| President, Autonomous Bougainville Government
PANGUNA - 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 Papua New Guinea.
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 right.
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 exploration licence 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 the exploration licence 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 moves into the 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 as President to pursue this path.
STATEMENT BY THE BOARD OF BOUGAINVILLE COPPER LIMITED
PORT MORESBY - Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) can confirm that good progress has been made with the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) with respect to ending Judicial Review proceedings relating to the Company’s EL01 exploration licence in the Panguna project area.
In January 2018, the ABG refused an extension to the exploration licence with BCL maintaining that the application process had been undermined by third parties with vested interests in BCL’s mineral rights. This placed both the ABG and BCL in an unenviable position.
As a result, the Company, acting in the best interests of all its shareholders, was granted leave for a Judicial Review of the decision in the PNG National Court. The proceedings have continued to this day.
Separate to these proceedings, BCL and the ABG have been engaged in constructive dialogue with the mutual aim of amicably resolving the issue.
We are now pleased to confirm that through this dialogue BCL and the ABG have agreed on terms for a Deed of Settlement to end the Judicial Review proceedings with parties fulfilling their respective undertakings.
Meanwhile, ABG President Ishmael Toroama has affirmed that the ABG has undertaken to reconsider BCL’s EL01 application with a view to extending the exploration licence for a period of five years.
On delivery of respective undertakings, including the extension of the ELO1 exploration licence, BCL has agreed to withdraw the Judicial Review proceedings. The PNG National Court is expected to consider an application to stay the Judicial Review on 13 November 2023.
The ABG and people of Bougainville currently hold a 36.4% share in BCL and this is expected to increase to 72.8% once shares currently held by the PNG National Government are transferred as part of a separate commitment.