Papua New Guinea: Companies' eyes are on Panguna mine following Bougainville's referendum
Author: Natalie Whiting, ABC, Published on: 15 January 2020
"Bougainville voted yes to becoming the world's newest nation. Now begins the gold rush", 14 December 2019
A ceremony to announce the results of Bougainville's historic referendum....will also turn eyes back to a massive open-cut mine that has been sitting, waiting in the mountains since the 1980s.
Economically, the most obvious income stream for the resource-rich area is mining, but that would involve revisiting the issues that started the bloody conflict in the region.
Several companies are already circling, keen to make a move now that the vote is over.
Keeping the mine closed has been seen as part of maintaining peace ahead of the referendum.
The local landowners now largely want to see it open, however, a split is already forming over which company should be brought in.
The most prominent landowner group is backing Australian company RTG, but there is another group of landowners who want to see the original company, Bougainville Copper Limited, brought back. The Bougainville Government has supported a third company, Caballus, which is also Australian.
That, combined with the ongoing political discussions, could create an uncertain investment landscape.
Mr Marape has said the PNG Government's 39 per cent stake in Bougainville Copper Limited will be given to Bougainville, but he urged people to look at other industries as well, like agriculture.
It's not just Panguna that has been attracting attention — landowners say they've received visits from other companies, some from Australia and some from China, interested in looking at other greenfield sites in the region.