The case of Bougainville and the Panguna mine is arguably the most serious example of corporate misconduct by an Australian company overseas in our recent history.
From 1972 to 1989, the company Bougainville Copper Limited, a subsidiary of Australian-British mining giant Rio Tinto, operated the lucrative Panguna copper and gold mine. The mine was forced on the locals without their consent.
Years of peaceful protests were ignored and when the protestors turned to sabotage, the PNG Government, with the support of Bougainville Copper and the Australian Government, sent in the military. A decade-long civil war and blockade saw tens of thousands of Bougainvilleans – mostly civilians – die.
During the operation of the mine, the company discharged millions of tonnes of mine waste into two local rivers, causing adverse environmental and social impacts for the local communities. Since then, a site visit by the Human Rights Law Centre and Jubilee has found that the situation has become worse.
The mine was never properly closed. Polluted water continues to flow into local rivers from the mine site, impacting people’s livelihoods and food security.
Jubilee is working with local partners and the Human Rights Law Centre to demand that Rio Tinto help clean up the environmental mess caused by their actions.
"We live with the impacts of Panguna every day. Our rivers are poisoned with copper, our homes get filled with dust from the tailings mounds, our kids get sick from the pollution.... These are not problems we can fix with our bare hands. We urgently need Rio Tinto to do what's right and deal with the disaster they have left behind."
-THEONILA ROKA-MATBOB, BOUGAINVILLEAN POLITICIAN AND CABINET MINISTER