Tanis, and the people of the Autonomous Region.
“Bougainville Copper Ltd has had a long standing relationship with the people of Bougainville, and although it has been 20 years since we have been here officially, it is well known that BCL has always had an open door and a friendly welcome to anyone from Bougainville who wants to talk to us about issues of mutual interest,” Mr Coleman said.
“The Bougainville Copper Foundation has also helped to keep us in touch, through the programmes of education and other assistance which have been maintained at all times since the crisis.
“BCL has a natural interest in viewing the state of its assets in the region, and hearing from the people first hand, on the matters that concern them.
“There are many things to discuss, and it is very pleasing to be making a start on these talks, here in the Autonomous Bougainville Region, among the people.
“I thank President Tanis for having the vision and the concern for his people to initiate this meeting,” Mr Coleman said.
He also told the people there that the World Bank would be sending a representative to the island to further discuss the capacity building programme for administration of the mining industry on Bougainville.
The gold industry might be funded by the bank, which Mr Coleman said could  help facilitate the draw down of mining powers under the peace agreement.
He said this could lead all stakeholders towards the renegotiation of the Bougainville copper agreement.
 “Many of the issues of interest to the people of Bougainville, and their future as an economically independent region, might well be discussed under the terms of such renegotiation,” Mr Coleman said.
“For the moment, it is pleasing to be here, and I extend my thanks to the people of Bougainville for making me welcome,” he said.
Started in 1972, the Panguna gold mine was billed as the world’s fourth largest copper mine in 1985, producing 46.5 million tonnes of ore the year before (1984).
The mine was closed by the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) in 1989, followed by a civil war.