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Bougainville Copper Limited looks forward to sustainable, responsible mining, being committed to the recommencement of the Paguna mine at Bougainville, PNG. Anglo-Australian mining company Rio Tinto is once again facing a backlash after it reportedly "side-stepped" its responsibility after failing to clean up toxic waste from a closed mine on the autonomous Papua New Guinea island of Bougainville. Rio Tinto also recently suffered scalding public criticism in Australia over its stewardship of the environment. Key points: RTG Mining chairman Michael Carrick says a proposal by the Central Me'ekamui Exploration Limited consortium is more realistic and "for the benefit of the… The mine’s abandoned piles of tailings have also caused rivers to flood, destroying sacred sites. Reconciling these views is not as easy a task as they range from [the late Francis] Ona’s two decades old claim for 10 billion kinas to various other forms of compensation to Mungta’s admonition that reopening of the Panguna mine would be a disaster for Bougainville. An abandoned Rio Tinto mine in the Bougainville region of Papua New Guinea has caused flooding as well as pollution, according to the Human Rights … At the time, the Panguna open cut mine was the largest in the world. " The Bougainville Government is holding a crucial mining warden's hearing at the abandoned copper mine which sparked a decade-long armed insurgency against the Papua New Guinea Government. The mine’s abandoned piles of tailings have also caused rivers to flood, destroying sacred sites. Speculation about the future of the Panguna copper mine in Papua New Guinea’s autonomous region of Bougainville, which ignited a decade long civil war in the 1990s, peaked late last year when an application for exploration by former Rio Tinto subsidiary, Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL), was put to a local vote. Rio Tinto operated the Panguna copper mine in Bougainville from 1972 until 1989, when local landowners — angered about pollution and revenue sharing — forced the mine to shut down. The move was a turning point for a company that had long operated without consequence, Indigenous rights activists said, and it marked a milestone in Australia’s resources history. THE OPENING, OPERATION AND CLOSURE of the Panguna Mine and the ensued civil war have doubtless been by far the most impactful events in Bougainville’s 33,000 years of history. Developed and majority-owned by Rio Tinto, disputes over the distribution of profits led to a decade-long civil war that claimed the lives of nearly 15,000 people. Three executives, including the chief executive, were forced to step down this month over its destruction of prehistoric rock shelters in the Juukan Gorge in Western Australia, which are sacred to two Aboriginal groups. “We live with the impacts of Panguna every day. Francis Ona responded by unilaterally declaring independence. We urgently need Rio Tinto to do what’s right and deal with the disaster they have left behind,” added Mrs Matbob. DARWIN, Australia — The mining giant Rio Tinto has been accused of environmental and human rights violations in a complaint that says an abandoned mine is leaking waste and poisoning rivers on the island of Bougainville. The mine at Panguna had been perhaps the most major sticking point between Bougainville and the mainland. Rio Tinto faces human rights crisis over Bougainville mine. In 2016 Rio divested from the mine, passing on its shares to the Papua New Guinea and Bougainville governments, in a move locals say allowed the miner to entirely avoid the costs of clean-up. Raised by the Australian Human Rights Law Centre, the complaint alleges that the massive volume of mine waste pollution left behind at Panguna mine is putting communities’ lives and livelihoods at risk. Follow SBS News to join in the conversation and never miss the latest live updates. Today 156 Bougainville community members have filed a complaint with the Australian Government against Rio Tinto for environmental and human rights violations caused by its former mine on Bougainville in Papua New Guinea. “These are not problems we can fix with our bare hands. Rio Tinto has been contacted for comment. Bougainville overwhelmingly voted to break away as an autonomous region of Papua New Guinea last year, with debate still open over whether the mine could be reopened to enhance its economic security. In 2016 Rio divested from the mine, passing on its shares to the Papua New Guinea and Bougainville governments, in a move locals say allowed the miner to entirely avoid the costs of clean-up. The ensuing civil war left up to 20,000 people dead and led to a peace agreement opening the way for possible Bougainville independence. “The communities are living in a highly unstable dangerous environment,” said Keren Adams, the legal director of the Human Rights Law Center. The claim, signed by 156 residents of the autonomous region in Papua New Guinea, is seeking an investigation by the Australian government into what it calls Rio Tinto’s failure to clean up millions of tons of waste at the former Panguna copper and gold mine. Catch up on SBS On Demand. Each morning, Theonila Roka Matbob walks down to the river that flows near her village, and looks at the water and sand. Panguna was among the largest copper mines in the world, but it was closed in 1989, after protests by workers escalated into a brutal civil conflict. by Ash Jones. “This is a company that holds itself out as a global leader on human rights, and yet as we saw at Juukan Gorge in Australia and we see here in Bougainville, there is a total disconnect between Rio Tinto’s rhetoric and the reality experienced by Indigenous communities impacted by the company’s operations,” the Human Rights Law Centre's legal director Keren Adams said. “If Rio Tinto is serious about learning lessons, it needs to listen to communities and take responsibility for the human impacts of its activities,” Ms Adams said. Human rights complaint urges Rio Tinto fix environmental ‘disaster’ at Bougainville mine site . The company which used to the run the controversial Panguna copper mine on the island of Bougainville is now trying to reopen it with the support of the island's Government. Our rivers are poisoned with copper…our kids get sick from the pollution,” Ms Matlob said. The United Nations Environment program will help Papua New Guinea's island of Bougainville manage on-going environmental issues associated with the Rio Tinto-owned Panguna copper mine. “Panguna mine is often cast as the economic key to Bougainville’s potential independence, but young MP Theonila Matbob says her people, and their land, must come first ”. Bougainville News : ‘Deal with the disaster’: The girl from #Bougainville who grew up to take on a mining giant RTZ. However, resuming operations at the mine isn’t a guaranteed economic solution. We love feedback: help us improve by rating the app and sharing your suggestions at apps@sbs.com.au. The rights group filed the claim with the Australian National Contact Point, a nonjudiciary body that has the power to investigate complaints made against Australian companies operating overseas. Theonila Roka Matbob standing in front of an area destroyed by mine waste flooding. " The Bougainville Government is holding a crucial mining warden's hearing at the abandoned copper mine which sparked a decade-long armed insurgency against the Papua New Guinea Government. By subscribing, you agree to SBS’s terms of service and privacy policy including receiving email updates from SBS. Mining giant Rio Tinto is facing accusations that a mine it abandoned in Papua New Guinea two decades ago is leaking poisonous waste into rivers. Port Moresby Office +(675) 309 2800 BCL We urgently need Rio Tinto to do what’s right and deal with the disaster they have left behind,” Matbob said. Ask Amazon Alexa for the latest SBS News or listen to SBS Radio. Now, 27 years after the war forced the closure of the Panguna mine on the island of Bougainville, resources giant Rio Tinto has finally made the decision to cut its losses and walk away. SBS acknowledges the traditional owners of country throughout Australia. Makosi village, where Ms Matlob lives, is one of several villages that are downstream of the mine. The idled Panguna copper-gold mine was once a major producer and one of the largest open pit mines in the world. “Every time it rains more waste washes into the rivers...some communities spend two hours a day walking just to get clean drinking water because their nearby creeks are clogged up with mine waste.”. A group of Bougainville residents have filed a human rights complaint against Rio Tinto, alleging ongoing environmental, health and economic impacts from mining waste. In the 1960s, Bougainville was explored for copper and gold mining opportunities which resulted in the opening of the Panguna Mine in 1969, managed by Bougainville Copper Limited (a subsidiary of Rio Tinto). Keren Adams, legal director at the Human Rights Law Centre, compared the miner's inaction over the Bougainville mine to Rio’s deliberate destruction in May of 46,000-year-old Aboriginal sites at the Juukan Gorge in Western Australia, under the direction of the head of its iron ore division, Chris Salisbury. The Papua New Guinea government obtained significant economic benefits from the mine, some of which were funded social services in Bougainville. The mine was also at the center of … Residents of the Papua New Guinea region have accused the mining giant of environmental and human rights violations and asked for an investigation. The group of Bougainville residents have asked Rio Tinto to fund an independent environmental and human rights impact assessment of the mine and support a program to help address any issues and assist long-term rehabilitation efforts. Updated. 30 September 2020. “We live with the impacts of Panguna every day,” Theonila Roka Matbob, a traditional landowner from Makosi Village and a member of the Bougainville Parliament, said in a statement released by the Human Rights Law Center, which lodged the claim. Sign up now for the latest news from Australia and around the world direct to your inbox. We urgently need Rio Tinto to do what’s right and deal with the disaster they left,” Ms Matlob said. Please select the editions you would like to sign up to. Ms. Adams, the lawyer, said that while she was encouraged by Rio Tinto’s statement, there was still a long way to go before the vast and sometimes fatal problems caused by mining’s legacy on the island could be addressed. Rio Tinto is facing accusations it "side-stepped" responsibility to clean up poisonous waste from a closed mine on Papua New Guinea's Bougainville island in a complaint filed Tuesday in Australia. The company said it was ready to have discussions with the communities that had filed the complaint, along with their representatives. Panguna is a copper and gold mine that Anglo-Australian multinational Rio Tinto exploited, through its subsidiary Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL), from 1972 to 1989. 29/09/2020 1:59:00 AM. When the Panguna copper mine opened in 1966 it had cleared 220 hectares of the Bougainville rainforest, led to the displacement of local people, and introduced over four thousand foreign workers into local communities. Disaster Capitalism Written by Antony Loewenstein Directed by Thor Neureiter www.disastercapitalismfilm.com. Rio Tinto divested from the mine in 2016, giving its 53.8% interest in Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) to the Papua New Guinea government and the autonomous Bougainville … The mining industry has dominated Papua New Guinea’s economy for decades, with companies extracting minerals including gold, copper, silver and nickel. The mine was the largest non-aid revenue stream of the Government of Papua New Guinea from 1975, when it became independent, to the mine's closure in … A recently released report by an Australian human human rights group recalls the social, economic, and ecological disaster caused by the exploitation of the mine in the surrounding communities. Panguna Mine Conflict. Strategising and planning for the economy should run parallel to Agenda 1 and 2. A group of Bougainville residents have filed a human rights complaint against Rio Tinto, alleging ongoing environmental, health and economic impacts from mining waste. Between 1972 and 1989 the four main recipients of mine-derived revenue were: An abandoned Rio Tinto mine in the Bougainville region of Papua New Guinea has caused flooding as well as pollution, according to the Human Rights Law Center, which released this photo from last year. On Tuesday, 156 residents of these villages filed a human rights complaint against Rio Tinto with the Australian government. “We’ll have to wait and see what meaningful action they propose,” she said. The complaint over the poisoning of Bougainville’s rivers also calls on Rio Tinto to re-engage with residents to address the abandoned site. In … Posted On: 29 September 2020; Posted By: Terrell Davis; Comments: 0; Each morning, Theonila Roka Matbob walks down to the river that flows near her village, and looks at the water and sand. [10] In February 2018, BCL begun legal proceedings against the Autonomous Bougainville Government following the cancellation of the exploration license. Thirty years later, the effects of the mine are still being felt. The Panguna mine on the Pacific island of Bougainville is one of the largest copper and gold deposits in the world. But the case was dismissed in 2013. A number of raskol(criminal) gangs that were affiliated with the BRA, equipped largely with weapons salva… Bougainville’s recent history is littered with a number of failed enterprises including attempts to reopen the Panguna mine. The people of Bougainville will vote in a referendum this weekend that will decide on its independence from Papua New Guinea. The complaint alleges the Anglo-Australian company failed to mitigate the risks posed by billions of tonnes of mining waste that have turned riverbeds blue and caused health problems for more than 12,000 people living downstream. Activists proclaimed the independence of Bougainville (Republic of North Solomons) shortly before Papua New Guinea in 1975 but failed to achieve recognition. The ensuing civil war left up to 20,000 people dead and led to a peace agreement opening the way for possible Bougainville independence. Watch SBS World News live daily at 6:30pm on TV and on our app. It provided over 45% of Papua New Guinea's national … In May 1990, Papua New Guinea imposed a blockade on Bougainville. A large number of nearby communities, Ms. Adams added, “don’t have access to safe, clean nearby water sources.” She said Rio Tinto desperately needed to conduct a risk assessment, and to contribute substantially to an independent fund to assist in the cleanup and managing of ongoing health problems in the community. For nearly two decades during the 1970s and 80s, the Panguna mine in Bougainville was one of the world’s largest copper and gold mines, generating an estimated $US2 billion. “These are not problems we can fix with our bare hands. Source: Human Rights Law Centre, Traditional Owners slam Rio Tinto for secretly laying explosives in Juukan Gorge despite pleas to stop, Significant WA cultural heritage sites 'at risk' in planned Rio Tinto mine expansion. (Image from archives via Bougainville Copper Limited) The moratorium is a dramatic turnaround in policy from the Autonomous Bougainville Government, which determined landowners felt BCL didn't deserve a social licence to run the mine. Port Moresby Office +(675) 309 2800 BCL The command structure set up by the BRA seldom had any real control over the various groups throughout the island that claimed to be part of the BRA. The complaint will be filed with the Department of Treasury’s Australian OECD National Contact Point, which has the power to investigate complaints made against Australian companies operating overseas. We urgently need Rio Tinto to do what’s right and deal with the disaster they have left behind.”. He set up the Bougainville Interim Government (BIG), but it had little power, and the island began to descend into disarray. 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