MOSCOW, October 6 (RIA Novosti) - A proposed law would grant landowners in the island province of Bougainville near Papua New Guinea, the right to veto mining licenses and activities, the island's president was quoted as saying by The Guardian on Monday.
"I have always promised that the Panguna landowners will have a right to reject re-establishing of the Panguna mine," the president of the autonomous Bougainville government (ABG), John Momis was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
"The big change now will be that all Bougainville landowners will have those same rights over their own land," Momis said of the draft law.
The proposed bill is being considered amid discussions on the reopening of the Panguna copper and gold mines. Should the law be passed, both Panguna and Bougainville landowners will have the right to reject the reopening of the controversial mine, which was the center of a decade-long civil war in the past.
"Only when the long-term mining act is operating will cabinet consider lifting the existing moratorium on mining exploration and development, but the ABG believes mining exploration and development in Bougainville must be limited," Momis was quoted as saying by The Guardian.
"All decision will be made with close engagement of landowners. It is my strong view that the moratorium will be lifted, and exploration permitted, only in areas where landowners want exploration," he added.
A temporary law has been enacted delaying mining exploration and development until a decision will be made on the new bill. The existing law, enacted in August, allows landowners to veto exploration, but not development. The new law will extend landowners' powers as well as cap the number of major mines at two.
Momis stated the bill will be ready to be introduced in the beginning of 2015.
A rebellion of landowners protesting the Panguna copper and gold mine in November 1989 shut down the 18-year operation of one of the most lucrative copper mines in the world. The Papua New Guinea government was determined to keep operations going by the mine, which made up 44 percent of the country's export revenue since 1972. The mine operated by Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) and mostly owned by a subsidiary of the British-Australian mining giant, Rio Tinto, caused a decade-long war which ended in 1997 claiming some 5,000 to 20,000 lives.