Media Release | Spokesperson Scott Ludlam
Tuesday 28th June 2011, 4:39pm
* Human Rights & Justice:
* Australian Mining Overseas:
Rio Tinto must reveal the full extent of its involvement in the Bougainville war,
the Australian Greens said today in the wake of revelations Papua New Guinea’s Prime
Minister has given evidence under oath on the decisive role of the company’s
subsidiary in the conflict.
Greens Senator Scott Ludlam said the Australian Government must also explain its own
role in the war, and what it knew about the role of Rio Tinto subsidiary
Bougainville Copper Limited in the conflict that claimed 15,000 lives.
“The out-going Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Michael Somare, while Leader of
the Opposition in 2001, stated in a sworn affidavit that BCL was the driving force
behind the military action in Bougainville, and the blockade of the island, to
re-open the copper mine. His view has been backed by the former head of PNG defence
Major General Jerry Singirok. In light of these revelations, as BCL’s parent
company, Rio Tinto must come clean on Bougainville,” said Senator Ludlam.
Mr Somare’s evidence is part of an on-going class action in the US against Rio Tinto
which began in 2001, brought by victims of the conflict.
“Mr Somare has said under oath that Rio Tinto demanded the blockade of Bougainville
and military action, and that BCL provided helicopters, transport, fuel, barracks
and pilots for the PNG Government’s war against the Bougainville rebels. If this is
found to be true, will Rio Tinto compensate the victims of this war? And what was
the involvement of our own Government in this?”
Senator Ludlam said the Bougainville copper mine provided the PNG Government with
about 20 percent of its revenue while the Bougainville locals’ gain from the mine
was a derisory amount of income and a ruined environment. This led to local
resistance and the PNG government responded with a brutal crack-down.
“This war drove half the population of Bougainville from their homes. By 1995,
64,000 people were in refugee camps. Ten per cent of the population died. The
Australian Government was supplying weapons and training to the PNG army while the
PNG government vowed to kill anyone who broke a blockade on the island, a blockade
that kept out medical supplies. This was a horrendous, bloody war on our own
doorstep. It’s time for the whole truth behind it to be known.”
Media Contact: Giovanni Torre – 0417 174 302