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Bougainville has many revenue sources; we don’t need a mine

Leonard Fong Roka  October 2014 H&SLEONARD FONG ROKA

PANGUNA - Since the formation of the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) in 2005, a chronic shortage of revenue has been the norm.

The Kabui government experienced it; the Tanis regime had a big taste of it, and now the Momis government screams about it.

This is not because we are poor but because we are caught up in a neo-colonial system that controls and tries to keep developing states as its slave.

Thus in the Pacific, every state - including Bougainville that wants to be a state - will always have big brother Australia looking over us.

In every ABG government department, there is some Australian advisor and monitor.

Australian advisors gave the ABG a Mining Act that will assist re-open the Panguna mine, but this extractive industry will need foreign expertise and money that Bougainville lacks.

Before 1990, the Panguna did not benefit Bougainvilleans as much as cocoa and copra.

The 2008 report, Market Chain Development in Peace Building by Ian Scales, Raoul Craemer and Indra Thappa, stated that Bougainville from 1979-89 produced an annual average of 15,600 tonnes of cocoa. This is a lot of revenue.

In 2006, under the ABG, Bougainville produced 12,800 tonnes of copra and 15,000 tonnes of cocoa. Where is the money going to?

Bougainville, with a population of about 300,000, has money. Forget Panguna. Get the ABG to take ownership of the two big cash crop earners that are sustaining the families of Bougainville.

Alluvial gold is now an industry in Bougainville, but it is not bringing change to our people. Where is the regulation and taxation? Foreign fishing fleets are always in Bougainville waters. Is ABG collecting revenue from this activity?

Planes are always using Bougainville airspace, who collects revenue from them? Digicel and Telecom have towers throughout Bougainville, who benefits? Simcards in our mobile phones are taxable in other countries. Bougainville can do it.

If ABG is concerned about its revenue, non-Bougainvillean companies like Bank South Pacific and PNG Pawa must be part-owned by the Bougainville government or must give free shares in their Bougainville operations to ABG or other Bougainvillean companies.

If all these revenue sources are tapped into by the ABG, Bougainville and its people will be advanced far more than Papua New Guinea.

Comments

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Lukis Romaso

In the mid 1960s I was attending Rigu High School when the first resistance to the Panguna Mine took place. The women took the physical brunt of the confrontation. It appears to some of us that the issue refuses to go away. Is the reopening of the mine a solution or a curse for Bougainville given the very people involved in the conflict are sitting on opposite sides of the issue.We must also be mindful that material greed does not creep into this.
I am also convinced that with the rehabilitation of cocoa and coconut plantations in the province and the introduction of improved cocoa varieties to farmers. Bougainville can go back to its glory days in the 1960s until the crises came. During the period, the province produced over 50% of PNGs cocoa export. Bougainville's immediate sustainable livelihood depends on this and not the Panguna Mine.

Jaffie Amani

When discussing the opening of the Panguna mine, we really need to understand the disadvantages and advantages of opening the mine.

I was in high school when the fighting broke out and the fear of such a scenario happening or repeating itself is still fresh in the minds of all Bougainvilleans.

The other issue that is yet to be resolved and has not been completed is weapons disposal.

I think our leaders must get back to basics and tackle the small problems first before thinking of reopening the mine, which is a giant step forward.

Remember, we don't want any more bloodshed on Bougainville and I am speaking from experience.

Philip Fitzpatrick

I agree with Leonard.

Even in a general sense I wonder whether the world actually needs more copper and gold. When you think about what those two minerals are used for neither seems to be particularly necessary.

It seems that the primary reason for mining both minerals and petroleum is making money for a select few. And in that process the environment suffers.

When there is money around people argue about access to it. If the Panguna mine opens up in all probability the old arguments that led to its closure will re-surface again. Does Bougainville need that? I don't think so.

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