RTG Mining Inc. on Dec. 27 expressed its support for the Autonomous Government of Bougainville's decision to impose a moratorium on mining and exploration activities over the Panguna copper project area in Papua New Guinea, saying the move prioritizes landowners, majority of whom opposed Bougainville Copper Ltd.'s development of the project.
According to RTG, the government confirmed that Bougainville Copper's application to extend its expired exploration license over the project was not approved by the landowners comprising the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association, or SMLOLA, which is a basic requirement for the application.
SMLOLA is part of a joint venture company that was considering RTG as a development partner for Panguna in June. This venture is competing with Bougainville Copper over the project's development and ABC reported earlier this month that a mining warden's hearing has been held to determine if Bougainville Copper should retain the project license after the company was forced to abandon Panguna in 1989.
RTG further noted that the moratorium can only be implemented if there is no existing license over the area, implying the expiry of Bougainville Copper's license, and that the government also seeks to impose a moratorium over the grant of new licenses over Panguna while it consults with landowners on the alternative development models for the project.
Meanwhile, Bougainville Copper said Dec. 23 that it is yet to be notified of the moratorium and that it is seeking clarification over the matter from the Department of Minerals and Energy Resources. RTG, on the other hand, reiterated that its submissions for the project's development provide a realistic strategy and is the only application supported by the SMLOLA.