Panguna Mine Dilemma

29 03 2011

Here is Clive’s article posted from the ground, giving us an inside on the real views of Mekamuians. BJ

Paguna mine is still a very sensitive issue. There has been a lot of media coverage by the mainstream media and in the outside world it looks like it will re-open tomorrow.  After so many one-sided media reports I went back to the ground to Mekamui/Bougainville to hear and see for myself if it will be re-opened soon.

On my first day in Arawa, many people I talked to were all against re-opening the mine. The silent majority that has never been interviewed and talked to by the mainstream media and the ones, who carry the pain every time when those in the high places look down on them, are opposed to the mine re-opening.

I went to see the Meekamui General Chris Uma to ask him what his position on the issue is and he gave me the article that he gave to the Post Courier: “Rebel hits out against mine talks”.

The next day I went to the checkpoint to interview the boys. I met an original Meekamui Government officer by the name of Bleise and he told me that this checkpoint would not be lifted, as we don’t want the mine to re-open. When asked what will happen if the pro-mining landowners sign an agreement, will you guys lift the check point? “No, the checkpoint won’t be lifted.”

I asked one of the Meekamui soldiers, who have been offered jobs if the mine re-openens by BCL, what they think about taking the jobs? The soldier told me that jobs are not important. “We care for our land and future generations. Where will our children live if we destroy the land?”

Back in Arawa again the media comes out with a story that Meekamui hardliner Chris Uma met and talked with Bougainville Regional member Mr F Semoso and given green light for the re-opening of the mine. I went early to Chris Uma’s residence and met him. I asked him if that is the gospel truth, he told me yes he met F Semoso but didn’t talk about the mine re-opening. That is one of the propaganda that the Government side is coming up with. He says he agreed to meet F Semoso so that he will know who Chris Uma is and where he stands.

A businessman in Arawa, who runs a guesthouse, while commenting on the issue says: “Mining is not the answer. It will bring more bloodshed on the Island if the pro mining landowners go ahead and sign any new agreement. I lost two sons in the war and no one pays me any compensation for their lives.”

Commenting on the employment he says: “Only the people with papers and skills will have the jobs.” He questions: “What about the widows and the unskilled? Agriculture should be encouraged, the widows and unskilled will have something to do and earn money when selling their produce.”

I met three mothers later going home after a meeting with the intended candidates for central Bougainville in the PNG national Government for 2012. They told me that as mothers who bear so much pain and lost their sons in the war they don’t want Panguna mine to re-open.  When asked about employment and development they all say: “What kind of development and employment is that, if it will destroy our land?”

Bougainville is blessed with many riches, apart from Gold and Copper.




One response

30 03 2011

It is fantastic that you are getting on the ground and relaying voices that are marginalised in the mainstream media.

We are seeing the same thing with the LNG project. A small elite of savvy businessman are lapping up the cream the operation will bring, and they are the ones who have the connections and skills to get their voice most palpably represented in the media. Meanwhile the poor rural farmer, who fears the project’s social consequences, and doubts its material benefits, remains isolated and unheard because they do not have the connections or insider knowledge to have their views relayed to the Post-Courier or The National.

It is also very exciting to hear you are documenting these voices, if you need any help with this project, just give me a shout. It is absolutely vital people are exposed to a full range of voices/views with respect to the mine’s reopening, especially given this operation will be run by a company which acted as the logistic arm of the PNGDF during 1989-1990 (trucks, fuel, accommodation, messing), indeed BCL sat in with Colonel Nuia as he planned Operation Footloose. This is very important work you are doing.

Best Wishes,

Dr Kris Lasslett
International State Crime Initiative

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