Bougainville group issues ultimatum over Mining Act

An abandoned building at Panguna mine site in Bougainville. Picture: RNZ

A Bougainville landowning group has given the autonomous government an ultimatum over a festering dispute involving the Panguna mine.

The Osikaiyang landowners, who have allied with former militants, said unless the government drops plans to change the Mining Act they will not support the push for weapons containment and disposal.

The removal of illegal guns is a key requirement ahead of Bougainville’s referendum on independence from Papua New Guinea.

Osikaiyang, which is based at the site of the Panguna mine, wants to re-open it with its preferred partner, RTG, but the government wants to work with a different company, and to achieve this, is planning controversial changes to the Mining Act.

Osikaiyang, with the Alpha company of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army, said unless the government makes clear that it won’t make these changes to the Act, they will not back the weapons disposal.

The group is calling for an answer before the referendum writs are issued in a month’s time.

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