Classic corporate journalism on Papua New Guinea; what environmental concerns over mining?

The following piece by Brian Robins in the Sydney Morning Herald Business section is classic mainstream media myopia. After decades of exploitation and environmental disasters due to mining, the possible re-opening of the mine on Bougainville in Papua New Guinea is discussed without once acknowledging the huge vandalism and violence perpetrated by Rio Tinto back in the day. I visited earlier this year and saw the reality of corporate destruction. Robins mentions none of this, of course:

Last month, senior managers at Bougainville Copper met landowner groups with a stake in the Panguna mine area for a further round of meetings, and they remain optimistic of winning and maintaining broad support for a resumption of operations.

At the same time, the Bougainville government is trying to corral all the landowner groups to sit at the table to cut a deal with Bougainville Copper, although it is far from clear what the position of Rio, with its dominant 70 per cent stake in the copper company, will be to any proposal to resume mining.

Work to redefine the size of the ore body as a precursor to any mine development work is under way, and last month the head of Rio’s copper division, Jean-Sebastien Jacques, joined the Bougainville Copper board. But with an estimated $3 billion price tag, any progress in resuming mining will be slow and will need more than just the backing of the central government to get off the ground.

Bougainville Copper is saying nothing publicly at present as it waits for landowner groups to reach some unity with the Bougainville and central governments on a resumption of mining – a process that could happen quickly, or could be several months away, at best.

But the political risk to any large project on Bougainville cannot be underestimated since the Autonomous Bougainville Government still plans to hold a referendum on secession by 2020 which, if it were to proceed, would scuttle any prospects for a resumption of mining any time this decade, and beyond.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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