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Confidence Rio Tinto will pay for Panguna cleanup

Friday 1 April 2022 | Written by RNZ | Published in Pacific Islands, Regional

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Confidence Rio Tinto will pay for Panguna cleanup
Theonila Roka Matbob Photo: HRLC

A Bougainville women's MP remains confident that mining multi national, Rio Tinto, will fund a cleanup around the Panguna mine.

The Panguna Mine Legacy Impact Committee, which Rio Tinto is part of, has now appointed three companies to undertake an assessment of the damage.

Its third meeting is due to be held next Thursday.

MP Theonila Roka Matbob led the campaign to get the company involved and said while at this stage Rio Tinto has only agreed to pay for the assessment, she's confident they will fund any subsequent cleanup.

The Panguna copper and gold mine in Bougainville was closed down for operations in 1989 at the start of the civil war.
The Panguna copper and gold mine in Bougainville was closed down for operations in 1989 at the start of the civil war. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

"I am still very much vocal and expecting Rio Tinto will have to publicly make a commitment that it will fund the clean up. As it is Rio Tinto has not committed to cleaning up. They have committed to assessing," she said.

In 2021 Bougainville communities, led by Ms Matbob and helped by the Australian Human Rights Law Centre, filed a human rights complaint over the mine damage.

They alleged the massive volume of waste pollution left by the mine was having severe environmental and human rights impacts and putting the lives and livelihoods of their communities at risk.

This led to Rio Tinto to commit to the assessment process.

Meantime the Bougainville Government and Panguna landowners announced in February this year that they had reached an agreement on re-opening the mine.