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Canberra called on to rein in mining companies eyeing Bougainville

Wednesday 1 June 2022 | Written by RNZ | Published in Australia, Regional

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Canberra called on to rein in mining companies eyeing Bougainville
Photo: Dina Rui/Jubilee Australia

An advocacy group says as international mining companies eye starting operations in the autonomous Papua New Guinea region of Bougainville, Canberra must take action.

In a paper out on Wednesday The Scramble for Resources - The International Race for Bougainville's Mineral Wealth, Jubilee Australia has laid out the steps that should be taken to avoid another disastrous mining operation, such as happened at Panguna.

The huge mine at Panguna, once the largest opencast copper and gold mine in the world, and the economic backbone of PNG, sparked the civil war that left thousands of Bougainvilleans dead.

It has been shut down since 1989.

The Bougainville Government is now preparing, with landowners, to re-open Panguna, as it strives to develop a viable economy in its pursuit of independence from PNG.

There are also planned mining operations at several other sites on the main island of Bougainville.

Many of the companies lining up to mine in Bougainville are Australian, and Jubilee Australia spokesperson Fyfe Strachan said Canberra needed to do more to address the risks when such companies operate overseas.

Rusting infrastructure leftover from the Panguna mine
Photo: Dina Rui/Jubilee Australia

She said this could start with a mandatory human rights due diligence mechanism.

"So that would be a mechanism that really requires Australian businesses to consider the impacts, the human rights impacts of their work overseas, to mitigate those impacts and to address any human rights breaches if they occur," she said.

Strachan said another step they want to see in corporation regulations include clear responsibilities on companies to avoid causing economic, human rights and environmental harm overseas.

She also said there is a need for much greater transparency about the companies involved - their locations, shareholdings and so forth.

Strachan said undertaking corporate research is often not easy for people living in remote communities.