RTG Mining has collaborated and formed a consortium with landowners in Central Bougainville to revitalize the local Panguna copper mine.

After being nominated as the preferred development partner for landowners, RTG Mining (ASX:RTG,TSX:RTG) has presented its Panguna copper mine redevelopment proposal to Bougainville’s House of Representatives.

RTG is working in collaboration with a consortium of Papua New Guinea (PNG) landowners, including the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Land Owners Association (SMLOLA), to revitalize and restart the mine.

Located in Central Bougainville, the Panguna mine was once considered the largest open-pit mine in the world and made up around 40 percent of PNG’s total economy while in operation.

However, the mine closed in 1989 after community concerns, such as the environmental impact made by the previous operator, Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO,LSE:RIO,NYSE:RIO) subsidiary Bougainville Copper (BCL).

Civil war erupted on the island shortly after the mine’s closure, with much of the unrest caused by issues stemming from Panguna’s operation; the 10-year conflict saw the loss of 20,000 lives.

Despite BCL’s reputation in Bougainville, the company — no longer run by Rio Tinto — has been vying to pick the Panguna mine back up. While the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) now owns a 36.4-percent share in BCL, the ABG denied the renewal of BCL’s exploration license in January, spurring a lawsuit from BCL.

Under a mining act passed in 2015, SMLOLA is now the rightful owner of the mineral rights at Panguna, and its permission is required to gain land access to the mine. SMLOLA has since formed a joint venture with Central Exploration, in which RTG owns a 70-percent stake.

According to RTG’s Monday (September 10) release, the consortium won the support of the House of Representatives Committee from Central Bougainville, and is working to gain approval from the ABG.

As part of the efforts to win support from both the ABG and nearby community, the consortium has been working to develop social license through various ventures and contributions. This includes an extensive community awareness program in all key villages, and lending support to local programs.

Supporting local programs in the area has come in the way of donating critical medicines to the nearby Arawa hospital, sponsoring both Bougainville Day celebrations and grassroots soccer in Arawa, along with supporting schools, education and the Women’s Federation.

The most recent contribution was the sponsorship of grassroots rugby in the community.

“We are delighted RTG and the Panguna Landowners have recognised the important role sport and particularly rugby can play in advancing the peace and reconciliation process on Bougainville,” said Peter Tsiamalili, president of Autonomous Bougainville Rugby.

“We very much look forward to working with a team that are committed to improving the quality of life and genuinely have the best interests of the people of Bougainville at heart,” he added.

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Securities Disclosure: I, Olivia Da Silva, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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