Mine capture disputed by BRA
By Frank Enright
Claims by Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Paias Wingti that PNG armed forces retook the Panguna copper mine on Bougainville on August 16, have been described as premature. Speaking on Radio Free Bougainville, Joseph Kabui, vice president of the Bougainville interim government said, "The mine has not been captured and is still under the control of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army forces ... The PNGDF troops did move towards Panguna, aided by helicopter air drops, and are now dug in at the approaches of the mine."
Kabui challenged Wingti to honour the terms and conditions of the June 11 Memorandum of Understanding signed by representatives of both sides. But, he warned, "we will not be forced to negotiate by the barrel of the gun".
Wingti acknowledged that the mine's reoccupation would not mean the end of the six-year war on the island. Following the PNG government's announcement, the share price of CRA-owned Bougainville Copper Ltd rose sharply. However, CRA has made it clear that it will not attempt to reopen the highly profitable (and environmentally disastrous) mine unless there is a comprehensive political solution which has the blessing of the Bougainville people. The company has estimated that it will cost in excess of $500 million to bring the mine back to full production.