Rio Tinto may have lost the battle in 1990 but, if the Bougainville Mining Bill is passed, they have won the war.
The key section announcing the coup is buried right at the end of the Bill. If passed, Rio Tinto’s special mining lease will be converted into an exploration licence, which can then in turn be re-converted into a mining lease under the law.
Why is this a coup? Surely this is a loss for Rio Tinto? Well …
Under the proposed law, the ONLY enforceable right landowners have is to withhold consent for the grant of an exploration licence. After an exploration licence has been granted the ABG can over-rule their wishes at all stages of the process.
So under the transitional arrangements Rio Tinto will see its lease convert AUTOMATICALLY into an exploration licence, whether the landowners like it or not. Rio Tinto has, in other words, been allowed to circumvent the one enforceable power landowners have.
As a result, once passed, the ABG will have full authority to reopen the Panguna mine with Rio Tinto at the helm, no matter what the mine-affected communities think about it. A very nice coup for Rio Tinto.
And yet despite getting its cake AND eating it too, Rio Tinto have bitterly complained that this coup is not enough.
In a press release dated 25 June 2014, its company secretary declared ‘The draft Bill, in its current form, if passed into law, may adversely impact on the mining rights held by BCL’.
Can you believe it, a company which WAS complicit in war crimes believes it should not only escape punishment, but its ‘mining rights’ should be preserved.
And of course these rights will be preserved if the Bill is passed.
The irony should not be lost on anyone. In one swoop Rio Tinto’s mining rights will be upheld by the legislation, while inversely as a result of this the human rights of all those who died to free their land from io Tinto are being denied.
Of course, certain ABG Ministers have wafted Rio Tinto’s criticism over their constituents in a devious attempt to create the impression Rio Tinto have lost out.
The Mining for Natural Resources even warned that were Rio Tinto to be given the boot entirely, Bougainville would end up in international arbitration. So the killers would take the victims’ family to court, because during the slaughter of their loved one a vase got broken.
But should we expect any more these days than tricks and innuendo from politicians who have failed to bring Rio Tinto to justice, and sheer arrogance from Rio Tinto who has shown no remorse whatsoever for its crimes.
The plain fact is they have not lost out , the only people who have are the victims and survivors of a bloody war to evict a company guilty of both ecocide and war crimes.
The offending section of the mining bill is included below (and it must be read in light of section 15).
212. SPECIAL MINING LEASES. (1) This section applies to a special mining lease granted, renewed or continued in existence under the Mining Act 1992 or any other law in respect of land situated in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville and in force immediately before the commencement of this Act. (2) On and after the commencement of this Act: (a) the special mining lease ceases to be in force; and (b) the company that was the holder of the special mining lease immediately before the commencement of this Act becomes by force of this section the holder of an exploration licence within the meaning of this Act in respect of the area to which the special mining lease applied. (3) The company referred to in subsection (2) may apply under section 70 for the grant of one or more mining leases. (4) To avoid doubt, section 66 applies to the grant of a mining lease.