The women noted that “foreign concepts” and exploiters supplanted traditional ways of life, resulting in the environmental catastrophe of the island.
Mothers Against Re-Opening the Panguna mine have released a statement championing traditional land rights of the Indigenous Black people of the South Pacific island of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea, expressing their emphatic opposition to re-opening the Panguna Mine located in the Guava Mountains.
Describing access to land as their “traditional birthright,” the women explained that their matrilineal lineage is a social reality which places them as custodians of the land, thus the need for them to make their voices heard in the vanguard, rejecting all attempts to re-open the mine.
The statement read, in part, that it was “women who led the protests against” Bougainville Copper Limiter, BCL, and Rio-Tinto, a British-owned mining giant, that operated the Panguna mine. Two decades later, which marked the beginning of the armed conflict in Bougainville, women continued to trigger the “anger of menfolk to take action,” they wrote.
The statement cited “violations of land rights, destruction of properties and traditional sacred lands, serious damage to the environment, deposits of toxic chemicals into the rivers, lack of shareholding and inadequate levels of royalties,” which gave way to the war which lasted from 1989 to 1998.
The women went on to note that “foreign concepts” and exploiters supplanted traditional ways of life and “Black concepts.” However, they added that they’re “no longer a race of people who are blind to be led by puppets who cannot wholly choose their destiny.”