THERE ARE SERIOUS QUESTIONS ABOUT the legitimacy of the exploratory and mining partnerships between Canada-based Morumbi Resources and five land ownerships companies in Bougainville.
It is unclear from where these land ownership companies derive their authority, but it seems they have over-stepped their jurisdiction, with neither the Autonomous Bougainville Government nor the government of Papua New Guinea having sanctioned any exploratory or mining projects in Bougainville.
Attention was drawn to Morumbi’s activities in Bougainville with last month’s appointment of Lindsay Semple as chief executive officer.
Semple, an Australian national, has a colourful history in PNG and Bougainville, having previously brokered a 10-year logging deal on the mainland which is alleged to have lasted only a few months resulting in land owners and contractors not being paid what they were owed.
Then, in 2008, Semple, acting for Invincible Resources, made facilitation payments of $8 million to President Joseph Kabui and the Autonomous Bougainville Government to secure a deal for 70% of Bougainville’s mineral resources.
The late Joseph Kabui never took the deal to Bougainville’s parliament and as a result was facing a vote of no-confidence before his sudden death in June 2008.
The deal was canned following Kabui’s death, but not before $200,000 had been spent by Kabui and another $1 million had been withdrawn by other unnamed persons.
At the heart of the deal was Sam Kaouna, financial advisor to Kabui, who it seems saw it as his place to decide on the future mineral resources for Bougainville when he and Lindsay Semple created Invincible.
Kauona told the ABC’s Steve Marshall in 2008: “Lindsay Semple, out of hundreds of interested investors that came into Bougainville, turns out to be that person, that special person, who is genuine, who is able to listen to the way people think.
“Look, although hundreds, I have chosen Lindsay because in my heart I feel that he's the person Bougainville needs.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, four years on Kauona is again at the centre of affairs; this time as vice chairman and director of Isina Resource Holdings, one of the landowner groups that have made deals with Morumbi.