SYDNEY, May 2 (Reuters) – An autonomous area of Papua New Guinea scarred by a violent history of exploiting its vast mineral resources has lifted a 40-year-old ban on new mining, looking to start churning out iron ore and copper to ship to key metals markets like China.
Bougainville Island was roiled by a bloody secessionist conflict that lasted over a decade from the late 1980s, fired by a campaign of sabotage by landowners angry about the distribution of benefits from the giant Panguna copper mine.
That mine has remained closed since then, with Rio Tinto relinquishing ownership last year, while mining elsewhere on the island has been banned since the 1970s due to concerns over revenue-sharing and potential environmental damage.
“We have learnt our lessons from the Panguna experience and now we have the opportunity to do a better job,” Bougainville president John Momis said in a statement on Sunday.
“I invite and welcome applications from prospective applicants to invest in our mining sector,” he said, without specifying why the ban had been lifted now. Scrapping the ban allows for applications to mine in the iron ore rich areas of Tore, Isina and Jaba, but does not include Panguna, one of the world’s largest copper mines.
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