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« Bougainville's ambiguity: Desire for autonomy & the PNG challenge | Main | Rio Tinto offers a more nuanced view of its Panguna intentions »

19 August 2014


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To the critical eyes of many Bougainville people is that 'Rio is playing us to get the ABG to re-think a threat so it can change the skin and come around as a new kid'

Bougainville has new models of development but have sick politicians who cannot think into Section 24 of our Bougainville Constitution.

Mipla yet write law but mipla faul yet

I agree to an extent Keith and Phil. I don't think it would be in Rio/BCL's commercial advantage to act in a bullish manner. Mining is a long-term business, with a large front-end investment; you want to be pretty sure about the former before anchoring the latter to a region for 20+ years.

And in PNG, where you do not have a central state capable of diffusing resistance if it calcifies into something pretty epic; this commercial calculation must include bringing the landowners on side.

On the other hand I cant help but think BCL/Rio do not have their finger on the pulse of the mine-affected communities in Panguna. Which is not to contest one bit the fact they genuinely wish to understand popular sentiment on the ground and act in accordance with it. The problem is they have tried to register this sentiment through the lens of a government who strongly believes the mine must open, and the forums developed to 'gauge' popular sentiment have been geared towards making this happen. So the message BCL has received has been polluted by a problematic process.

Also I think its hard to extrapolate BCL from the conduct of 1989-90, which CRA and RTZ were part of (in the sense they were the parent companies and thus kept in the loop by BCL's Chairman - and if they werent aware of the full extent of what BCL was doing on Bougainville, they should have made greater efforts to learn). BCL could have walked away when they began witnessing the atrocities being committed in the name of the mine reopening. Or if not walk away, they could have withdrawn their logistic support.

And even if that was impossible they could have condemned the PNGDF (after all, they did when soldiers began stealing whitegoods from company homes). But none of these courses were opted for, logistic support was supplied, and the offensive operations were approved of by BCL's Managing Director. Today BCL could still repair some of the hurt by acknowledging truth, but still it resists honouring this very elementary dignity all humans deserve, and has strongly denied the allegations in the face of overwhelming evidence. While Rio voted down a shareholder action that called for a thorough investigation by an independent jurist.

Sorry to sound like a broken record on this front. I just cant help but feel if BCL had really reformed its ways, it would have come to the table on these issues in a more open and transparent manner.

Oh and Martyn what can I say, you hit the bullseye.

Its hard to attract mining investment so, should Rio Tinto leave, the ABG must seriously reconsider an alternate economic model for development other than mining.

It is rather sad that a lack of foresight amongst some leaders has set a nation and its people on a wild goose chase.

Mining will always be a controversial issue in Bougainville so any sensible leader should not place it on the priority list of the nation's development agenda.

This isn't about whether one is for or against mining rather it is about avoiding the allocation of public resources and time on an issue with an unpredictable outcome.

Bougainvilleans need to chart an alternate, non-mining, model of development if they are to sustain themselves as an independent people.

Having worked with BCL as an external consultant for a couple of years now, I can support what Phil Fitzpatrick says about the sensitivity and care with which they have approached the recent task in Bougainville.

The company, with Rio's blessing I assume, has been at pains to move gradually and in exhaustive consultation with the PNG and Bougainville governments as well as the landowners themselves.

This has been a refreshing change from the other form of resource development which considers the welfare of the people affected to be secondary to commercial considerations.

My observation is that BCL has a lot of friends in Bougainville despite the troubled history of mining in the province.

I am sure that whatever decision Rio finally makes it will be for the best of reasons.

I've worked with Rio Tinto on some of their exploration leases on mainland PNG and was very impressed with their attitude to culture and environment.

In one area they walked away from a very promising prospect because of the perceived effects on the local people and the environment.

I'm not sure what is happening with the other exploration leases they have got on the mainland.

They are an entirely different company to the one that went into Bougainville in the 1960s. I imagine that some people in the company will be glad to walk away from Bougainville because of its reflection on their integrity.

The fact that the PNG government has a large stake in BOC is worrying because, as Ok Tedi has shown, they will ruthlessly exploit it. Some of the independent shareholders, one of whom comments on this blog, are worrying too.

Hopefully it all works out well for the people of Bougainville.

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