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10 January 2018


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The Panguna mine in its current abandoned state would make a great tourist attraction Paul.

It could stand out as a physical reminder of how greed, jealousy and arguments over the distribution of profits from resources can destroy a society. A kind of memorial to the follies of colonial capitalism.

I reckon it would be up there with Disneyland and would attract visitors from all over the world.

On a more sober note it also stands as a memorial to all those who lost their lives fighting over it.

Are we sure that "But one thing is for sure: Without revenues from the Panguna mine under the leadership of BCL that is owned by the Autonomous Bougainville Government, the independence of the island will remain a sweet dream."

Separate to the BCL vs RTG issue there is a more fundamental assumption. Why is a mine essential for independence?

Bougainville's agricultural prospects are reasonably strong. It has some of the best agriculture land in PNG. Its cocoa and copra plantations were extremely productive prior to 'the troubles'. Tourist potential would appear significant if law and order issues are contained. Its waters would link into fishing revenues under the Nauru agreement.

The estimated population of around 300,000 is larger than many other Pacific Island Nations - about half Solomon Islands but slightly larger than Vanuatu, New Caledonia or French Polynesia, and significantly larger than Samoa. These countries get by with a form of independence without a mine.

Experience also is that mining can lead to "resource curse" issues - ones that may be very manifest in Bougainville as Panguna could represent a major share of measured GDP.

Not saying there shouldn't be a mine, just asking why it is "essential"? This an assumption that needs to be examined closely. Using the figures above, even if 320 of 367 customary heads are in favour of a particular course of development, that still leaves 47 with issues. And the issues may not come from the customary heads.

The Panguna mine riches are not going to disappear. Is it better that they are left in the ground for another generation until there is an absolutely unambiguous consensus that they should be developed?

This would simply be banking the resource at this stage. And it may allow the people of Bougainville to consider more inclusive forms of development and governance as it considers the referendum.

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