THE OPENING, OPERATION AND CLOSURE of the Panguna Mine and the ensued civil war have doubtless been by far the most impactful events in Bougainville’s 33,000 years of history. Keren Adams, legal director at the Human Rights Law Centre, compared the miner's inaction over the Bougainville mine to Rio’s deliberate destruction in May of 46,000-year-old Aboriginal sites at the Juukan Gorge in Western Australia, under the direction of the head of its iron ore division, Chris Salisbury. Abandoned Rio Tinto Mine Is Blamed for Poisoned Bougainville Rivers. The mine was the largest non-aid revenue stream of the Government of Papua New Guinea from 1975, when it became independent, to the mine's closure in … Now, 27 years after the war forced the closure of the Panguna mine on the island of Bougainville, resources giant Rio Tinto has finally made the decision to cut its losses and walk away. An abandoned Rio Tinto mine in the Bougainville region of Papua New Guinea has caused flooding as well as pollution, according to the Human Rights Law Center, which released this photo from last year. Panguna Mine Conflict. The company ran the mine for 45 years and divested it in 2016, leaving thousands of people who live downstream in the Jaba-Kawerong River valley to deal with the consequences. The company said it was ready to have discussions with the communities that had filed the complaint, along with their representatives. We love feedback: help us improve by rating the app and sharing your suggestions at apps@sbs.com.au. Pollution of the Panguna mine in Bougainville: Rio Tinto targeted by a complaint in AustraliaSydney (AFP) Anglo-Australian giant Rio Tinto is accused of shirking its responsibilities in cleaning up toxic waste from the gigantic Panguna mine, on the Papua island of Bougainville, in a complaint filed Tuesday in Australia. Human Rights Law Center, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images. Activists proclaimed the independence of Bougainville (Republic of North Solomons) shortly before Papua New Guinea in 1975 but failed to achieve recognition. Please select the editions you would like to sign up to. Theonila Roka Matbob standing in front of an area destroyed by mine waste flooding. The mine’s abandoned piles of tailings have also caused rivers to flood, destroying sacred sites. The complaint alleges that, through failing to address these ongoing impacts of its operations, Rio Tinto is responsible for significant breaches of its human rights and environmental obligations under Chapters II, IV and VI of OECD guidelines. It provided over 45% of Papua New Guinea's national … Pollution of the Panguna mine in Bougainville: Rio Tinto targeted by a complaint in AustraliaSydney (AFP) Anglo-Australian giant Rio Tinto is accused of shirking its responsibilities in cleaning up toxic waste from the gigantic Panguna mine, on the Papua island of Bougainville, in a complaint filed Tuesday in Australia. By subscribing, you agree to SBS’s terms of service and privacy policy including receiving email updates from SBS. The mine began production in 1972 under the management of Bougainville Copper Ltd, with Papua New Guinea as a 20% shareholder. The ensuing civil war left up to 20,000 people dead and led to a peace agreement opening the way for possible Bougainville independence. Catch up on SBS On Demand. Reconciling these views is not as easy a task as they range from [the late Francis] Ona’s two decades old claim for 10 billion kinas to various other forms of compensation to Mungta’s admonition that reopening of the Panguna mine would be a disaster for Bougainville. “This is a company that holds itself out as a global leader on human rights, and yet as we saw at Juukan Gorge in Australia and we see here in Bougainville, there is a total disconnect between Rio Tinto’s rhetoric and the reality experienced by Indigenous communities impacted by the company’s operations,” the Human Rights Law Centre's legal director Keren Adams said. Here, SBS News visits the mine that ignited its decade-long civil war. Rio Tinto faces human rights crisis over Bougainville mine. Rio Tinto also recently suffered scalding public criticism in Australia over its stewardship of the environment. On Tuesday, 156 residents of these villages filed a human rights complaint against Rio Tinto with the Australian government. The complaint alleges the Anglo-Australian company failed to mitigate the risks posed by billions of tons of mining waste that have turned riverbeds blue and caused health problems for more than 12,000 people living downstream. Download our free app on the App Store or Google Play for the latest headlines and breaking news alerts. “If Rio Tinto is serious about learning lessons, it needs to listen to communities and take responsibility for the human impacts of its activities,” Ms Adams said. Makosi village, where Ms Matlob lives, is one of several villages that are downstream of the mine. In a statement released on Tuesday, Rio Tinto said it was “aware of the deterioration of mining infrastructure at the site and surrounding areas, and claims of resulting adverse environmental and social, including human rights, impacts.”. “We live with the impacts of Panguna every day,” Theonila Roka Matbob, a traditional landowner from Makosi Village and Bougainville’s education minister, said in a statement released by the Human Rights Law Centre, which lodged the claim. At the time, the Panguna open cut mine was the largest in the world. Residents of the Papua New Guinea region have accused the mining giant of environmental and human rights violations and asked for an investigation. Bougainville’s recent history is littered with a number of failed enterprises including attempts to reopen the Panguna mine. Watch SBS World News live daily at 6:30pm on TV and on our app. by Ash Jones. 12:30. 30 September 2020. For nearly two decades during the 1970s and 80s, the Panguna mine in Bougainville was one of the world’s largest copper and gold mines, generating an estimated $US2 billion. SBS acknowledges the traditional owners of country throughout Australia. Strategising and planning for the economy should run parallel to Agenda 1 and 2. Bougainville Copper Limited looks forward to sustainable, responsible mining, being committed to the recommencement of the Paguna mine at Bougainville, PNG. “Our rivers are poisoned with copper, our homes get filled with dust from the tailings mounds, our kids get sick from the pollution,” Ms. Matbob added. It said the waste was making the island’s drinking water unsafe and causing health problems, including skin conditions and upper respiratory and gastrointestinal illness, particularly in children. Rio Tinto divested from the mine in 2016, giving its 53.8% interest in Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) to the Papua New Guinea government and the autonomous Bougainville … Between 1972 and 1989 the four main recipients of mine-derived revenue were: A recently released report by an Australian human human rights group recalls the social, economic, and ecological disaster caused by the exploitation of the mine in the surrounding communities. We urgently need Rio Tinto to do what’s right and deal with the disaster they have left behind,” Matbob said. Ask Amazon Alexa for the latest SBS News or listen to SBS Radio. The complaint alleges the Anglo-Australian company failed to mitigate the risks posed by billions of tonnes of mining waste that have turned riverbeds blue and caused health problems for more than 12,000 people living downstream. “We live with the impacts of Panguna every day. Developed and majority-owned by Rio Tinto, disputes over the distribution of profits led to a decade-long civil war that claimed the lives of nearly 15,000 people. Rio Tinto is facing accusations it "side-stepped" responsibility to clean up poisonous waste from a closed mine on Papua New Guinea's Bougainville island in a complaint filed Tuesday in Australia. Operations of the mine at Panguna and sharing of its revenues had been perhaps the major sticking point between Bougainville and PNG government. It does not take a sage or a seer to predict that what happened between 1969 and 2001 will continue being at the forefront of Bougainvilleans’ minds for many years to come. The Panguna mine on the Pacific island of Bougainville is one of the largest copper and gold deposits in the world. The idled Panguna copper-gold mine was once a major producer and one of the largest open pit mines in the world. Three executives, including the chief executive, were forced to step down this month. Rio Tinto operated the Panguna copper mine in Bougainville from 1972 until 1989, when local landowners — angered about pollution and revenue sharing — forced the mine to shut down. Updated. The move was a turning point for a company that had long operated without consequence, Indigenous rights activists said, and it marked a milestone in Australia’s resources history. The command structure set up by the BRA seldom had any real control over the various groups throughout the island that claimed to be part of the BRA. (Image from archives via Bougainville Copper Limited) In 2016 Rio divested from the mine, passing on its shares to the Papua New Guinea and Bougainville governments, in a move locals say allowed the miner to entirely avoid the costs of clean-up. Human rights complaint urges Rio Tinto fix environmental ‘disaster’ at Bougainville mine site . 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Posted On: 29 September 2020; Posted By: Terrell Davis; Comments: 0; Each morning, Theonila Roka Matbob walks down to the river that flows near her village, and looks at the water and sand. “These are not problems we can fix with our bare hands. Each morning, Theonila Roka Matbob walks down to the river that flows near her village, and looks at the water and sand. Mining giant Rio Tinto is facing accusations that a mine it abandoned in Papua New Guinea two decades ago is leaking poisonous waste into rivers. The group of Bougainville residents have asked Rio Tinto to fund an independent environmental and human rights impact assessment of the mine and support a program to help address any issues and assist long-term rehabilitation efforts. In the 1960s, Bougainville was explored for copper and gold mining opportunities which resulted in the opening of the Panguna Mine in 1969, managed by Bougainville Copper Limited (a subsidiary of Rio Tinto). We urgently need Rio Tinto to do what’s right and deal with the disaster they have left behind,” added Mrs Matbob. Francis Ona responded by unilaterally declaring independence. The claim, signed by 156 residents of the autonomous region in Papua New Guinea, is seeking an investigation by the Australian government into what it calls Rio Tinto’s failure to clean up millions of tons of waste at the former Panguna copper and gold mine. Panguna was among the largest copper mines in the world, but it was closed in 1989, after protests by workers escalated into a brutal civil conflict. However, resuming operations at the mine isn’t a guaranteed economic solution. DARWIN, Australia — The mining giant Rio Tinto has been accused of environmental and human rights violations in a complaint that says an abandoned mine is leaking waste and poisoning rivers on the island of Bougainville. A group of Bougainville residents have filed a human rights complaint against Rio Tinto, alleging ongoing environmental, health and economic impacts from mining waste. “Every time it rains more waste washes into the rivers...some communities spend two hours a day walking just to get clean drinking water because their nearby creeks are clogged up with mine waste.”. Key points: RTG Mining chairman Michael Carrick says a proposal by the Central Me'ekamui Exploration Limited consortium is more realistic and "for the benefit of the… Bougainville overwhelmingly voted to break away as an autonomous region of Papua New Guinea last year, with debate still open over whether the mine could be reopened to enhance its economic security. The complaint over the poisoning of Bougainville’s rivers also calls on Rio Tinto to re-engage with residents to address the abandoned site. The company passed on its shares in the mine to the Bougainville and PNG Governments and side-stepped entirely the cost of clean-up. The company which used to the run the controversial Panguna copper mine on the island of Bougainville is now trying to reopen it with the support of the island's Government. He set up the Bougainville Interim Government (BIG), but it had little power, and the island began to descend into disarray. An abandoned Rio Tinto mine in the Bougainville region of Papua New Guinea has caused flooding as well as pollution, according to the Human Rights … We urgently need Rio Tinto to do what’s right and deal with the disaster they have left behind," Matbob said. The moratorium is a dramatic turnaround in policy from the Autonomous Bougainville Government, which determined landowners felt BCL didn't deserve a social licence to run the mine. The United Nations Environment program will help Papua New Guinea's island of Bougainville manage on-going environmental issues associated with the Rio Tinto-owned Panguna copper mine. In 2016 Rio divested from the mine, passing on its shares to the Papua New Guinea and Bougainville governments, in a move locals say allowed the miner to entirely avoid the costs of clean-up. “Panguna mine is often cast as the economic key to Bougainville’s potential independence, but young MP Theonila Matbob says her people, and their land, must come first ”. The mine was also at the center of … Rio Tinto is facing accusations it side-stepped responsibility to clean up poisonous waste from a closed mine on Papua New Guineas Bougainville island in a complaint filed Tuesday in Australia. A recently released report by an Australian human human rights group recalls the social, economic, and ecological disaster caused by the exploitation of the mine in the surrounding communities. Port Moresby Office +(675) 309 2800 BCL A group of Bougainville residents have filed a human rights complaint against Rio Tinto, alleging ongoing environmental, health and economic impacts from mining waste. Ms. Adams, the lawyer, said that while she was encouraged by Rio Tinto’s statement, there was still a long way to go before the vast and sometimes fatal problems caused by mining’s legacy on the island could be addressed. The people of Bougainville are poised to vote for independence and already Australians, including Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest, are hoping to exploit their … The mine has been closed since 1989 and has ceased all production. In 2000, residents of Bougainville filed suit against Rio Tinto in U.S. federal court, arguing that the company had mistreated Black workers, had been complicit in war crimes and had damaged the environment. Rio Tinto is facing accusations it "side-stepped" responsibility to clean up poisonous waste from a closed mine on Papua New Guinea's Bougainville island in a complaint filed Tuesday in Australia. The Panguna mine is a large copper mine located in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, in the east of Papua New Guinea.Panguna represents one of the largest copper reserves in Papua New Guinea and in the world, having an estimated reserve of 1 billion tonnes of ore copper and 12 million ounces of gold. It’s a hue of grey-blue, the result of copper pollution and mining tailings from a long-abandoned copper mine upstream. " The Bougainville Government is holding a crucial mining warden's hearing at the abandoned copper mine which sparked a decade-long armed insurgency against the Papua New Guinea Government. Thirty years later, the effects of the mine are still being felt. 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