New Mining Law Strips Rio Tinto's Rights at Papua New Guinea Mine
A new mining law passed in Papua New Guinea has stripped away all exploration and mining licenses from Rio Tinto subsidiary Bougainville Copper Limited.
The new law, which went into effect on Friday, formalizes the province’s control of its own resources and passes power to regulate mining from the Papua New Guinea government. At the same time, it removes the seven exploration licenses and special mining lease for Bougainville.
The new legislation transfers power over mining from the Papua New Guinea government to the local legislature, giving much of the power to Australian copper, gold and silver company Bougainville Copper.
However, the company’s Panguna mine has been the hub of a decade-long civil war in which 20,000 people have died.
"We have invited them to come and negotiate with us and if they don't meet our mutually acceptable terms then they are welcome to go," said Bougainville President John Momis.
"That is the only thing they have; first right of refusal."
According to President Momis, the decision to cancel the licenses comes after consultations with the community on Bougainville.
"If we didn't [cancel the licenses], the landowners and the ex-combatants wouldn't have allowed BCL to come back," President Momis said.
"This mining Bill will likely lay the foundations for another Bougainville crisis," the Panguna Veteran's Association said in a statement shortly before the Act was passed.
"Rio Tinto/BCL owned and controlled our minerals before and it led to the war.
"Under this Bill, Rio Tinto/BCL owns and will control our minerals - why would the result be any different this time?"
Philip Miriori, Chairman of the Me’ekamui Government of Unity commented on the announcement saying the move was dangerous and could potentially hurt the local communities.
"This is a dangerous and destabilizing move and is not acceptable to the Me'ekamui," Philip Miriori said.
"The critics are totally wrong - we have stripped Bougainville Copper of all powers.”
He added, "I think [the critics] are being misled deliberately by outsiders who have a vested interest."
Bougainville is due to hold a referendum on independence between 2015 and 2020.
Zimbabwe targets £8.8bn mining industry by 2023
Zimbabwe’s government plans to fast-track exploration, evaluation and digitalisation of selected reserved mining areas under the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development as part of wider measures to achieve a £8.8 billion mining industry by 2023, according to a senior government minister.
Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said other plans include stopping the issuance of special grants in the reserved areas under the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development until the exploration and evaluation is complete and a robust value addition program for diamonds is implemented.
Mutsvangwa was speaking at a post-cabinet media briefing on December 15.
She adds that the issuance and renewal of special grants for energy should also be based on the financial and technical capacity to value add all types of coal, as well as for ideal exploration of Coal Bed Methane.
For renewal of special grants, consideration should take into account the period the Special Grant has been held as well as plans with milestones for value addition of the special grant, Mutsvangwa says. She adds that the Zimbabwean government expects gold to drive the mining sector in order to achieve the ambitious target, with the precious metal expected to contribute approximately £2.96 billion to the overall target.
Mining is one of Zimbabwe’s major contributors to its economy, alongside agriculture, which is the mainstay. The mining sector accounted for more than 60 percent of the country’s foreign currency receipts in 2019, and contributed around 16 percent to national Gross Domestic Product, the Chamber of Mines says.
The country’s mining industry is focused on a diverse range of small to medium mining operations. The most important minerals produced in Zimbabwe include gold, asbestos, chromite, coal and base metals.
Zimbabwe expects its economy to expand by 7.4 percent in 2021 from a projected contraction of 4.5 percent this year, due to the effects of drought and the COVID-19 global pandemic.
When presenting the 2021 National Budget in November this year, Finance and Economic Development Minister, Professor Mthuli Ncube, said that the mining sector is projected to rebound by 11 percent next year after surviving a COVID-19 induced shock that saw the sector contract by 4.7 percent in 2020. In September, mining bans in national parks were introduced, according to news agencies.
He added that the National Budget would allocate £1 billion towards the operations of the ministry for planning, promotion and exploration, data capturing, and automation, among other key mining processes.
Other factors necessary for the achievement of the £8.8 billion target include a stable macroeconomic environment, policy consistency, and availability of long-term capital to fund mining projects along the entire mineral value chain, the minister said.
Stopping "illicit financial flows" from gold smuggling is another key issue to address, according to media reports.