The Australian government’s subservient relationship with giant mining companies mean it has rejected AusAID’s advice that re-opening the Panguna mine will destabilize the island and it should instead focus on supporting the agriculture sector…
In a 2008 evaluation of AusAID’s development aid programme on Bougainville, experts employed by Australia’s aid agency offered sobering advice that is proving prescient.
The currently closed Panguna copper mine forms a backdrop to all discussion of economic recovery … It should be remembered that the mine was the original ﬂashpoint of armed conﬂict in Bougainville … [The mine community’s] attitude to proﬁt-seeking foreigners is dour. While some think that reopening the mine is possible, it is just as likely that any agreement would again collapse. In the interim, a strategy for economic recovery through agricultural production appears the most viable among the possibilities.
AusAID’s experts justify their emphasis on agriculture, noting:
Resumption of mining must also be weighed against the stress this would place upon Bougainville, which at this stage has all the characteristics of a fragile state. Inﬂux of workers from elsewhere in PNG, the politics of royalty distribution and the political imperatives of a new and powerful stakeholder, the company, may create political shocks in Bougainville to destabilise the island in the run up to the autonomy referendum due between 2015 and 2020.
So, given the Australian government’s so called commitment to stability on Bougainville, why would it now pump millions into an unwanted project, administered by ‘profit-seeking foreigners’ that could potentially destabilise a fragile peace?
The Australian Green Party has obtained part of the answer from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. DFAT has revealed the Australian government is now being advised BY the same ‘profit-seeking foreigner’ – Rio Tinto – who to this day dodges war crime allegations over its former role on Bougainville.
And remember, according to Australia’s former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, it is this profit-seeking foreigner, who, along with BHP ‘run[s] the country’ i.e. Australia.
Below is a catalogue of all the TWENTY ONE 2013 meetings between Rio Tinto and the Australian government (Peter Taylor = BCL Chairman, Paul Coleman = BCL Secretary).