Category Archives: bougainville

Bougainville: shareholders v board

Radio Australia, 8 May 2014

Bougainville Shareholders support corporate review

Updated 8 May 2014, 9:30 AEST
The Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility says it is encouraged that most Bougainville Copper shareholders are in favour of appointing an independent jurist to investigate the company’s involvement in counter-insurgency activities during the Bougainville civil war.

The Centre’s resolution, put to the Bougainville Copper annual meeting in Port Moresby was overwhelmingly defeated.

Presenter: Jemima Garrett

Caroline le Couteur, Executive Director of the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility

Half million Riotinto drop – payout scum

Possibly the shabbiest thing I have heard since yesterday:

to Vikki
5 hours agoDetails
PNG Exposed, 4 April 2014

Australian academics paid $500,000 over two years for mining work on Bougainville

April 3, 2014

Two Australian academics have been paid almost $500,000 by the Australian government for two years work towards reopening the Panguna mine in Bougainville.

The figures have been revealed by the Australian Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee.

Bougainville has twice rejected Regan’s controversial new Mining Law paid for by Australia


Controversial ABG advisor Anthony Regan has been paid over $270,000 – K680,000 – for his work drafting a controversial new Mining Law and other legislation.

Regan’s draft law has twice been rejected by the people pf Bougainville as being too biased in favor of foreign mining companies including Rio Tinto.

The figure revealed by the Committee as paid to Regan includes reimbursable travel costs and covers the period from June 2011 to November 2013.

A second Australian academic Ciaron O’Faircheallaigh has been paid $215,000 over two years for his work on negotiation “of a mining agreement to govern the Panguna mine”.

In total Australia is funding 22 ‘advisor’ positions in Bougainville – at an annual cost of $2.9 million in 2012/13. Some of the positions are full-time, some part-time and some are currently vacant according to the Committee.

original here

Panguna No to reopening Riotinto death mine

Just in:

On Wednesday, April 2, 2014, Bougainville Freedom Movement wrote:
PNG Minewatch, 31 March 2014

Panguna Mothers Reject BCL and Mine

Clive Porabou via Facebook

The Meekamui Women of Panguna find it ridiculous to hear that the Bougainville Women in Mining are supporting the reopening of Panguna Mine when they themselves are ignorant of the facts why the mine was closed.

Stella Placid one of the principal female landowner in the mine pit said that BCL [Rio Tinto] is not welcome in Panguna.

“They are responsible for the 20,000 lives who perished during the uprising.

They also used dangerous chemicals to destroy the eco-system on the land and we cannot grow taro or do any fishing in the rivers.

As you can see today; the Jaba river is polluted, our people relocated with a complete disregard for their needs and the needs of future generations and we lost our land”, said Stella Placid.

“Therefore, our concern not to open the mine must be respected by ABG and stop their political rehetorics and develop the agriculture and fishing sector.

The truth is that we the landowners in the mine pit areas are united in our opposition to the reopening of the mine”; said Stella Placid.

Filthy bastard mining corp Riotinto slips the (legal) noose once again (the law is an ass)

Rio Tinto wins end to human rights abuse lawsuit in U.S.

Fri Jun 28, 2013 2:47pm EDT
* Bougainville residents sued over activity linked to mine
* 9th Circuit rules after top U.S. court narrows law’s reach
By Jonathan Stempel
June 28 (Reuters) – Benefiting from a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, Rio Tinto Plc has won the dismissal of a nearly 13-year-old U.S. lawsuit accusing the Anglo-Australian mining company of complicity in human rights abuses on the South Pacific island of Bougainville.
Friday’s ruling by a majority of an 11-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ends litigation begun in 2000.
Roughly 10,000 current and former Bougainville residents had sought to hold Rio Tinto responsible for human rights violations and thousands of deaths linked to polluting a copper and gold mine it once ran.
The ruling follows the Supreme Court’s April 17 decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co, where the justices limited the sweep of a 1789 U.S. law that lawyers had used for roughly three decades to fight human rights abuses worldwide.
Five justices said the Alien Tort Statute was meant to cover international law violations occurring in the United States, and that violations elsewhere must “touch and concern” U.S. territory “with sufficient force” to displace that presumption.
The Bougainville residents alleged that after workers in 1988 began to sabotage the Rio Tinto mine, the company goaded Papua New Guinea’s government to exact retribution and conspired to impose a blockade, leading to thousands of civilian deaths.
On April 22, the Supreme Court threw out an earlier 9th Circuit ruling that let the lawsuit proceed, and asked it to revisit the matter in light of Kiobel.
Steve Berman, a lawyer for the Bougainville plaintiffs, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
He had asked the 9th Circuit to send the case back to the Los Angeles district court so that his clients could try to proceed with other claims, “sans invocation of the ATS.”
Kiobel was also cited this week by a Virginia federal judge who dismissed a lawsuit accusing defense contractor CACI International Inc of conspiring to torture detainees a decade ago at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
The judge in that case said that because the alleged abuse occurred outside the United States, he lacked jurisdiction to consider claims by four former detainees. They plan to appeal.
The case is Sarei et al v. Rio Tinto Plc et al, 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 02-56256.

Trouble for Riotinto (well deserved)

Green Left Weekly,

Bougainville: Rio Tinto faces war crimes allegations in bid to reopen mine

Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Young freedom fighter from the Bougainville Revolutionary Army in 1994. Photo by Francis O’Neill, via

British-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto is seriously contemplating reopening its Bougainville copper and gold mine, Reuters reported on February 7.

Situated on Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) eastern border with the Solomon Islands, the company’s Bougainville operation was forcefully closed down in November 1988 by traditional landowners who objected to the mine’s environmental and social effects.

bloody civil war ensued, which took up to 20,000 lives on an island of 175,000 people. The war crimes committed by government security forces in the conflict were horrific.

Bougainvillean nurse, Sister Ruby Mirinka, recalled: “One of the victims was a 24-year-old pregnant woman. Shot dead by the PNG soldiers, her abdomen was then cut open to remove the foetus. The dead foetus was then placed on the chest of the dead mother for all to see — as a warning.”

Rio Tinto stands accused of being complicit in these atrocities. In a US class action launched under the Alien Tort Statute, Bougainvillean landowners maintain that Rio Tinto’s subsidiary, Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL), supplied the military with trucks, fuel, accommodation, storage facilities, mess halls, communications equipment and secretarial services.

These allegations were featured in a hard-hitting Dateline report aired on SBS TV in 2011.

In response, company executives adamantly denied complicity. They claimed Rio Tinto’s equipment was commandeered by the defence force after the mine had been abandoned.

BCL director Sir Rabbie Namaliu told The Australian on July 16, 2011: “To suggest that Rio did it deliberately is factually wrong. When I heard about those claims, I thought the whole thing was rather unfair.”

Namaliu was prime minister of PNG from 1988 to 1992. Amnesty International said PNG forces stationed in Bougainville during this period took part in extra-judicial killings, village burnings and the rape of women.

Namaliu is hardly an uncompromised source.

There are other problems with his account. For example, I interviewed eight senior managers who worked for BCL during 1987-1992. They were confident the company did supply the defence force with the aforementioned equipment.

One manager told me: “We did everything they [PNG security forces] asked of us to make their life more comfortable, and better able to manage through, with transport, communications, provisions, whatever, fuel.

“You know, we gave them everything, because as a far as we saw it we were hoping that they were going to solve the situation, so we could start operating again. So we supported them every way we could.”

Perhaps BCL was unaware of the ends to which this logistic support would be applied? Well, its executives seem fairly cogent on this front too.

One manager recalled: “These guys [PNG security forces] were ignorant thugs with guns. Frightened ignorant thugs with guns. Frightened, ignorant thugs with guns a long way from home.”

Another executive remembered surveying the destruction inflicted upon local villages by government forces during April 1989: “Forty, 50 villages, and the crops [were destroyed]. The villages were varying from five or six houses to 20 or 30 houses.”

Naturally, Rio Tinto wants to take advantage of skyrocketing copper and gold prices by dusting off its old South Pacific jewel. I am sure they are attracting a degree of community support from war-weary Bougainvilleans looking to rebuild their shattered island.

That said, communities on Bougainville have yet to be fully briefed on Rio Tinto’s role in defence force operations during the bloody years of 1988-1990. So it would be difficult to argue that this support is based upon informed consent.

Until Rio Tinto commits to full disclosure, any attempt to reopen the Bougainville mine will be another corporate blight on the deeply scarred people of this Melanesian island.

[Dr Kristian Lasslett is an executive board member of the International State Crime Initiative. The International State Crime Initiative’s multi-media presentation on the Bougainville conflict, which includes BCL memorandums and meeting minutes, can be accessed here.]

Trouble at mill [mine]



Aust warned to stay out of B’ville affairs

The National, Wednesday 27th February, 2013

FORMER Bougainville Revolutionary Army commander Sam Kaona has warned Australia not to meddle in Bougainville affairs.
He said the first policy draft on mining in Bougainville was no different from the colonial policy that caused the crisis.
“The Australians have taken control of mining policy in Buka and the first policy draft by ABG legal unit headed by Tony Regan is no different from the previous policy,” Kaona, who is chairman of the recently formed Bougainville Resources Owners Representative Council, said.
He added that the proposed policy, sponsored by AusAID and drafted by Regan, risked Bougainville’s first constitutional crisis.
“Since the constitution is the supreme law of Bougainville, section 23 of the Bougainville constitution, which restores ownership of resources on Bougainville to the customary landowners, is the only option that is constitutionally legal.
“So any attempt to impose any other resource ownership system would be invalid and ineffective – they are risking a constitutional crisis.”
Resources rights activist Simon Ekanda shared similar sentiments.
“Bougainville mining policy does not belong to Regan, BCL (Bougainville Copper Ltd) or the Australians, it belongs to the resource owners and the people of Bougainville.
“This is to be a Bougainville mining policy written by Bougainvilleans in Bougainville for the Bougainville resource owners and people.
“Section 23 of the Bougainville constitution returning the resource ownership to the customary landowners is to be the foundation of that policy.
“Let me be absolutely clear – there will be no compromise on this.
“The Panguna landowners must determine that their interests will be best served by securing a special mining lease over their resource and then to entertain qualified mining companies with the view to putting Panguna back into production.
He also cautioned ABG President John Momis to be careful with the new mining policy.
“Both PNG and Bougainvilleans have died and it is unwise if Momis allows colonial administrators to rewrite Bougainville mining laws.”

Australia wins Gold! But can the same be said for Rio Tinto?

Good to see Bougainville Freedom Movement is having a good games. (My view: Fuck Riotinto and all her major shareholders]

Australia wins Gold! But can the same be said for Rio Tinto?
Australia has won its first gold medal, and the athletes were awarded medals made from gold produced by Rio Tinto, the official supplier to the London Olympics. The London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games claims all suppliers have passed the requirements of its ethical sourcing guidelines, but one does not have to dig much at all to see that Rio Tinto should never have been accredited as a supplier to the Games. See

Rio Tinto – a record fit for the Olympics?
Updated background briefing on the impacts of Olympic medal metal provider Rio Tinto’s mining operations around the world.

RTZ are taking the piss

Providing the Metals for the medals at the London Olympiss

[their best slogan: 'Making Modern Life Work' - gee thanks]

Sturm in the South Seas

This is yet another example of the crazy lengths the worlds most grotesque mining company will go to pass off transparently laughable public relations propaganda as fact (lets just say that Rupert Murdoch is mere paper to this lot’s stone in the paper-scissors-stone game that is global plunder). For readers, BCL = Bougainville Copper. RTZ = Riotinto – and BCL belong RTZ – in riotinto’s, and Australia’s, colonial era (as in, just the other day, and ongoing) adventure in PNG = Papua New Guinea (note also: Bougainville aka Autonomous Bougainville, AKA Mekamui)…

The Evidence of BCL’s role in the Bougainville Conflict: A Reluctant Response to Axel G. Sturm’s Open Letter

April 26th 2012

The Evidence of BCL’s role in the Bougainville Conflict: A Reluctant Response to Axel G. Sturm’s Open Letter

Posted by Effrey

By Dr Kristian Lasslett*

On the 23rd of April 2012, Act Now posted a blog I had written on BCL and the Bougainville conflict. It was a critical but hopefully constructive piece, on how BCL might mend certain bridges with communities on Bougainville, using fairly orthodox transitional justice techniques. It was not a new argument, indeed the distinguished ANU scholar John Braithwaite wrote in 2011: “Reconciliation between the mining company, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto, and Bougainvilleans is yet to be achieved. An obstacle here is that the company fears ritual apology would expose it to liability in the courts. Yet this reconciliation to some extent holds a key to international reconciliation among Bougainville, Australia and Papua New Guinea”.

In response to my article the President of the European Shareholders of Bougainville Copper composed an open letter addressed to me. This letter included comments that bordered on the slanderous. In particular Axel G Sturm argued:

Your disgraceful lampoon is remarkable. It’s really shameful if an expert in criminology completely ignores facts and reality. Your naive adoption of statements and claims from rebel groups on the ground disqualify you as an honest scientist…I suppose your work in Ulster [Northern Ireland], a region well known for rebellion and organised crime, troubled your vision…Unfortunately you are also allowed to spread your ideas among you students. You shall not use your academic position as a platform for indoctrination and agitation. (emphasis added)

I took it from Mr Sturm’s statement, he had not bothered to familiarise himself with my research on the Bougainville conflict. Had he, Mr Sturm would have discovered that my findings are based upon interviews with General Managers and three Managing Directors who steered BCL during the 1987-1991 period. These interviews were triangulated through extensive documentary research, using internal BCL records including meeting minutes and company memorandums (these documents became available following two court cases involving BCL and its parent company). I also interviewed senior state officials in Papua New Guinea, including the former Prime Minister Sir Rabbie Namaliu (1988-1992), and senior military officers involved in the operations on Bougainville.

I remained somewhat aloof during the controversy elicited by an SBS report in June 2011, as I feel my research speaks for itself – on reflection, I perhaps erred in not correcting factual inaccuracies that were subsequently reported in the media (see Callick 2011). However, in light of recent personal attacks on my credibility as a researcher and scholar, I feel compelled to summarise the empirical evidence on which my recent suggestions were based.

1.    BCL placed substantive pressure on the Papua New Guinea government to send the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary Mobile Squads – a paramilitary style force, who according to their own commanders excel in the use of terror (RPNGC Assistant Commissioner, Personal Communication, 2006) – to Bougainville in 1988, following attacks on mine property by a landowner group. They made this request in full knowledge of the Mobile Squads’ chequered human rights record. As one General Manager informed me: “We knew the riot squads were heavy handed, that was well known in PNG. That’s how they worked. If you threw a rock at them you would get ten rocks thrown back. They were very heavy handed in the way they handled disputes in the Highlands…It was a case, somebody has to come. They were the only ones that could come, and put a lid on this thing before it got out of hand” (Personal Communication, 2006). The Mobile Squads were responsible for numerous atrocities on Bougainville during 1989-1990.

2.    When Prime Minister Namaliu opted to send a peace delegation to Bougainville to resolve the impasse with landowners in December 1988, BCL’s Chairman – who was also an executive at Conzinc Rio Tinto Australia (CRA) – threatened to withdraw all CRA investments from Papua New Guinea. In a memorandum dated 6 December 1988 he recounts his reaction to the Prime Minister’s proposal: “The PM’s priority was to ‘appease’ the landowners. I expressed the view that CRA would want to review its assessment of PNG as a place to invest. In all, it was an unsatisfactory meeting”. At the time CRA was investing heavily in mineral projects at Hidden Valley in Morobe, and Mount Klare in Enga (Post-Courier, 29/11/1988; Business Review Weekly, 9/6/1989).

3.    When Mobile Squad units and Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) soldiers arrived on Bougainville during December 1988 and early 1989, BCL gave the security forces access to company assets. A BCL General Manager from the period recalls: “We did everything they asked of us to make their life more comfortable, and better able to manage through, with transport, communications, provisions, whatever, fuel. You know we gave them everything, because as a far as we saw it we were hoping that they were going to solve the situation, so we could start operating again. So we supported them every way we could” (Personal Communication, 2006). This claim was confirmed by a senior civil servant who was working in Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister’s department:  “We relied heavily on some of the civilian facilities provided by the company. They did everything, I mean we spent lots and lots of money, to provide backup support services for the operation. But the defense force was not properly equipped at all” (Personal Communication, 2006). I have found no evidence to suggest BCL were forced by the PNG government to make this contribution.

4.    BCL regularly met with military commanders from the PNGDF and senior Cabinet figures. During these meetings security force operations were discussed in detail.  For example, BCL was informed by the Minister of State that the security forces were planning to use “brutal firepower” to resolve the situation on Bougainville. This is evidenced in meeting minutes dated 8 June 1989. BCL did not alert the domestic or international community of the impeding humanitarian crisis.

5.    BCL meeting minutes evidence the fact that during 1989 the company’s Managing Director provided strategic input to PNGDF commanders and government officials on security force offensive operations.

6.    BCL was aware of the illicit tactics being employed by the government’s security forces, yet still availed company assets to the PNGDF and RPNGC. For example, the company’s charitable arm – the Bougainville Copper Foundation (BCF) – had surveyed homes lost to village burnings, which were conducted en masse by the Mobile Squads and the PNGDF during 1989. A BCF official informed me that during a security operation in March/April 1989, “forty, fifty villages, and the crops [were destroyed]. The villages were varying from five or six houses to twenty or thirty houses” (Personal Communication, 2006).

7.    There is evidence to suggest BCL’s Managing Director did raise concerns with PNGDF officers over the loss of civilian life. Nevertheless, the company continued to provide material assistance to the security forces.

8.    Allegations have been made that BCL’s Chairman supported the military blockade which was placed around Bougainville during 1990 – this blockade included the denial of humanitarian aid. In particular, the former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister (1988-1992) of Papua New Guinea, Sir Michael Somare, alleges that the Chairman stated lets “starve the bastards out”. Sadly the Chairman has passed away, and I have not been able to confirm the veracity of this particular allegation. However, I was told by a senior BCL executive that the company was supportive of the blockade for two reasons: “One was the ability of the militants to get more weapons to increase the level of their militancy. And the second was that there was always these threats that they were going to sell off the mine equipment” (Personal Communication, 2006).

Of course, I can only hint here at the evidence collected over several years of doctoral research. Moreover, in a blog post, it is clearly impossible to add more context, which would help readers understand some of the complex factors influencing BCL’s decisions.

Though in light of the above, I would suggest – to borrow the words of Mr Sturm – it was in fact those scholars and journalists that rejected the allegations made against BCL by landowners and activists who might be accused of being “naive”, after all accessible documentary evidence on BCL’s involvement has been available since 1990 (following a Supreme Court of Victoria court case involving BCL and their insurers – BCL records are also stored in an archive at the University of Melbourne and may be viewed upon request).

Nevertheless, it is not my intention to vilify BCL. They operated the Panguna mine for 17 years, and many scholars and journalists have written quite favourable pieces on their corporate record during this period. My specific claims relate to a small window in the company’s life, 1988-1990, where decisions were taken that implicated BCL in the hostilities, and the human rights abuses they generated.

Clearly it is up to the people of Bougainville to decide how they wish to manage their natural resources. However, democratic decision making about the future depends upon accurate knowledge of the past. In this respect, BCL can make an important contribution to democracy and reconciliation in Bougainville by, a) fully disclosing their role in the conflict; and b) making amends with those affected by their actions.

I am more than happy to engage in further probing dialogue with anyone who cares to comment; but I will not react to any further personal attacks, or ill informed judgements on the rigour of my research. I consider that issue now resolved.

*Kristian Lasslett is a Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Ulster and he sits on the Executive Board of the International State Crime Initiative.

Avatar Trinkets

For those of you who like your anthropologists in cryo, in an incubator (online ethnography anyone), or fighting off the mining industry – as already oft-mentioned on this blog (more links below), this little cherub should set you off with oohs and ahhs. As soon as you look closely at the picture though, it will be ahhhg and owwww. Very strange (thanks Rachel).

The description, by Sean O’neal, is stunningly good: not only is Avatar sex fucked up – ‘having magical ponytail-sex’ – but now the baby is too, as he points out its head-turning facility that will accompany you through those forlorn sleepless incubator nights.

I’d add that I guess the avatar technology could be adopted here too as it solves the problem of birth defects – just keep the kid in an incubator for life, and play with the avatar. In a rainforest enhanced with fairy lights, since no rainforest was rainforest enough.. etc etc..

There is still much to be said on that movie, but I dunno if saying nothing isn’t better.

No mention of Krisna’s baby blue either.
We should pay tribute to the film’s consultant anthropologist Nancy Lutkehaus for her expertise. Deserved and oscar, even as a ‘curator’. This from her own pen:

Cameron is like a collector of fine art who sees himself as a connoisseur, and my function was less that of a dealer who brings rare objects to the collector, but rather that of a curator whose expertise provides the imprimatur of authenticity.

The lush primal world of Pandora and the exotic culture of the Na’vi revealed in the film include many of the basic elements of what used to be called “primitive” societies — animism, a coming-of-age ceremony and test of manhood, a religion based on a supreme (maternal) tree spirit. It is truly a 21st-century elegy to a lost world — as well as Cameron’s warning to our own.

Nancy Lutkehaus is professor of anthropology, gender studies and political science, and chair-elect for the Department of Anthropology at USC College.

Bougainville material:

Rio Tinto are back in the ring

This from the Bogan in Bougainville:

Am well behind on events here but there has been a successful appeal of the case against Rio Tinto by the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. You can read more about it herehere and here.There are three key points of note:

  1. The case is now considering whether genocide was committed during the Crisis. Qoute: “Judge Schroeder said the complaint’s allegation that Rio Tinto’s “worldwide modus operandi” was to treat indigenous non-Caucasians as “expendable” justified restoring the genocide claim to the case.”
  2. Corporations can be held liable in U.S. courts for human rights violations committed abroad.
  3. The case was successfully appealed despite the fact that it has not yet been pursued through PNG courts, which as I understood it was a threshold issue for the Alien Tort Statute.
This is going to require a bit of digging, will post on this soon.
more here.

Mister Pip and volunteers build a Library

Postcourier, 15 Sept 11

Arawa to get new library

BOUGAINVILLE’S estranged capital, Arawa, should have a big library built by end of the year, the Volunteer Service Abroad (VSA) has announced.
The Bougainville Library project is about to take another step forward when VSA volunteer Barry Binding leaves Wellington on September 20 to spend six weeks developing a project management plan for the $350,000 building.
The library – or stori haus – is the inspiration of Wellington writer Lloyd Jones, whose 2007 Man Booker Prize-winning[shortlisted] novel Mister Pip is set in Bougainville.
As well as developing a project management plan, Mr Binding will also organise the timber needed for the project, and will prepare the site for building.
The library will be built on the grounds of Arawa High School. It has been designed by Wellington architect Paul Kerr-Hislop and will be built by trainee carpenters from Arawa Carpentry. VSA helped set up Arawa Carpentry in 1999 as part of the reconstruction process following 10 years of civil war.
Mr Binding, a Kapiti Coast builder, returned from a two-year VSA assignment based at Arawa Carpentry in May 2010. While he was there, he built a model of the library to give local people a chance to see what it will look like. He is one of several VSA volunteers who have been closely involved with the library project. He is looking forward to returning to Bougainville to start the next stage of the process.


Wikileaks on Bougainville.

From UTS:

Dear Bougainville Supporters,

Below are the links from Wikileaks to confidential documents about the Bougainville Class Action – Sarei vs Rio Tinto.



Contents page

Bougainvile: riotinto’s atrocities

The Australian, 16 July 2011 (warning, this is a Murdoch paper! references to Hitler and Chinese colonialism also to be taken under advisement).

Battle intensifies over Bougainville copper

Bougainville rebels guard the Panguna mine site in 1996. Picture: Ben Bohane Source: The Australian

CLAIMS that Rio Tinto funded the civil war and fostered atrocities on Bougainville are being resurrected as a hurdle to the reopening there of the copper mine, whose proven reserves are worth at least $50 billion.

Today the opposition to the mine is strongest overseas, especially among Australia’s trade unions and non-government organisations. The Australian Greens have also joined the attacks. This is happening just as the reopening, after a full renegotiation of the terms, is winning overwhelming support on impoverished Bougainville; more than 97 per cent support it, according to Bougainville president John Momis.

The day after SBS One’s Dateline program about Bougainville was broadcast on June 26, the Bougainville Copper Ltd share price slumped 18 per cent.

German investor Axel Sturm, possibly the company’s largest individual shareholder, said “confidence in BCL, which is equated with confidence in Bougainville and its people, has been severely damaged. Months of re-polishing Bougainville’s image [have] been spoiled

The program hinged on a 10-year-old affidavit signed while he was in opposition by Papua New Guinea’s prime minister Michael Somare, whose family announced this week that he will retire because he is seriously ill in a Singapore hospital.

Somare, who was foreign minister as Bougainville lurched into civil war, signed the affidavit that claimed “the actions taken by PNG to reopen the mine were not done for any public benefit except derivatively as the money the government made in its joint venture with BCL would trickle down to benefit the PNG citizenry”.

The mine provided the PNG government with about 20 per cent of its annual income when it was forced to close 22 years ago.

Somare signed the affidavit that said that Rio “controlled the government” of which he was a part.

It said: “BCL was directly involved in the military operations on Bougainville, and it played an active part. It supplied helicopters, which were used as gunships, the pilots, troop transportation, fuel, and troop barracks. It knew bloodshed was likely to occur because it instructed the government of PNG to reopen the mine ‘by whatever means necessary’.”

It said that although BCL participated in “the atrocities”, “no provision in the peace agreement addresses or resolves any civil liability or international law claim, which I understand are the issues in this litigation”.

However, Rabbie Namaliu, the prime minister during the first four years of the conflict, told Inquirer that the Iroquois helicopters used by the PNG army were deployed under an agreement he signed with Australia’s then-prime minister Bob Hawke in Canberra.

Nicole Allmann, now living in Queensland and who watched the SBS program, said: “The four Iroquois helicopters that were given to the PNG Defence Force by Australia were operated, maintained and crewed by Heli Bougainville for the PNGDF.

“I worked for Heli Bougainville during the crisis and did all of the invoicing. I invoiced the PNG Defence Force for this and not BCL.”

Namaliu said that “under the state of emergency laws, the controller can command access to any logistics support he requires”.

By the time the government deployed troops, BCL’s staff had left Bougainville leaving vehicles behind, some of which were commandeered. “To suggest that Rio did it deliberately is factually wrong. When I heard about those claims, I thought the whole thing was rather unfair. And Sir Michael is not in a position to make any response.” But after the SBS program Western Australian Greens Senator Scott Ludlam demanded: “Rio Tinto must reveal the full extent of its involvement in the Bougainville war. And the Australian government must also explain its own role, and what it knew about the role of BCL. It’s time for the whole truth behind it to be known.”

Ludlam claimed that the war drove half of the population from their homes, and that “the conflict claimed 15,000 lives”. This total remains guesswork, although many did die who would have survived sickness before the war. Many additional deaths also occurred on mainland PNG because of the impact on health care of the sudden loss of government income.

A report in Socialist Alternative earlier this year said “it is a sign of the madness of capitalism that Rio Tinto did not close down BCL”.

The publication praised union efforts at the Rio Tinto annual meeting in Melbourne last year to oppose the mine’s reopening. The union members included “a delegation of miners from Hunter Valley, maritime workers from the Victorian branch of the MUA”, and the CFMEU (Mining and Energy section). It said that “if you wondered why socialists say Australia is the major imperialist power in this region, here’s your answer”, the Bougainville conflict.

The BCL executive chairman Peter Taylor, who is also now president of the Australia PNG Business Council, denied the allegations made in the affidavit signed by Somare. He recently led a business delegation to Bougainville, in what was the first visit to the island by a BCL chairman for more than 20 years.

Somare’s affidavit is being used in a class action initiated a decade ago in California, being conducted by the famous contingency fee lawyer Steve Berman.

This action, another barrier to reopening the mine, has already been struck out once, but has been reintroduced because it has become a crucial test case for the extraterritorial reach of US courts.

Its original US connection was that it was backed by Alexis Holyweek Sarei, a former Catholic priest and diplomat who married an American former nun, Claire. He said that if he returned to PNG from California, where he was living, he risked “grave harm”.

But he did return, and a year ago was elected to the Bougainville parliament, which strongly backs the reopening. He is one of the 20 people named in the action.

Lawrence Daveona, an executive member of the Panguna Landowners Association that represents the people who own the mine site, has declared the association’s full support of the moves to renegotiate the Bougainville Copper Agreement, and its opposition to the court case. The case, which accuses Rio Tinto — 53.58 per cent owner of BCL, with 19.06 per cent owned by the PNG government and 27.36 per cent by other shareholders — of war crimes, was set up by US lawyer Paul Stocker, now 87, a friend of Somare who once lived in PNG.

Stocker has said: “I can’t think of anything (Rio) did that wouldn’t make Adolf Hitler happy.”

The case claims Bougainvilleans who worked for the mine, “all of whom were black”, operated in “slave-like” conditions.

Mekere Morauta, PNG prime minister when the class action was filed, said at the time that even if successful if would not be enforceable in PNG because of the Compensation Act there.

Bougainvilleans will vote within four years on whether they want to split from PNG. This heightens the stakes for the reopening of the mine, with Bougainville wishing to secure the lion’s share of the revenues, and also possibly some or all of PNG’s equity.

The determination of BCL to reopen the mine itself, underlined by chairman Taylor, creates a formidable obstacle to potential competitors. China is the likely buyer of most of the mine product, and Chinese interests have been associated with Bougainville.

Momis was formerly PNG’s ambassador to China.

But last weekend a group of Chinese businesspeople who had expressed an interest in investing in real estate on Bougainville were barred by landowners from visiting the mine site at Panguna.

One landowner, former combatant Chris Uma, said: “We did not fight for the Chinese to come over.”

Related Coverage

Riotinto Kills – that we knew, but here it is in detail.

SBS TV [Australia] – Dateline [show] on Sunday 26 June 2011 at 8.30pm

It’s 14 years since the war ended over what was once the world’s largest copper mine, at Bougainville in Papua New Guinea, but Dateline has uncovered claims that the PNG government was acting under instruction from mining giant Rio Tinto, when it killed thousands of people who wanted the mine shut down.

The allegations come from PNG’s former Opposition Leader, and now Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, in 2001 court documents obtained by SBS Chief Correspondent Brian Thomson for Dateline.

In them, Somare says the company, and its subsidiary Bougainville Copper Limited, effectively used its wealth to control the government – a claim denied by BCL.

With negotiations now underway to reopen the abandoned mine, could Bougainville be heading for a repeat of the bloody battle over its resources?

WATCH – Brian’s special report can be seen on Dateline this Sunday at 8.30pm on SBS ONE.

Bougainville’s president aims to attract new investment

The Nasty Gang delegation to Bougainville – won’t step near Arawa I expect – ‘sea-change’ Mr Momis?:

ABC Radio Online, 17 May 2011

The President of Bougainville John Momis told investors the peace process on Bougainville is well established and the island is open for business.[ABC]

Jemima Garrett

The Chairman of the Rio Tinto-owned Bougainville Copper is to visit Bougainville for the first time since the Panguna copper mine was shut down by a bloody civil war in 1989.

The invitation is part of a strategy by Bougainville’s President John Momis to attract new investment.

Mr Momis told investors attending the Papua New Guinea Australia Business Forum in Madang that the peace process on Bougainville is well established and the island is open for business.

Mr Momis said he would like to attract smart responsible investors who will create jobs and improve life for rural people in the lead up to a referendum on independence from Papua New Guinea.

Ninety per cent of Bougainvilleans live in rural areas and President Momis said it is essential any new investment include them and take into account their culture.

The Chairman of Bougainville Copper will be part of a delegation of business leaders to visit the island on Thursday.

President Momis acknowledged there is still some opposition to the re-opening of the giant Panguna copper mine but he said the majority of Bougainvilleans want the prosperity it would bring.

Mr Momis said the return of Bougainville copper shows there has been a sea-change in attitudes and economic conditions on the island.

Sandline crisis . . . 14 years on

Tim Spicer, where in Iraq are you now? (seek him here seek him there, the bumbling millionaire mercenary with his camo-wear…

this is from the PNG Post Courier today:


Retired and Former Commander of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force Major General Jerry Singirok MBE, reflects on the 1997 Sandline Crisis that grabbed the attention of the nation as well as the international community. His professional judgement at the time was critical. His conscience outweighed what was deemed as lawful executive order.

By Major General Jerry Singirok
MBE (Rtd)

It has been fourteen years to this day when under my command as Commander Papua New Guinea Defence Force made a conscious decision, not only to abort the Sandline Contract “Contravene”, but also to expel Sandline mercenaries out of PNG and subsequently ask the then Prime Minister, his deputy and the Minister for Defence to resign.
Historians and many commentators have marked this event as a major crisis in PNG history. However in the main it was a result of series of blunders on the part of the executive arm of the Government and policy advisor who had far ulterior motives other than addressing genuine plea for increased benefits for the landowners and the Bougainville Provincial Government.
The result was a significant shift in the security decision making thus affecting national security within the context of protecting PNG’s national interest, subsequently unleashing the contract by the grieving party which was me as Commander and a handful of military hardliners who supported my opposition and successfully executed Operations “ Rausim Kwik”.
Upon reflection, it is disheartening to say the least that nothing has changed much since March 1997. From influx of illegal immigrants, lack of effective border security, and hegemonic tussles between the economic global giants, PNG continues to be an open and free playing field for investors and opportunists who by cohesion with our decision makers and respective agencies in the name of economic development ignore the plight of landowners and continue to generate uncertainties, frustrations thus creating a certain air of frustration throughout Papua New Guinea today.
Our era (1975-1997) was in the cold war era, where the military had to re-think and re-strategise new roles in Civil Military Affairs whereby the military if it had to justify its existence, must be restructured and re-trained into a military force that should be ready to assist during natural disaster, assist mainly in policing roles and contribution to international peace keeping and law enforcement.
It was therefore incumbent that those in position of command at that time understand the transition of a fighting force to a force for peace-making and the constraints and limitations it had was most daunting task for any military commander. This was the dilemma I had as Commander where the Papua New Guinea Defence Force was not tailored to fight a prolonged civil war against antagonists as it was not prepared, ill-equipped, lacked combat power which drastically affected the morale of the troops and most significantly lacked the political support. I had been a career soldier and attended one of the most prestigious and reputable military colleges where future Generals were bred. I have been privileged to be an exchange officer with the United States Army, British Army and was accorded a two year employment opportunity with the Australian Defence Force as a lecture in Military Arts and Tactics at the Land Warfare Centre. These exposures and professional training I received was an insurance that assisted me to take command of the Defence Force even at a prime age within the bounds of good command, leadership and stewardship based on strict military ethos based on empathy.
I will always mitigate and justify my actions regardless of public opinion and what lawyers and critics say. My professional judgement at the material time was critical where my conscience far outweighed what was deemed as lawful executive order to me were deemed unlawful superior orders because of the serious consequences of a military operations against thousands of innocent civilians.
The consequence of the actual military onslaught according to my professional judgment would result in a carnage that would have been devastating to include serious crimes against humanity and would have drawn global condemnation and possible indictment to the Hague to face War Crimes Tribunal for atrocities against thousands of innocent civilians.
The indictment would have included members of the National Security Council and me as Commander, as we would be deemed to be culpable for conducting surgical military operations. The experiences by Bougainvillians, Panguna landowners, royalty issues, the environmental damages and the lack of negotiation on their behalf by the National Government and the developer, Bougainville Copper Limited were critical issues that were not mitigated well.
The lessons of good governance which lacked wider community and professional consultation are still ambiguous even to this day. Investors with multibillion investments are flocking into PNG to exploit the people and the resources that are now becoming scarce globally regardless of community concerns.
Today foreign and commercial security companies have taken over national security functions it seems, a service reserved for state security forces with little or no government investment has been redirected to revitalise and revamp PNG’s own security forces. As a result of this neglect, the national security agencies have become defunct, disjointed, and operationally ineffective to protect PNG’s interest, sovereignty and security to say the least.
The concerns of lack of comprehension and understanding the issues of protecting national interest and security are appalling. It requires a government that puts the wellbeing of its citizen first before any other agendas. The law and order is escalating, HIV and AIDS is on an endemic rise, use of illegal guns, poverty is widespread, rural infrastructures are deteriorating or have deteriorated and the Government services of basic health and education had not been seen and accorded to many remote parts of PNG. The land border remains porous and the maritime boundaries and air space are not protected. Equally of significant concern is the environmental damages as a result of industrial waste by the multimillion investors are a force of destruction that has and will continue to affect and plague Papua New Guinea.
Really if we continue the trend in the next five years of neglect to our national security then we may as well have an open door policy where exploiters globally can help themselves to our God-given resources forcing the next generation to opt to resort to antagonism as seen globally where established regimes are being literally ousted by the mass.
It is too evident to see the parallels of what is happening in PNG today even after series of government came into power from 1997 onwards, except today there is tactfulness in the way large contracts are handled so as to suppress and distort public opinion. The landowners and the citizens always get the raw end of the deal.
Regrettably the lessons learnt from the engagement of Sandline mercenaries and Bougainville civil war is easily forgotten it seems. While Papua New Guinea continues to go down a path of self destruction based on omissions, self serving and false proclamation of the wealth creation for only a few, the reality is that the next generation of Papua New Guineas may turn out to be a generation of disgruntled, misfits, uneducated, city roamers who may see those in authority as tyrants, self serving and may decide to take up arms to engage in a prolonged armed resurrection against the Government, foreign investors and exploiters.
In any case this security quagmire scenarios anticipated in the coming decade would be very difficult to deal with as lessons in the past have never been learnt. It has always and will be the people’s call first for good governance while upholding our Constitution for the wellbeing of our citizens. It’s time to learn from the lessons learnt from Sandline in 1997 and correct them for the better.




Letter from a BRA General.

Monday 13th December, 2010

BRA’s stand on mine reopening

Following all the media coverage in the recent weeks and the recent meeting by the so called landowners of Panguna Mine with the President for Bougainville, I would like to highlight certain issues that need to be taken into consideration before continuing discussions and plans to reopening of the Panguna Mine.
To set the record straight, the so called Panguna Landowners “Did not close the mine”. Let it be known that it was the Bougainville Revolutionary Army that closed the mine because of environmental damage and for the interest of everyone on the Island. The BRA consists of fighters from the North, Central and South Bougainville. So everyone have to be considered and accommodated in any discussions in regard to the reopening of the mine.
A lot of BRA soldiers died during the conflict, fighting to protect the environment that was destroyed by the mining giant, fighting for the Land and lastly for total independence for Bougainville. For the so called Panguna land owners to try to reopen the mine without considering and accommodating those who have given their lives and died for the closure of the mine would be an inconsiderate and greedy move.
When the mine was shut down, there was a claim to the BCL by the late Francis Ona on behalf of the landowners and Bougainville, the amount was K10 billion. Let it be known to all parties interested in the reopening of the mine that we have not forgotten and we still stand firm with this claim.
The move to reopen the mine is welcomed but is a sensitive issue. We don’t want to go down the same road we came out from. We fought against environmental damage, land rights and independence for Bougainville, therefore any discussions to reopen the mine must have a fair representation. I call on the National Government not to raise false hopes without gauging the views of all parties involved.
Ishmael Totoama
BRA general

For more on Bougainville see here and here.

Mr Pip

Radio New Zealand, 26 July 2010

Hopes Mister Pip movie will be filmed on Bougainville

Posted at 03:32 on 26 July, 2010 UTC
An actor and dramatist in Papua New Guinea says many locals are hoping the film, Mister Pip, to be shot on location in Bougainville.
Auditions for the roles have begun in Solomon Islands, before heading to Port Moresby and Bougainville.
The film, based on an award winning book of the same name by New Zealand author Lloyd Jones, is set in 1991 during the decade-long Bougainville conflict.
William Takaku is helping to organise the PNG auditions, and says it will depend on the film’s budget as to whether it will be filmed on Bougainville, but he and many other locals remain hopeful.
“I hope that the movie, because its a story about Bougainville, its not going to be authentic if it is filmed in any other place rather than Bougainville. So I hope that the film’s decision will eventually be made for it to be made here on Bougainville.”
William Takaku says there’s already much excitement about the film’s potential to draw attention to Bougainville and its people.
News Content © Radio New Zealand International
PO Box 123, Wellington, New Zealand

Polluters Riotinto

ABC TV – Lateline, 14 June 2010

Abandoned mine threatens environmental disaster

Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Broadcast: 14/06/2010

Reporter: Liam Fox

The Australian owners of an abandoned mine in Bougainville say it is too dangerous to return to repair leaking fuel tanks.


LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: It’s been 20 years since a bloody civil war forced the closure of the Panguna copper mine on the island of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea.

The mine’s infrastructure has been slowly decaying ever since.

The fuel tanks that fed Panguna’s power station are now leaking oil not far from the sea.

Some are warning of an impending environmental disaster but the mine’s Australian owner says it’s only a minor spill.

It wants to return to Bougainville to clean up but says it can’t because the island is still too dangerous for its workers.

PNG correspondent Liam Fox reports.

LIAM FOX, PNG CORRESPONDENT: Deep in the Bougainville jungle are the remains of what was one of the world’s biggest copper mines. Panguana is now a wasteland of rusting equipment and dilapidated buildings. Operations ground to a halt 20 years ago when the resentment felt by local landowners towards the mine sparked a decade-long civil war. Thousands died during the crisis and the mine has been slowly decaying ever since.

It’s a similar story on the coast at Panguna’s old power station. These fuel tanks haven’t been maintained for two decades. Now they’re leaking oil, lots of it and it could get worse.

RON BLENKIRON, SOUTH PACIFIC ENVIRONMENTAL: There’s a crack down through there. This is about a 20 mill thick at the bottom, but these cracks will still open up in an earthquake.

LIAM FOX: Thick, heavy fuel oil coats the ground. A black lake lies next to the tanks. From here, it’s only a stone’s throw to the ocean. This pit only metres from the water is the last barrier preventing oil from leaking into the sea.

RON BLENKIRON: During the wet season when we first came here, this pit was basically full of water and the oil was about 50 mill from running into the sea, so it was pretty close. You’re living on the edge of a catastrophe here the whole time. It’s pretty nasty stuff.

LIAM FOX: Ron Blenkiron from South Pacific Environmental says the leaking oil isn’t the only potential hazard here, up the road are the remains of a storage area for chemicals used in the mining process.

RON BLENKIRON: We won’t take you any further into there, but these are really nasty stuff. You can’t go in there without full breathing apparatus and chem suits. This is really nasty.

LIAM FOX: Mr Blenkiron has written to the mines, Australian owner Bougainville Copper Limited or BCL, and offered to clean it up. For a price of course, but BCL has declined.

RON BLENKIRON: I believe that BCL is morally responsible to clean up.

LIAM FOX: Steven Tibo is working for South Pacific Environmental and the company it’s formed with some local landowners.

STEVEN TIBO, SOUTH PACIFIC ENVIRONMENTAL: My people we live on the coast, marine life, so this oil is a concern.

LIAM FOX: But back in Port Moresby, BCL isn’t so worried.

PETER TAYLOR, BOUGAINVILLE COPPER LTD CHAIRMAN: There is what I call a relatively minor oil spill that’s been contained by the safety systems that were put in place, the bund. And really it seems to me it’s just a case of going and cleaning that up.

LIAM FOX: Bougainville Copper says vandals caused the spill and much of the oil has already been stolen. It says New Zealand peacekeepers removed any toxic chemicals from the area in 1997. The company says it wants to clean up the spill, but more than a decade after the war ended, it still believes Bougainville is not safe for its employees.

PETER TAYLOR: Unfortunately, there are few people, and I think they’re now well and truly in the minority, who refuse to allow us access and some of these people unfortunately have got guns.

LIAM FOX: So why not use South Pacific Environmental, who are already on the ground?

PETER TAYLOR: We have done some research to try and find out what their credentials are and as far as I can see, they have no experience in actually doing any sort of environmental remediation work.

LIAM FOX: Bougainville Copper is hoping to return soon and clean up the mess itself. The historic hatred local villagers felt towards Panguana is dissipating. Many now want the mine reopened to fund their long-held desire for independence from PNG.

CHRIS DAMANA, PANGUNA LAND OWNERS ASSOCIATION: We want Bougainville to get its own money, find its own funds and to run its own affairs.

PETER TAYLOR: The landowners are now approaching the company saying, ‘We’d like you to come back.’

LIAM FOX: It might not be too long before BCL is back in Bougainville.

Liam Fox Lateline.

= = = = = = = = =
Australian company blamed for oil spill

By PNG correspondent Liam Fox

Posted Mon Jun 14, 2010 9:21pm AEST

Audio: Oil spill in Bouganville linked to Australian owned copper mine (PM)
As oil continues to spew into the Gulf of Mexico, there are fears about the potential for another smaller spill in Papua New Guinea.

Two big oil tanks are leaking heavy fuel oil close to the sea on the island of Bougainville.

The tanks used to fuel the massive Panguna copper mine before it was abandoned more than 20 years ago because of a bloody civil war.

The mine’s Australian owner says it wants to clean up the leaks, but Bougainville is still too dangerous for its workers to return.

It has been more than 20 years since the two large fuel tanks at the port of Loloho on Bougainville’s east coast had any maintenance.

Back then, the resentment local landowners felt towards the Panguna copper mine sparked a decade long-civil war that forced the mine’s closure.

Now the tanks are leaking and the ground around them is coated in thick heavy fuel oil.

A black lake lies between the tanks and there are fears it could get worse.

“There’s a faint crack down through there,” said Ron Blenkiron from South Pacific Environmental, a company that wants to clean up the leak.

“This is about 20 mil thick at the bottom here but these cracks will still open up in an earthquake or anything serious like that, so it’s definitely an issue.”

The tanks are only a stone’s throw from the ocean and Mr Blenkiron says the system put in place to contain leaks has broken down.

An oil-soaked pit, just metres from the water, is the last barrier preventing the fuel from leaking into the sea.

“During the wet season, when we first came here, this pit was basically full of water and the oil was about 50 mils from running into the sea, so it was pretty close,” Mr Blenkiron said.

“You’re living on the edge of a catastrophe here.”

More mess

Mr Blenkiron says the oil is not the only potential hazard left behind when the mine was abandoned in the late 1980s.

A few hundred metres up the road are the rusting remains of a storage area for chemicals used in the mining process.

Mr Blenkiron has written to the mine’s Australian owner, Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL), and offered to clean up the area for a price.

But BCL has declined.

“I believe that BCL is morally responsible to clean up,” Mr Blenkiron said.

“I mean, sure they may have got chased out of here rightly or wrongly a number of years ago but there’s no danger in coming down here. The people are welcoming. They’re easy to work with.”

BCL’s chairman Peter Taylor, based in Port Moresby, does not believe the leaking tanks pose a danger to the environment.

“There’s no disaster there,” he said.

“There is what I call a relatively minor oil spill that’s been contained by the safety systems that were put in place. And really it seems to me it’s just a case of going in and cleaning that up.”

Mr Taylor says vandals caused the leaks and most of the oil has already been stolen.

He rejects the claim there is other toxic chemicals in the area, saying New Zealand peacekeepers assessed the port in 1997 and removed anything dangerous.

Dangerous region

Mr Taylor says BCL wants to clean up the spill, but more than a decade after the civil war ended, he believes Bougainville is still not safe for his employees.

“Unfortunately there are a few people, and I think they’re now well and truly in the minority who refuse to allow us access and some of these people unfortunately have got guns,” Mr Taylor said.

There is no doubt law and order is still a problem in Bougainville.

Twice this year foreign ships have docked at Loloho without customs clearance and pumped oil out of the tanks, without approval from BCL.

There are also plenty of guns on the island that are yet to be disposed of in line with the Bougainville Peace Agreement that ended the civil war.

So why doesn’t BCL use South Pacific Environmental, who are already on the ground, to clean up the leak?

“We’ve done some research to try and find out what their credentials are and as far as I can see they have no experience in actually doing any sort of environmental remediation work,” Mr Taylor said.

Mr Taylor is hopeful BCL will be able to return to the island soon, not only to clean up but also to resume mining.

“The landowners are now approaching the company and saying ‘we’d like you to come back, we’d like you to do various things including the remediation of anything that might be in any way dangerous’,” he said.


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