Commentary: Post–conflict recovery needed before reopening Bougainville's Panguna mine

Author: Catherine Wilson, The Interpreter, Published on: 2 February 2019

"The new battle for Bougainville's Panguna mine", 21 August 2018

Speculation about the future of the Panguna copper mine in Papua New Guinea's autonomous region of Bougainville...by former Rio Tinto subsidiary, Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL), was put to a local vote.

The outcome revealed that the mine remains a contested site and that a new battle for its riches is deepening divisions among traditional landowning groups....

...[T]he link between mining and political aspirations continues to fuel the contest for Panguna's wealth. Other foreign companies are jostling for position, such as Perth–based RTG Mining....

Three years ago, Bougainville passed new mining legislation vesting traditional landowners with ownership of minerals on their land and rights to participate in key development decisions. At the same time, power plays appear to be mounting between Panguna landowning clans and groups....

Mining companies now understand they will not be successful without landowner support. At least five ex–combatants and local leaders are known to be entertaining a range of corporate interests from Australia, Canada, China, Brazil and the US.

...Bougainville is still working toward establishing the post–war unity, strong governance and state resources that are needed to manage the complex combination of post–conflict recovery, unaddressed mining grievances, and risks of resource–related corruption and land disputes. For mining, without peace, won't contribute to Bougainville's longing for successful self–government and equitable development.

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Related companies: Bougainville Copper Ltd Rio Tinto