CHAIRMAN of Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL), Peter Taylor (pictured), has been reported by Radio Australia as saying parent company Rio Tinto may yet return to Bougainville.
In an earlier statement, Rio said it would review its majority stake in its subsidiary BCL.
The Australian newspaper reported this morning that this meant Rio was “likely to quit” its 53.8% stake in Bougainville Copper.
But in a more nuanced statement Mr Taylor told Radio Australia he's optimistic a solution can be found.
"One can't pre-empt what the outcome of that study is," he said, referring to the Rio review.
"It may be that Rio Tinto decides to pursue its investment, it may not, but I can't speculate."
BCL has been negotiating with landowners and the PNG and Bougainville governments for three years.
"The key challenge was to get the landowners and the landowner groups to come together and have a common agenda so they could come together and negotiate with the company, and the Bougainville government and the national government, and we've achieved that," Mr Taylor said.
Despite the past, most landowners want mining to restart, but on their terms, he said.
Mr Taylor said last week’s mining legislation passed by the Bougainville government was a setback.
He said under the new law, BCL will have to reapply for the mining lease it has lost.
The law gives landowners powerful veto rights over exploration, but not over mining of an area once an exploration licence is granted.
"It is complex but nonetheless I am optimistic that a reasonable solution can be achieved," Mr Taylor said.