4 02 2014

USAID warns Panguna reopening, corporate impunity and AusAID legislation greatest threats to stability on Bougainville
Bougainville Stability StudyThe Panguna mine cannot fund Bougainville’s independence, and is the most credible source of instability in Bougainville, so says a recent United States government agency report titled Bougainville Stability Desk Study [1mb].

According to USAID, many on the ground in Bougainville are adamantly opposed to Rio Tinto’s return, feel overlooked by ABG ‘consultation’ process, and have a thirst for justice.

USAID also warns that the recent mining legislation drafted for the ABG by AusAID consultant, Anthony Regan, ‘could reignite conflict’. They also worry anger over corporate and state abuses have been allowed to fester, which could explode if Rio Tinto return.

Given these damning conclusions by the aid agency of a world superpower, you would think perhaps one or two news services would have reported on the findings, published on 27 January? But no!

In glaring contrast, when the Australian Strategic Policy Institute called for the Panguna mine’s reopening and Australian Defence Force boots on the ground, they were given prime time on Australia’s ABC radio and television. Even a minor blog post by a former ADF officer calling for the mine’s reopening was given a whirl on the ABC.

It would seem if anyone sneezes ‘Rio reopen the mine’, the ABC reports it along with other regional news agencies.

There is, however, apparently no room for modest dissenting opinions – even one from state agencies belonging to a conservative world power. In the Aussie dominated South Pacific even they are too radical!

Here are some key highlights from the report:

‘Though the Bougainville peace process is widely heralded as a peacebuilding success, the post-conflict order remains fragile’.
‘The political, social, economic, and environmental fallout from the opening of the Panguna mine in 1972 by Bougainville Copper Ltd. (BCL), a subsidiary of the Australian Rio Tinto mining company, was the primary catalyst for conflict’.
‘Simply stated, negotiating the “most conflict-prone problem in Bougainville today” is a high-risk endeavour, particularly because reaching “consensus on the future of the Panguna mine is crucial for the future of peace in Bougainville.”’
‘Starting in 2009, the ABG held extensive consultations within Panguna and the areas in its immediate surrounding … Despite these developments, the more recent public fora appear less inclusive and comprehensive’.
‘Though restrictions to the mine area have eased, these hardline [Meekamui] factions still control the access road to the mine, as well as the site itself [Note: Hardline = opposed to foreign corporate ownership of Bougainville]. They also enjoy considerable support, including from communities downstream from the mine who were subject to the environmental damage’.
‘These ongoing [ABG] public fora have also been criticized for not representing other key constituents. To date, only a few fora have been held, turnout has been low, and questions remain about the outreach to, and thus participation of, key landowners’.
‘A number of leading women activists have disparaged the [ABG consultation] process for not including women’s voices more visibly and prominently; this is particularly significant in a society that is traditionally matrilineal. The perception that plans to re-open the mine are moving forward without a meaningful voice for Bougainvillean stakeholders—reminiscent of the 1970s and ‘80s—is a cause for significant concern’.
‘The re-opening of the mine may cause instability in other ways. BCL appears unwilling to provide financial compensation to victims of the conflict. This is likely to be a sticking point, given that according to the Umbrella Panguna Landowners Association, compensation “will come as a pre-condition to any negotiation talks.”’
‘The Meekamui, for example, still demand that Rio Tinto pay 10 billion Kina (approximately 4.2 billion U.S. dollars) in compensation. Some even demand that Rio Tinto be prohibited from mining in Bougainville’.
‘The new mining law that was developed by the ABG ostensibly looks promising in that “approval of mining and resolution of disputes will be negotiated in an all-inclusive landowner forum process.” A potential pitfall, however, appears to be the provision in the law placing the ABG in control of mining once operations have begun, including decisions on revenue sharing. This has the potential to marginalize landowners, and, reminiscent of the 1970s and 80s, could reignite conflict over equitable revenue sharing’.
‘Strong support has emerged in Bougainville in favor of opening the mine prior to independence: this is based on the belief that independence is only possible if Bougainville is economically viable, which can only be accomplished by reopening the mine. If the timetable of the referendum is held, however, it seems increasingly unlikely that the mine will be open before that time; even more certain is that it will be years (well after the referendum) before the mine is generating revenue for the government’.
‘The fear today is that once again external factors—i.e. the referendum and the re-opening of the mine—could unleash local conflicts. This may be particularly destabilizing given the number of unreconciled conflicts that still exist as a legacy of the war’.



2 responses

4 02 2014

Here is the study as 900 KB .pdf – it has only 25 pages 🙂

Cheers from Germany … sorry Clive, couldn’t be there for your Aussie tour … but surely for the Independence Day of the Free Republic of Mekamui (formerly known as North Solomones Province on Bougainville 🙂

5 02 2014
dave sansone

Thank you for getting this info past the media blockade. It is rare for the US to publish documents like this…it adds gravity to the situation.

quick thoughts,

I am sensing a carrot and the stick operation. Offering something seemingly appealing or threatening some impending doom.

The carrot–“all-inclusive landowner forum process” sounds like US style public comment period where people get 3 minutes to tell government officials their concerns, ideas and then the government implements their plan. The government’s most important concern I have seen in US is economics–like a religion and money is the new false idol. they create laws and permits for companies to pollute, not pay taxes to the local govenment and more.

Government control of the mine (final say) and government being a beneficiary of the mine(making money) will of course encourage the government to maximize profits–if not right away, in a generation.

Washington state in USA manages extensive “forestry” lands to pay for the state’s schools. Hundreds of acres of tree are cut regardless of the “market” for timber…low value of wood means they must log more to pay for schools. Seemingly good idea that is destroying much land in the name of educating the youth–the example is what the children really learn from…no wonder why youth rebel..

If the decision making started on the local level and then out toward the national level, then the people in each area would be responsible to create the vision for what they want and how to acheive it. It doesn’t work very well with industrial civilization because if everyone decides to act in “7 generations” thinking, no body would OK a mine, a city, a road, an export monocrop farm or deforested landscape in the name of a ranch….

The traditional matrilineal society thinks in advance about the needs of the future generations, right?

The flip side is the short term economic scarcity based society that breaks culture down to families, then nuclear family (no extended family) then individuals. As people abandon traditional ways they must work for pay more…to the point that no one knows who to do much but their little specialized job–“developing countries” are easily robbed by foreign merchants who benefit from inflated outside finances built off of 500+ years of empire building.

Even if you work 45 years of 40 hours a week doing the same destructive thing everyday, with a 1 hour drive (risking ones life driveing fast) to and from work and save up money for when one gets old, what is to stop a small group of connected law makers, business leaders to committ massive fraud=?

Now after generations of empire based war,, and govenrment scandals, the US owes trilltions of dollars in debt that statistically it cannot ever pay off–the government has been backrupted, but not officially…Right as the “the baby boomers all retire(people born in 140-1950’s) the economy will likey plunge again and rob them of their hard earned retirement finances. …Like sheep being led to the slaughter. =t

that is what the real secret to the Bush families wealth and power. n the US.led by the Bush family-It is a pyramid scheme that takes advantage of “new” people in the pyramid . Sorry if I sound like a grouch or complainer, but just like the media blockade that doesn’t let the truth out about what the people on the ground think, the false images of western development that paint the images of streets paved with gold, a land of abundance and the ability to make dreams cometrue.

The secret to it all is exploitation of the land and people. If you and your famility are new to the pyramid scheme,, history has shown that you will most likely be the one who is taken advantage of amd coercced into exploiting the land…

Sorry for so many words…How can I not epress them at this time that the world breathes down your neck Mekamui. They try every which way to get theiir precious gold. They misleed because they are misled. I have the most hope for your beautiful land and people because you have not been shipped up and away from everthing and evyone to make others rich.

I believe if Mekamui holds out hard and fast saying “XXXX” is who we are and “YYYY” is what we decided for ourselves, especially in the international can reach your goal when there is enough international pressure. How can any company or foriegn government pretend they own the ancient land you protect? If we stop playing pretend and confer with others, then the abusers have a much tougher time getting away with the abuse and can be taught how to act properly.

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