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Mineral-rich area of Papua New Guinea lifts decades-old ban on new mining

[PORT MORESBY] A mineral-rich region of Papua New Guinea has lifted a 40-year-old ban on new mining and exploration, opening the way for iron ore and copper operations.

The autonomous Bogainville region has a troubled history over resource development, with a bloody secessionist conflict erupting in the late 1980s stoked by dissatisfaction in how benefits from the Panguna copper mine were distributed.

Global mining giant Rio Tinto Ltd said last year that it would relinquish ownership of Panguna, closed for around 25 years.

The lifting of 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 largest copper mines in the world, Bougainville president John Momis said in a statement on Sunday.

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He added that scrapping the ban would ensure the area's economic development, with the government seeking applications from genuine investors. "I look forward to the development of long term economic partnerships to allow Bougainville to fulfil the economic potential she rightly deserves," Mr Momis said.

The moratorium on exploration and mining had been in place since 1971 - with the exception of Panguna - due to local concerns over revenue-sharing and the impact on the environment.