Bougainville’s much-loathed Panguna mine may reopen. Australia and the US are contesting Pacific energy assets. What future is there for PNG? After years of uncertainty, the once-profitable copper mine on Bougainville, an autonomous province of Papua New Guinea (PNG), could well be reopened.
The chairman of Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL), Peter Taylor, told the Australian recently that “the Bougainville government seems to want the mine reopened, but we have to sit down … and see what’s doable.”
BCL’s Panguna mine opened in 1972, three years before PNG was granted independence from Australia. Bougainvilleans barely benefited from the operation, a deal that smacked of colonial arrogance and resulted in pollution.
In response, locals launched a rebellion in the 1980s against the mine, BCL, and the PNG and Australian governments. The resistance won the ensuing civil war but at a steep human cost: up to 20,000 killed and infrastructure broken.
Today Bougainville is beset by poverty and economic stagnation. I witnessed this myself during two visits in recent years.
The polls opened last week to elect a new government in the lead-up to an independence referendum scheduled before 2020. The local government, along with BCL and Canberra, is pushing for the mine to be Bougainville’s financial saviour, first.
But according to a Jubilee Australia report last year, the vast majority on the island oppose BCL’s return. This tallies with what I heard in towns and villages.
For the rest of this article, click here: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/may/18/png-40-years-after-independence-can-be-more-than-a-quarry