Photo Credit: Ilya Gridneff/AAP
Rio Tinto and Bougainville Copper Limited's attempt to address remaining legacy concerns from the Panguna mine has been appreciated by the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG).
From 1973 until 1989, President Ishmael Toroama claimed that the Panguna mine was exclusively responsible for funding Papua New Guinea's independence and providing its economic basis.
Despite the mine's financial rewards, he added, Rio Tinto and BCL's inability to address environmental harm and local population relocation generated conflict between the people of Bougainville and the corporations, including the national government.
“Left unintended these issues became one of the major factors that directly contributed to the 10-year Bougainville civil war,” he said.
“In the last 30 years since the mine ceased operations, there is still extensive damage of the environment within the special mining lease and lower tailings (area).”
According to Toroama, an environmental evaluation will be conducted to determine the entire extent of the mine's harm.
He expressed his government's satisfaction that Rio Tinto and BCL were taking responsibility for their conduct, and he thanked the Human Rights Law Centre for giving legal advice and allowing complainants to submit their complaints to the organization for economic cooperation and development.
He also thanked the Australia National Contact Point for helping to facilitate the conversation.
The president praised Minister of Education Theonila Matbob for her efforts on behalf of the people in pursuing the subject.
“It was through her perseverance that we have been able to reach an amicable solution with Rio Tinto and BCL,” he said.
Meanwhile, Toroama put to rest rumours that his administration will give Panguna Mine concessions.
“The mine will remain closed until such time as all outstanding issues have been addressed,” he said.
“My government’s main agenda is to progress development and prepare our people for independence.”
Reference: The National (29 July 2021). “ABG welcomes miner’s move”.