PM O’Neill denies ‘shady deal’ accusation over Bougainville mine

The abandoned Panguna copper mine on Bougainville island ... accusations by Bougainville leader John Momis denied by PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill. Image: PNGexposed

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has denied making a deal with Rio Tinto to take up the Bougainville Copper Limited shares offloaded by the international resource giant recently, the Post-Courier reports.

Correspondence seen by Post-Courier from a source close to the Prime Minister states that O’Neill had not met Rio Tinto officials in Port Moresby prior to the share divestment, and there had been no decision by the National Executive Council on the shares.

This comes after Bougainville President John Momis last week slammed what he called “a shady deal between the national government and Rio Tinto”.

Rio Tinto’s decision to transfer the BCL shares would make Papua New Guinea an equal shareholder with the Autonomous Bougainville Government in the company which operated the ill-fated Panguna copper mine.

Last week, Momis said the national government was “deeply involved” in the transfer because:

“Rio officials first advised me of the Rio share decision around 9pm on the night of Wednesday, June, 29.

“But a subsidiary of the National Government, Petromin, accepted the Rio Tinto shares the very next day. I can see no way Petromin could have been ready to jump on June 30 if PNG was not fully involved in Rio’s decision on its BCL shares.

“Yet when I met the Prime Minister to discuss the share issue two days later on Saturday June 30, he said he needed to see the details of the Rio decision.”

The Prime Minister’s assurances that he had not been part of a backdoor deal are backed up by the correspondence sighted by the Post-Courier which went on to state that the NEC would be meeting to discuss their options on this matter.

The communication said the Prime Minister was not aware of any movements of the Petromin board relating to the shares and if there were any, they would be reviewed by cabinet.

Bougainville leaders have been advised to await the return of the Prime Minister next week to negotiate what is hoped will be an amicable outcome.

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  1. So the PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill denies any ‘shady deals’ have been done with Rio Tinto.
    (See Postcourier report 8 July 2016).
    This is very difficult to accept.
    According to the Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL) website “The Independent State of Papua New Guinea (PNG) has taken up its 17.4 percent entitlement to Bougainville Copper Limited shares under the arrangements established by Rio Tinto, which gives PNG a 36.4 percent equity holding in the company.”
    It is questionable whether Mr O’Neill had met or not met Rio Tinto officials in Port Moresby prior to the share divestment, but Mr O’Neill did meet Rio Tinto in Singapore.
    The Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill himself did invite the ABG President John Momis for a meeting with RIO TINTO in Singapore on December 17th, 2015.
    So whilst the PNG Prime Minister insists he was not aware of any deal with Rio Tinto or any movements of the Petromin board (now Kumul Mineral Holdings Limited -KMHL) relating to the Rio Tinto shares that PNG has taken up, how will he explain this to the people of Papua New Guinea, his Cabinet and the National Executive Council?

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