Rio has first right of refusal over Bougainville Copper

Papua New Guinea new mining law takes away Rio’s subsidiary rights

Panguna copper and gold mine once generated over 40% of PNG's GDP.

Papua New Guinea’s autonomous region of Bougainville last week passed a new mining bill that stripped mining rights from Rio Tinto’s (LON, ASX:RIO) subsidiary Bougainville Copper Limited (ASX:BOC) which had been operating there for more than 20 years.

The Bougainville Government said Friday Australia's Bougainville Copper will have first right of refusal when the first negotiations over new mining licences are launched.

Radio New Zealand News reports Bougainville Chief Administrator, Chris Siriosi, says they do not anticipate legal action from Rio Tinto:

"It is incumbent on the company to try and come up with a suitable agreement in place of the Bougainville copper agreement. An agreement that matches the times – this day and age, an agreement that gives additional wealth to the people of Bougainville."

Bougainville Copper, whose Panguna mine sparked a civil war in the 1990's and has not seen mining activity since then.

The internal conflict, which came about in part due to a demand from Bougainville rebels for higher mine royalties, and their anger at alleged environmental destruction, resulted in an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 deaths.