There are more than 20 thousand mines around the world, each year billions of tons of minerals are extracted to provide building blocks of modern life in the develop Countries. Mining Companies when they operated on an Indigenous land they promised to reduce poverty and created employment and wealth, richest enough for all but at a cost of lives, properties and land.
They told the Indigenous people that the development due to the area will bring good roads, good roads so they can take the metals away. Will bring new medical facilities because there will be more sick people, build good schools but this is not development. It’s a bit of infrastructure that later deteriorate. In the end no anything done by the mining Company only painful ending.
My Island Mekamui/Bougainville was always an Island of natural richest; the Indigenous people enjoyed good health, and supply their own needs with abundance of food and fruits from the land. But the agreement in the 1970s with few locals and the Rio Tinto’s Subsidiary Bougainville Copper Limited or BCL for short changed the lives and environment of the Mekamui/Bougainville homeland.
Technically speaking the mine was forced down on the people, especially women the landowners. Only few who signed the agreement were benefited to some extend. Though it is no cause of celebration, its legacy became worst.
As the years went bye my beautiful Island of Mekamui/Bougainville becomes a battlefield, 20 thousands Indigenous people died during the civil war directly or indirectly while fighting to stop the mine and the Island to become Independent. Fortunately, the mine was close down and been closed for almost 21 years now. However, Independence is not yet gain, but Papua New Guinea Government granted Autonomous Government to Mekamui/Bougainville in June 2005.
After the peace agreement, Rio Tinto’s Bougainville Copper Limited [BCL] looks like it is heading towards repeating the same mistake again by talking of going back to the Island. They are asking how long the people of Mekamui/Bougainville will suffer; it is now time to look at re-opening the mine. Re-opening of mine represents a huge opportunity and tremendous development for the Region.
Mekamuian/Bougainvilleans should have good hospitals, schools, electricity, and roads and improve living standard. They are saying countless things, as with cutting edge technology there will be no contamination as in the past. But for the people of the land, will they plant and eat taro and potato on that land again?
Many of us are arguing that mining will come later after Independence, but they are saying when Panguna mine re-opens Mekamui/Bougainville will be economically independent and that will be viable for Mekamui/Bougainville political independence. The question that many people asked is has an Island or people become Independent when there is only mining on their land?
There are many tiny Pacific Island nations with no mining and cocoa and coconut plantation as in Mekamui/Bougainville. What makes them viable to be independent nations? Mekamui/Bougainville is the biggest cocoa and coconut producer in Papua New Guinea, so there is no question to the money issue.
Bougainville Copper Limited has no future for the people of Mekamui/Bougainville their only interest lies on the minerals on their land. They will rip the land apart and leave with no Independence for Mekamui/Bougainville homeland. This is a practical fact, as we grown up seeing only destruction and social problems when BCL was in operation.
In Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea lately they held a meeting and talked about reviewing the Bougainville Copper Limited agreement. Reviewing the agreement is not the solution to the Panguna Mine dilemma. It is a beginning of another heartfelt pain and suffering for the rural people of Mekamui/Bougainville.
I have travelled around and seen Indigenous people who became squatters and beggars’ in their motherland they can’t plant food and build houses in their land. Don’t want that to happen to our children on our beloved Island Mekamui/Bougainville. Government and Pro mining people “land is for gardening and not for mining”. Small scare mining can go ahead as long as they don’t use dangerous chemicals.
For the Love of Earth.