PORT MORESBY - Bougainville Copper Ltd has said it is yet to be notified by the Autonomous Bougainville Government of a moratorium on further developments at the Panguna mine, once one of the world's biggest copper and gold mines.
The company said in a statement that it is seeking clarification from Bougainville’s Department of Minerals and Energy Resources about the report.
Reporters could not reach the Bougainville government for comment.
Earlier this week there were reports from a Bougainvillean journalist that President John Momis had imposed an indefinite moratorium on exploration and mining at Panguna.
Bougainville Copper has been working to restart the mine, which was shut by a civil war in 1989, but its access has been contested by junior mining comp any, RTG which claims to have the backing of a local Panguna landowners association.
The Bougainville Government has previously been strongly critical of RTG’s involvement.
New Zealand-based Asia Pacific Report quoted Dr Momis as saying his government’s executive council decided to impose the indefinite moratorium after landowners narrowly failed to support a plan to reopen the mine.
“We will not allow this project once again to reignite the wounds of the Bougainville crisis and distract our focus for restoring peace and our preparation for our referendum in 2019,” Dr Momis asaid.
Bougainville’s 250,000 people are scheduled to vote on the island’s political future in June 2019 and it is considered that mining revenue is essential to underpin any future independence.
There has been a struggle between Bougainville Copper, backed by the Bougainville government, and RTG, a consortium of Australian investors backed by some landowners, over who will run the mine.
Bougainville Copper shares fell by as much as 17% following the report of the moratorium on mining and exploration.