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Presidential Statement on BCL Court Proceeding

It is disappointing to learn of the commencement of a PNG Court Proceeding against Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) by self-interest parties who do not act in the interest of Bougainville as a whole. 

From the onset I make it clear that this proceeding is not supported by the Autonomous Bougainville Government in any way, shape or form. 

As the President of Bougainville, I strongly condemn this court proceeding and view it as targeted towards hindering Bougainville’s economic independence agenda. Redevelopment of the Panguna project is an important priority for this government and for the people of Bougainville. This action has potential to significantly disrupt existing progressive developments on the project. Thus, those Bougainvillean’s involved in pushing this class action have committed treason in the highest form. 

Who is behind the Panguna Mine Action LLC? They are major foreign investors who do not care about people on the ground in Bougainville. We also have the involvement of local Bougainvillean’s in the likes of Martin Miriori, Paul Nerau and Moses Pipiro who are not mandated to act as such on behalf of the people of Bougainville.  

I understand that few of the proponents of this include those linked to the most successful former North Solomon Provincial Government business arm in Bougainville Development Corporation (BDC), whose assets went into demise without any accountability to the people of Bougainville. These assets rightfully should have and should be benefiting the people of Bougainville as a whole even to this day. 

This class action is an attack on Bougainville’s hard-fought unity to date. It ignores the cooperation and progress that is being made by the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG), BCL and our stakeholders on the ground in Panguna and across Bougainville. 

These types of class actions, funded by faceless investors are part of a predatory new industry that are taking advantage of vulnerable groups, here and in other parts of the world. They promise everything but invariably the only winners, even when successful, are lawyers and the funders. ⁠The fine print shows that the funders will receive a major cut of any damages awarded if successful, they will also recoup all legal costs out of these damages which in a long-running case could run into tens of millions of dollars.  The funders will also take a substantial project management fee. Ultimately, Bougainville is not set to gain from such an action. It is not unusual for those that sign up to these types of actions to receive very little if anything at all. And the legal maneuvering could take 5 years or more. 

Further, this class action ignores the ABG sanctioned independent Panguna Mine Legacy Impact Assessment (PMLIA) process that is well underway to examine Panguna legacy issues - which will provide recommendations on dealing with issues that it identifies. The PMLIA process involves all concerned stakeholders including the ABG, BCL, Rio Tinto, human rights organizations and our local stakeholders including relevant local stakeholder communities and stakeholder groups. Rio Tinto and BCL are fully cooperating with this process.  ⁠⁠

I call on the litigation funders to withdraw from this exercise of greed and I urge local people to think very carefully what you are signing up to. This is not about helping local people it is about lining the pockets of foreign investors and lawyers.


Hon. Ishmael Toroama, MHR

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