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This Brand New Nation Is Gearing Up For Mineral Exploration

Bougainville mine

Big opportunities come when new terrains open for exploration. And this week, one of the world’s newest countries declared itself open for business — offering up ground that already holds some world-class mineral finds.

The place is Bougainville. A 9,300 square-kilometer island, formerly part of eastern Papua New Guinea — Google Earth view below.

(Click to enlarge)

Bougainville is a newly-autonomous territory in eastern Papua New Guinea

Unlike Papua New Guinea, Bougainville has been closed to new mining and exploration projects for a full 46 years, since 1971. Partly because of political conflict in the region during the 1980s — and also due to concerns over mining activities that historically took place on the island.

But the local government now wants to change that. With president John Momis saying in a statement this week that he has lifted the moratorium, and welcomes new investment in mining.

The area involved here isn’t huge. But Bougainville will likely be of interest for exploration firms — because of the one mine the country does hold, which demonstrates major potential for copper and gold.

That’s the Panguna mine. Which was developed here in the 1970s by Rio Tinto — and contained an initial resource of nearly a billion tonnes at 0.5 percent copper and 0.6 g/t gold. Related: Russia Inclined To Extend Output Cut Deal With OPEC

The mine was a major producer until it was shut down in 1989 due to political unrest. Afterward it became a contentious asset — with Bougainville residents saying they didn’t get enough of the profits, and that they suffered environmental damage from the mine.

The mine has lain dormant since, and won’t be included for licensing, according to the Bougainville government. But the rest of the island is now available — potentially opening up some targets for similar, major porphyry deposits.

All of this comes as Bougainville is gearing up to become the world’s newest nation. With a vote on full autonomy expected in 2020. Watch to see who will take up the government’s invitation to start exploring — and what the terms and licensing conditions will be.

Here’s to green fields.

By Dave Forest

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