The Bougainville Government believes it can earn millions of dollars from the gold currently being mined and shipped out illegally.
There are dozens of illegal alluvial gold operations in the autonomous Papua New Guinea region and the Minerals and Energy Resource Minister, Rodney Osioco, said they estimate about 80 kilogrammes is leaving Bougainville every month.
He said as Bougainville prepares for its independence from PNG it wants to ensure that it is earning from the region’s resources.
The minister said the government intends making gold a ‘restricted item’ at all seaport and airport facilities.
“We have to talk with the National Airlines Corporation because the airport services is still in the Papua New Guinea Government, and PNG Port Services,” he said
“We have to reach a common understanding of putting our men there and involving our officials, especially the tax office or the department of finance, to monitor the movement of gold.”.
Rodney Osioco said the government would apply a tax to the gold and he thinks it could earn more than $US16 million annually, based on current prices.
He said there is a handful of mining operators with licences and those that remain unlicensed risk forfeiting all their gold at the ports.
The previous Bougainville Government, under John Momis, had raised the prospect of building a gold smelter in the region.
But Osioco said Bougainville is not yet ready for such a move.