LAST week the Bougainville House of Representatives again debated lifting the moratorium on mining exploration and development on the island after an initial debate in April.
President Momis’s position that the moratorium should only be partly lifted received little support from representatives who overwhelmingly supported the full lifting of the moratorium.
It was a development that went unreported in a dramatic week in Papua New Guinea, and President Momis has expressed serious concerns about it.
His preferred position, and that of Mining Minister Robin Wilson, is for a partial lifting of the ban.
They want a more cautious approach to allow time to observe how the new ABG Mining Department handles a completely different system of mining tenements, to arrange for the grant of community mining licences for small-scale mining, and enable an international tender for highly prospective areas which could not be implemented if the moratorium is lifted in full.
President Momis also believes that, if the moratorium is lifted in full, there will be intense pressure for multiple mines to be approved.
There does seem to be a lack of understanding by some ministers and many Bougainville MPs about the problems that could be caused by completely lifting the moratorium.
But there is also a rational reason. Many leaders are concerned about the heavy dependence of Bougainville on PNG government grants, especially in a climate where the national government is dishonouring the financial provisions of the Bougainville Peace Agreement.
Leaders believe the rapid development of the mining sector is the only realistic way to achieve financial self-reliance in Bougainville.
It is believed the full lifting of the moratorium, although widely supported by law makers, will cause great controversy in Bougainville.
President Momis is understood to be wanting to steer a delicate middle course between what seems to be a pro-mining majority and a small but extreme anti-mining group.
Under the Bougainville Mining Act, only the Cabinet (the Bougainville Executive Council) and not parliament has the authority to lift the moratorium, whether partially or in full.
The Cabinet has not yet made a decision on the issue.