Mercenaries linked to Papua mine link

The security company at the centre of the crisis in Papua New Guinea was involved in attempts to reopen a controversial copper mine, a businessman with links to the company said yesterday.

Sandline International provided training and military assistance to the PNG government against the Bougainville rebels until a military revolt led to the suspension of the contract and the arrest of its chief executive, Tim Spicer. Businesses linked to Sandline had previously discussed the reopening and the financing of a copper mine while the Papuan government was undergoing negotiations with the British-based security company.

Tony Buckingham, whose businesses include mining and oil interests and operate from the same offices as Sandline said yesterday: "We offered to assist in identifying the right sources of capital and ownership."

Australian mining giant RTZ-CRA was forced in May 1989 to close the Panguna copper mine in central Bougainville, an island 500 miles north-east of the Papuan capital, Port Moresby, after rebels staged a series of sabotage attacks. Panguna, operated by RTZ-CRA's 53.6 per cent owned Bougainville Copper Ltd, generated a third of Papua New Guinea's foreign exchange.

According to Mr Buckingham: "The strategy recommended was for the Papua New Guinea government to buy back the mine from CRA so that they would control the equity and then get responsible groups involved in the development of the mine."

Mr Buckingham is known for his extensive mineral and energy interests in Angola and Sierra Leone where he introduced Executive Outcomes, the world's largest private army, to the governments of Sierra Leone and Angola. Some observers see his ventures as a new form of colonialism, securing mineral concessions on the back of private military ventures. But Mr Buckingham's response to these allegations is pragmatic: "If there is no stability there is no investment and no one benefits."

He insists that as a businessman his primary aim is to ensure satisfactory conditions for stability, which include ensuring that the government and population of the area where his interests lie are considered.

Mr Buckingham and Sandline have denied that any concessions would have been granted in lieu of payment. A Sandline spokesman said: "Sandline's mission was to bring about the resolution of the Bougainville conflict which would also entail the securing of the Panguna mine from the rebels. This was a straight cash deal."

Mr Buckingham also maintains that he has no corporate link with Mr Spicer's company although he advised and assisted Mr Spicer with his negotiations. "The point is that PNG holds a major asset which no one is benefiting from, least of all the people of Bougainville. Sandline's role was to deal with the security elements, our role in conjunction with other parties and the government would have been to develop the mine which would have brought benefits not only to the investors but also to Papua New Guinea and the people of Bougainville," he said.

Mr Buckingham claims that the present crisis has set Bougainville back many years.

An inquiry into the affair in PNG heard yesterday that the deal was proposed in a letter dated 1 August 1996. It suggested a "joint venture with your government, ourselves and RTZ-CRA to reopen and operate the Bougainville mine once recovered", said Ian Molloy, counsel assisting the inquiry.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager - eCommerce - OTE £100k

£50000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award-winning digital age...

Recruitment Genius: Training and Development Consultant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This software development organisation are loo...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable