BCL the preferred operator of re-opened Panguna mine

Business, Main Stories

The National, Wednesday, May 18, 2011

BOUGAINVILLE Copper Ltd (BCL) is seen as the preferred operator of the Panguna mine should it reopen, executive chairman Peter Taylor at the Australia-PNG Business Council summit in Madang, said yesterday.
He said BCL had undertaken an order of magnitude study, indicating that the resource in the mining lease at Panguna still contained a billion tonnes of payable ore which is subjected to copper and gold prices.
The study supported a planned rate of mining and processing of 50 million tonnes of ore per annum, producing about 450,000 ounces of gold and 170,000 tonnes of copper per year over a mine life up to 20 years.
Taylor explained that there were seven adjacent exploration licensed areas offering prospects of further discoveries.
He said the bad timing of the Panguna mine opening, on the eve of independence, meant that the landowners and the province were not consulted to any great degree, and with some resistance.
Taylor said all this would be different as BCL’s approach now would be  to encourage the landowners and the Bougainville government to take the lead in setting the agenda.
“We need to do a better job of sharing the benefits of the project with the landowners and the government. I believe they need to have participation in the project so the fortunes of the mine are also their fortunes,” he said.
“Economic self-sufficiency is an important goal for Bougainville, particularly when its people are endeavouring to become autonomous within PNG, and also to address the question of independence, which requires revenue developed by major projects such as a re-opened Panguna.”
Taylor pointed out that another crucial issue was the re-negotiation of the Bougainville copper agreement, document agreed in a different era with little recognition of benefit sharing.
“Without wishing to pre-empt the discussion process or its outcomes, I know that everyone in PNG today with an inkling of modern benefit sharing principles, would expect a range of things to be on the table,  but they also need to be realistic about what is achievable,” he said.