BOUGAINVILLE president John Momis has told Radio New Zealand International that his government is proceeding with legal action against mining giant Rio Tinto over environmental destruction caused by the Panguna mine.
Until last year when it relinquished its shares, Rio Tinto was the majority owner of Bougainville Copper Ltd which ran the mine for 20 years before it was abandoned during the civil war.
Rio Tinto controversially handed its BCL shares to the Papua New Guinea and Bougainville governments and indicated it has no intention to clean up environmental damage caused by its mining.
“We are going to pursue this matter as a moral issue because [Rio Tinto] caused so much damage and just think they can get away scot-free,” Dr Momis told Don Wiseman of RNZI.
Explaining that Bougainville Copper is no longer the same company that was operating before last year when Rio Tinto handed back its shares.
“Landowners in recent meetings have repeated their commitment to work with BCL,” Dr Momis said.
“Some members of one of the associations have expressed, under pressure from another company from Australia, that they don't want BCL to come back but they are totally outnumbered by eight [other] landowner associations.
“The ABG is committed to work with [BCL] and try to come up with a new regime because we are now not only the regulators but we are also the shareholders in BCL.
“We want to know what the prime minister [Peter O’Neill] wants to do with the 17% given to them by Rio Tinto which the prime minister promised would go to the landowners.
“The landowners have made their position pretty clear, and that is to give it to ABG, which is their government.”
Asked by Don Wiseman if BCL would be producing gold and copper by 2025, Dr Momis said he believed this would be possible.