|Friday, 25 February 2011James McGrath|
THE Panguna mine on the island of Bougainville was one of the key flashpoints leading to the 10-year civil war between the island and PNG, but Bougainville Copper chairman Peter Taylor says the mine can at long last be reopened.
|Panguna Copper Mine, Bougainville PNG|
With the island due to vote on independence between 2015 and 2020, many see the mine as a key piece of the economic jigsaw, but many landowners object to the mine ever being reopened.
Taylor told Radio Australia that while some landowners might object, he was confident he could reach consensus on any possible reopening.
“I am confident that as far as the company is concerned it can be done, that it can be done economically. The real issue is whether the landowners at Panguna and the government want the mine reopened,” he said.
“My approach is to invite everybody to the table. I mean we've got quite a way to go in terms of working out the regime under which the mine will reopen.
“As far as Bougainville Copper is concerned, the invitation is there for all interested parties to be there at the table to put their points of view to all of the people around the table and, hopefully, we'll be able to work out a workable compromise.”
He would like to see landowners take a stake in the mine, along with Rio Tinto and the PNG government. Before the mine closed, the PNG government received 20% of its profit while the island received 05-1.25%, leading to tensions between the island and PNG.
However, rumours abound that PNG Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare has been investigating reopening the mine with Chinese investment at the fore.
“There is nothing necessarily wrong with Chinese investment in Bougainville Copper. There's been no formal approach to the company directly from Chinese interests or from Prime Minister Somare or President Momis (of the autonomous Bougainville government) with a plan to include the Chinese,” Taylor said.
“As I said, I am willing to listen to any proposition. At the end of the day the investors in the company will have to decide whether they want a partner or not.”
It is estimated that a reopened Panguna mine could produce 170,000 tonnes of copper per year and a million ounces of gold. Before it was closed, resources from the mine represented 44% of PNG’s total exports.
In response to PNG Industry News asking about what was being done on the ground, Bougainville Copper said it was in contact with landowners on an informal level and would continue to consult going forward.
It also said that assuming everything went well, it could have the mine up and running in about a five-year timeframe from the approval date.
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