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President Toroama announces progress in Judicial Review Dialogue with Bougainville Copper Limited

I am pleased to advise that good progress has been made in our ongoing discussions with Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) aimed at amicably ending long-running Judicial Review proceedings in the National Court of PNG.

Back in January 2018, the ABG refused an extension of BCL’s EL01 (exploration licence) and three months later the company was granted leave by the court for a judicial review of the decision. The proceedings have remained ongoing ever since.

Much has happened during this time, including the historic referendum paving way for Bougainville’s independence, and planning for growing the local economy. BCL has also continued its transition as a local company, and the ABG currently has 36.45% shareholding in BCL, and is in the process of transferring another 36.45% presently held by the National Government.

In all, the ABG and people of Bougainville are set to have a 72.9% ownership stake in BCL. Many Bougainvilleans also separately own shares in their own rights.

BCL now has five Bougainvillean directors to reflect its local identity. Thus, it is in the interests of all of us to have constructive relations with a company that is locally owned and operated.

In this spirit, the ABG and BCL have agreed on terms for a deed of settlement that would result in BCL ending the judicial review proceedings once the parties have delivered on a series of undertakings. These include BCL contributing funds to assist Panguna reburials and reactivating the Bougainville Copper Foundation education scholarships program.

For its part, the ABG has agreed, consistent with the Bougainville Mining Act 2015, to reconsider BCL’s EL01 extension application with a view to extending the exploration licence for five years. It must be stressed that this would NOT be a mining licence; the issuance of which is subject to a separate process. BCL has agreed to file a notice with the court for the discontinuance of the Judicial Review.

An extension of EL01 will allow BCL to continue its program of community support and work cooperatively with the ABG, landowners and the broader community to achieve mutual goals.

Any future redevelopment of Panguna under a mining licence will inevitably require the involvement of many project partners. The ABG will continue to progress dialogue with landowners and important stakeholders in preparation for the eventual granting of a mining licence in the near future.

In the meantime, required feasibility related activities must be progressed under an exploration licence; these activities will take years to complete before the project sees actual mining development stage.

Furthermore, the ABG conducted five Regional Forums, two Ex-Combatant Forums, and one Women in Mining Forum from 2012 to 2014 with between 18,000 to 20,000 participants expressing overwhelming support to redevelop the Panguna project.

“Panguna is also a Bougainville-wide agenda given its relationship with the Bougainville Crisis. This fact, coupled with evidence of strong backing across Bougainville from prior consultative forums undertaken by the ABG in North, Central and South Bougainville supports my decision to pursue this path as President,” President Toroama said. 

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