The doors to Bougainville Copper Mines (BCL) and RTG Mining - both anxious to redevelop the mine which has been closed since 1989 - have now been firmly shut by President John Momis.
Momis has told media that the mine would remain closed until after the vote, which is expected to take place on June 15, 2019.
This follows up on a statement issued by Vice President Raymond Masono, who is also Mines Minister, in which he said that the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) had completed the legal process under the Bougainville Mining Act 2015 in relation to BCL's application to renew its exploration licence over the Panguna mine area "and conclude that it is untenable under current circumstances for the Panguna project to proceed, resulting in a decision not to grant an extension to BCL's exploration licence.
"Effectively BCL does not have any more tenement (sic) in Bougainville or any legal right over Panguna mineral resources and the legal ownership of the Panguna resources reverts back to the customary landowners of Panguna and the ABG.
"In making that decision to not grant an extension ot terms to BCL's tenement, the ABG has also made a decision to impose a mining reservation (moratorium) over the Panguna mine area for an indefinite period," Masono said.
Masono added that the public was invited to comment on the Panguna moratorium and this should be submitted to the Department of Mineral and Energy Resources by close of business on March 26, 2018.
"It is in Bougainville's best interest that the Panguna resources owners be left alone and be dealt with by the ABG alone regarding any future plans for the Panguna project moving forward when the circumstances are conducive and the moratorium is lifted.
"For BCL or RTG or any other investor to directly deal with the landowners regarding the development of the Panguna project will only result in more division and problems among the people and may affect ABG's drive for peace and unity leading towards the referendum.
"The ABG will not accept nor be influenced by any speculations regarding its decision on the moratorium and redevelopment of the Panguna project," Masono concluded.