After 32 years, Rio Tinto to fund study of environmental damage caused by Panguna mine | Bougainville
Thirty-two years because it fled Bougainville island, Rio Tinto has promised to fund an impartial evaluation of the continued environmental damage caused by its Panguna mine, a transfer landowners have welcomed as “a start” in the direction of repairing a long time of contamination.
The mining big has dedicated to a multi-million greenback “environmental and human rights impact assessment” of its former copper and gold mine in Panguna, which was the flashpoint for Bougainville’s decade-long civil battle.
The dedication has are available response to a proper grievance filed final September by 156 residents of native communities downstream of the mine, who allege that a couple of billion tonnes of mine waste dumped into the Kawerong-Jaba river delta continues to wreak catastrophic environmental damage and is placing their lives and livelihoods in danger.
The communities, represented by the Melbourne-based Human (*32*) Law Centre, have been in discussions with Rio Tinto since December, in negotiations facilitated by the Australian authorities.
The evaluation of Panguna will likely be performed by an impartial third occasion and can determine environmental and human rights impacts and dangers posed by the mine and develop suggestions for remediation.
Rio Tinto has not but dedicated to funding the mine clean-up; this would be the topic of additional discussions after the evaluation is accomplished.
Panguna was as soon as one of the world’s largest and most worthwhile copper and gold mines, at one level accounting for 45% of all of PNG’s exports. But lower than 1% of earnings from the mine went to Bougainville and landowners say the mine left them with political division, violence, and environmental degradation.
In 1989, amid rising group anger on the environmental damage and the inequitable division of the mine’s earnings, customary landowners compelled the mine closed, blowing up Panguna’s energy traces and sabotaging operations.
The PNG authorities despatched in troops towards its personal residents to restart the foreign-owned mine, sparking a decade-long civil battle that led to the deaths of as many as 20,000 individuals.
A peace settlement was brokered in 2001. In 2019, the province voted overwhelming – 98% in favour – for independence.
Rio Tinto has by no means returned to Panguna, claiming it’s unsafe for its workers, and divested from the mine in 2016.
Theonila Roka Matbob, the member for Ioro, standing within the pit of the Panguna mine the place polluted water has discoloured the land and river beds. Photograph: The Guardian
Bougainville MP Theonila Matbob, whose constituency contains Panguna and whose father was killed in Bougainville’s civil battle, stated the environmental issues caused by the mine wanted pressing investigation so “clean-up can begin”.
“This is a start … this is an important day for communities on Bougainville. Our people have been living with the disastrous impacts of Panguna for many years and the situation is getting worse. The mine continues to poison our rivers with copper.
“Our kids get sick from the pollution and communities downstream are now being flooded with mine waste. Some people have to walk two hours a day just to get clean drinking water. In other areas, communities’ sacred sites are being flooded and destroyed.”
Rio Tinto chief government Jakob Stausholm stated the evaluation dedication was “an important first step” to coping with the legacy of the Panguna mine.
“Operations at Panguna ceased in 1989 and we’ve not had access to the mine since that time. Stakeholders have raised concerns about impacts to water, land and health and this process will provide all parties with a clearer understanding of these important matters, so that together we can consider the right way forward.
“We take this seriously and are committed to identifying and assessing any involvement we may have had in adverse impacts in line with our external human rights and environmental commitments and internal policies and standards.”
Keren Adams, authorized director on the Human (*32*) Law Centre, stated the evaluation will want to be adopted up by complete remediation work.
“Communities urgently need access to clean water for drinking and bathing. They need solutions to stop the vast mounds of tailings waste eroding into the rivers and flooding their villages, farms and fishing areas. They need their children to be able to walk to school without having to wade through treacherous areas of quicksand created by the mine waste. This is what remediation means in real terms for the people living with these impacts.”