Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has escalated his feud with Bougainville’s President, insisting his cabinet’s offer to hand over a key parcel of shares in Bougainville Copper to mine landowners is final.
“The distribution of shares for Bougainvilleans will be done by themselves,” Mr O’Neill said.
President John Momis had “furiously” rejected the PNG plan, announced by Mr O’Neill to the parliament last week, to transfer to “the landowners and the people of Bougainville” the 17.4 per cent parcel recently given to the national government by Rio Tinto, the former owner.
If combined with the further 36.4 per cent parcel given by Rio to the Autonomous Bougainville Government led by Mr Momis, this gives the island a controlling stake over the mine — which still contains copper and gold worth about $50 billion, but is estimated to cost upwards of $6.5bn to reopen.
However, if the 17.4 per cent parcel is given to a Bougainvillean splinter group that is at odds with the autonomous government — and several remain, leftovers from the civil war of 1989-2001 — then that group would hold a veto power over further development in the island.
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