Micah’s statement misleading: Momis

The National, Tuesday July 12th, 2016

PRESIDENT of the Autonomous Bougainville Government John Momis has described Petroleum and Energy Minister Ben Micah’s statement regarding Kumul Minerals decision to keep the shares transferred by Rio Tinto as misleading and mischievous.
Momis said Micah intended to give the impression that he and Kumul Minerals were in control of the shares and tasked to look after Bougainville’s interests, however, that was not true.
“Kumul Minerals Holdings, Micah, and the Government have no role in relation to the 36.4 per cent Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) shares available to the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG),” Momis said.
“Those shares were transferred by Rio Tinto to an Australian-based trust (Equity Trustees Limited) under a shares trust deed and the ABG has two months in which to decide to accept the transfer of those shares.”
He said Micah had been trying to get control of Rio Tinto’s BCL shares for over two years.
Momis said as the president of Bougainville, he had no trust in Micah having any role in relation to the shares. “If, as reported on Friday, the Prime Minister has no knowledge of the transfer of the 17.4 per cent of BCL shares from Rio to Petromin on 30 June, then clearly the evil and irresponsible move to make Papua New Guinea equal shareholder in BCL together with the ABG has been cooked up between Rio and Micah. That deal must now be undone,” Momis said.
“‘I call on the Prime Minister to overrule his irresponsible minister. He must protect the peace process by transferring the 17.4 per cent shareholding to the ABG. The ABG will then be majority shareholder, with PNG still holding its existing 19.4 per cent. The ABG accepts that the National Government should retain a role in BCL, but only if the ABG controls mining policy, and the company that owns the Panguna mine.”
He said BCL held only an exploration license over the former special mining lease at Panguna and under the Bougainville Mining Act, if 25 per cent or more of shares in a company holding an exploration license are transferred, the ABG must initiate action to terminate the lease.
He said the transfer by Rio to the trust meant that the termination process must begin instantly as the ABG Mining Minister, Robin Wilson, has given instructions to the Secretary of the ABG Mining Department to issue a notice to BCL to show why its licence should not be terminated.
“If the National Government keeps the 17.4 per cent shares, then nothing will stop the termination process being completed. Then BCL will have its cash and its Panguna drilling data, but no license in Bougainville. That would be a bad outcome for everyone. We prefer to work with the National Government. But that must be on a basis where the ABG is in control of Bougainville’s mining,” Momis said.
Meanwhile according to a statement, Momis referred to Micah’s claims of support for the Peoples Progress Party (PPP) on the recent victory of its candidate, Timothy Masiu in the by-election for South Bougainville open as false.
“The result does not indicate strong support in Bougainville for PPP but rather far from it. Instead it was a victory for a well-known person from a well-known Buin area family, who happened to have had strong financial support from Micah’s party. The policies of the PPP and the roles of its leader, Micah, do not have support in Bougainville,” Momis said.
He said if the voters of South Bougainville had known at the time they cast their votes that Micah was arranging with Rio Tinto for the National Government to become equal largest shareholder in BCL, then Masiu would have been completely rejected as a PPP candidate.
“I call on him to convince Micah to support the transfer to the ABG of the 17.4 per cent shares in BCL. Masiu must persuade Micah to transfer the shares if he is to have any chance of returning as a PPP MP in 2017,” Momis said.