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Media Statement from Office of the President: Rio Tinto & BCL Environmental Impact Assessment

The Autonomous Bougainville Government welcomes the initiative by Rio Tinto and Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) to address the outstanding legacy issues from the Panguna Mine.

The Panguna Mine was solely responsible for bankrolling Papua New Guinea's independence and provided its economic base from 1973 – 1989.

Despite the fiscal benefits of the mine, the failure by Rio Tinto and BCL to address the irreparable damage to the environment and the displacement of the local population caused friction between the people of Bougainville and the companies including the National Government.

Left unattended, these issues became one of the major factors that directly contributed to the ten year Bougainville Civil War.

In the last 30 years since the mine ceased operations there is still extensive damage of the environment within the Special Mining Lease and Lower Tailings.

The environmental assessment will thoroughly gauge the full extent of the damage caused by the mine that continues to exist to this day.

My government is pleased that Rio Tinto and BCL have felt the urge to be accountable for their actions.

I acknowledge the Human Rights Law Centre for providing legal guidance and enabling the complaints' to bring their grievances through a formal complaint to the Organization for Economic Corporation & Development.

I also acknowledge the Australia National Contact Point for facilitating the dialogue which has led to this stage of the process.

I must extend my gratitude to the Minister for Education and  Member for Ioro Hon. Theonila Matbob for her resilience in pursuing the matter on the people's behalf.

It was through her perseverance that we have been able to reach an amicable solution with Rio Tinto and BCL.

I want to also put to rest rumours that the government will be offering concessions on the Panguna Mine.

The mine will remain closed until such time all outstanding issues have been addressed.

My government’s main agenda is to progress development and prepare our people for independence.


Hon. Ishmael Toroama MHR

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