29 Aug FESTIVAL | Voices From Bougainville
Rebuilding Bougainville: community perspectives on the Panguna Mine and the right to resources
The Panguna Mine in Bougainville, once a source of nearly 44% of PNG’s revenue, has been closed for twenty-five years. The mine was closed by local Indigenous people frustrated by environmental devastation to their land, immense disruption to the socio-political economies tied to customary lands where traditional practices were intrinsic to daily life. With virtually all of the revenue going offshore or to the PNG Government, traditional landowners were left destitute in small towns on the periphery of the booming mining economy. Closure of the Bougainville Copper Limited mine (subsidiary of Rio Tinto) was the first time Indigenous people successfully halted international mining interests in a local community. It was followed by a decade of civil war and military blockade during which more than 10,000 people died. BCL, Rio Tinto’s subsidiary, and Rio Tinto, are yet to remediate the extreme damage caused to the land and two major river systems, and acknowledge responsibility for their role in the conflict, an important missing step in the measures taken by local Bougainvilleans toward peace-building. It is in this context that Rio has proposed re-opening the mine, a move welcomed by the Australian and PNG Governments, and initially by the Autonomous Bougainville Government focused on the proposed referendum for the independence of Bougainville. With the Panguna Region closed to outsiders, perspectives of local communities who will be most be affected by the mine’s reopening have not been part of the debate. Jubilee Australia’s ‘Voices from Bougainville’ report, was launched at this event, broke this silence.
Founded as part of the global movement in 2000 to ‘drop the debt’ placed with developing countries during the late 20th century, Jubilee Australia is concerned with government and corporate accountability in the Asia Pacific region for policies and practices which impoverish rather than support communities. Jubilee’s research and campaigns bring to the fore issues which impact profoundly on communities and which need addressing by all parties to support an equitable, sustainable future. These include Pipe dreams: The PNG LNG project and the future hopes of a nation; Risky business: Shining a spotlight on Australia’s export credit agency; Alternatives to debtor’s prison: Developing a framework for international insolvency and Under the Influence: How International Financial Institutions Fund Deforestation (download reports). Jubilee has also been a strategic partner in Make Poverty History, Debt-for-Development, Robin Hood Tax and tax justice campaigns.