Jubilee Australia Report ‘Irresponsible’: Bougainville President
The President of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville (ABG), the Honourable Chief John Momis, has attacked a recent Jubilee Australia report on Bougainville’s Panguna mine, describing it as misleading and irresponsible.
The mine, operated by Bougainville Copper Ltd (53 per cent owned by Rio Tino) at Panguna, in Bougainville, from 1972 to 1989, when it was closed by violent conflict. It has not reopened since.
The Report has been released by Jubilee ( www.jubileeaustralia.org/page/resources) and was launched at public functions in Sydney and in Parliament House in Canberra by Christine Milne, Leader of the Greens.
The President said: ‘The Report is factually inaccurate, biased, methodologically unsound, and dishonest in claiming that interviews with 65 individuals selected by its authors from the 10,000 or so people in the affected areas allows it to represent the voices of them and the 300,000 people of Bougainville.’
The Jubilee Report claims that the voices of mine-affected communities ‘have been distant from recent public discussion’ about the possible reopening of the Panguna, closed since 1989 as a result of the Bougainville conflict. The Report is critical of ABG consultation with landowners which Jubilee suggests have largely excluded communities around the mine.
‘Far from being excluded, affected landowners have been at the centre of all discussions regarding Panguna since they commenced in 2009’, said President Momis.
‘There may indeed be individuals who have not been able to, or have chosen not to, participate in consultations. In part this reflects the ABG’s extremely limited resources, and the real barriers of geography and politics that we face, including an armed dissident road block which has restricted access to the Panguna area for 17 years.
‘But the ABG and representative landowner associations have gone to great lengths to overcome these barriers, undertaking numerous consultations at village and regional levels and with all major Bougainvillean stakeholders.
‘The overwhelming response is support for reopening the mine, but only if it can be done in a way that avoids the extremely negative effects of earlier mining and ensures that Bougainvilleans receive a fair share of mining’s benefits’, said President Momis.
‘But’, he said, ‘all the 65 individuals selected by Jubilee for interview are reported to be against reopening the mine. Such an outcome does not seem credible unless the researchers interviewed only people that they knew opposed mining.’
Jubilee statements to the press go further, claiming ‘near unanimity among the Pangunans that they do not want mining’. President Momis said: ‘This being an area where mining caused great harm, there are individuals and some communities who oppose mining. But nothing in Jubilee’s Report substantiates this gross overgeneralization and misrepresentation’.
President Momis refuted Jubilee’s allegations that the ABG has ‘initiated a campaign to reopen the Panguna mine’. He said: ‘If the strict conditions sought by the landowners and the ABG cannot be satisfied, the ABG will not allow the mine to be reopened’.
The President has today written to the Board of Jubilee Australia saying: ‘The Jubilee Report is deeply flawed. Jubilee Australia’s Board bears responsibility for allowing such a misleading and irresponsible document to be released, and for limiting and redressing the damage it can cause.’