Jubilee Australia reveals flaws in new Bougainville Mining Law

In February, Jubilee Australia with Bismarck Ramu Group and the International State Crime Initiative wrote to Mr Stephen Burain, the Minister for Mining in the Autonomous Government of Bougainville, commenting on the Bougainville Mining Bill 2014 which was passed into law this week.

The analysis lays bare some of the flaws in the controversial new Act drafted by the World Bank and neo-liberal consultancy firm, Adam Smith International

Mr. Stephen Burain
Minister for Mining
Autonomous Government of Bougainville

Dear Mr Burain,

As part of our enduring commitment to the mine affected communities in the Panguna region we would like to comment on the Bougainville Mining Bill 2014 drafted by Adam Smith International at the direction of the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG).

We gratefully received a copy of the draft mining legislation and regulations from the ABG in December. Our understanding is that the legislation is slated to be voted on in March. As the window is limited for commentary on the documents – which come to 508 pages in length – we have decided to enumerate below some preliminary feedback on the legislation, and the consultation process preceding its proposed approval by Bougainville’s parliament.

1)      Consultation and Independent Assessment

Given that the legislation will lead to the temporary alienation of customary land, with wide ranging effects on the social, economic, cultural and physical life of impacted communities, it is important that the draft mining bill and regulations are subject to a widespread and thorough process of consultation, discussion and independent scrutiny, as affirmed in international treaties, as a principle of international law, and in international best-practice reporting. As the final draft of the mining bill was delivered during November by Adam Smith International, it would seem appropriate to allow a significant period for consultation and revision, in order to give communities across Bougainville adequate time to organise themselves, seek independent expert advice, discuss the legislation, and prepare their response. While a prolonged consultation period would not be appropriate for all draft bills, given that mining has historically been a highly contentious issue on Bougainville, building a legislative framework over which all communities feel a sense of ownership is vital. Coupled to this, the legal complexity of the draft mining bill and associated regulations, make such a prolonged consultation period necessary, so that communities are afforded the time and space to appreciate all the relevant provisions and their long-term implications.

2)      Financial Support to Impacted Communities

It is important that financial resources are made available to those communities who reside on or near mineral resources that are likely to be affected by the bill in the foreseeable future, so they may acquire independent expertise to help them evaluate the draft and share their concerns with the ABG. It is critical that communities are empowered to choose their own sources of independent expert advice, while observing relevant good governance procedure.

3)      Free, Prior and Informed Consent

More specifically on the contents of the draft Bougainville Mining Bill 2014, in light of mining’s contentious history on Bougainville it is especially important that the legislation should encompass best practice with respect to free, informed, prior consent, and echo the standards set out in key international covenants including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and ILO Convention 169. In this respect we would like to highlight a number of preliminary concerns to take into consideration:

A. Access to Information

In order to conform to best practice the legislation must empower traditional landowning communities by inscribing them with a number of positive rights, including the right to access independent sources of information and expert advice, coupled to a right to receive adequate financial support to seek this advice. By independent sources of information and expert advice, we mean recognised experts who are not linked with the extractive industries or government, whether it be through position or financially, and who can be relied on to act in the best interests of the contracting community. It is concerning that the current draft bill does not appear to afford communities these fundamental positive rights.

B. Independent Community Consultation

There needs to be more robust mechanisms included in the bill assuring the comprehensibility and independence of the community-consultation process, preceding a mine’s initiation. As it stands, the bill places responsibility on mining companies holding an exploration license or mining lease to develop and enact community engagement plans. While mining companies, of course, have a legitimate place in the consultation process, it is essential that the plan and strategy is implemented by an independent arms-length organisational actor, with an overarching responsibility to act in the best interests of landowners and the public.

C. Inclusive Consent Processes

More robust measures of consent should be set out in the bill which ensure a clear majority of adult aged landowning community members, whose social, economic, cultural and physical life will be seriously impacted by the project, support the venture, after receiving comprehensive, independent advice on the project’s economic, social, cultural and economic impacts. At the moment, a landowner association approved by the Bougainville Executive Council, can consent to exploration licences and mining leases on behalf of the communities they represent. In light of historical examples in Bougainville, there is serious risk that without further safeguards landowner associations will not be inclusive of vulnerable groups and customary leaders, particularly if association processes and procedures are in a language and cultural form which are inaccessible to a large section of the affected population. Therefore, this current model does not appear to offer a robust mechanism for assuring community-wide participation in the consultation process or when measuring consent. We believe the legislation needs to adopt more robust mechanisms for measuring consent that ensure mining projects are supported by a clear majority of adult-aged landowning community members, whose social, economic, cultural and physical life will be seriously impacted by the project, after receiving comprehensive, independent advice on the project’s economic, social, cultural and economic impacts. It should also include measures that help communities build cooperative, culturally inclusive organisational frameworks that will empower them to participate in the consultation and negotiation process.

D. Access to Remedy

There need to be independent grievance and accountability mechanisms inscribed into the legislation that empower communities to seek remedies for abuses of rights or legal procedure, whether by a private or governmental actor. This grievance mechanism and body must be at arms-length from all mine stakeholders. Currently no such mechanism exists in the draft bill.

E. Human Rights Due Diligence

The draft bill needs to include robust human rights standards that mine operators must observe or face serious sanction, with remedies in place for violations of these standards. Not only have mining operators on Bougainville participated in human rights abuses, this behaviour may also be witnessed across Papua New Guinea. Currently the bill does not offer a robust framework for addressing this enduring issue.

As you will appreciate, these comments are based off a preliminary reading of the draft bill. Nonetheless, we hope you find this feedback useful, and we welcome a continuing conversation on the issues raised within.

With sincere regards,

Brynnie Goodwill, CEO Jubilee Australia

Co-signed: Bismarck Ramu Group
Co-signed: International State Crime Initiative



Filed under Human rights, Papua New Guinea

15 responses to “Jubilee Australia reveals flaws in new Bougainville Mining Law

  1. Mycall Essam

    I was looking for comments and suggestions on specific clauses in the Mining bill but there is none.

    All the comments are about community consultation therefore I presume they AGREED with the bill.

    If this group saw certain clause or clauses in the bill to be bad than they should highlight those particular clause and make suggestions for change.

    Enough of this crap from this group of people. The bill has been passed.


    • Mikes, I agree that Jubilee’s letter is very vague and general and simply iterates what they’ve been claiming all along. However, I would be interested to know how the ABG responded, e.g. did they ask for specific references to sinister clauses that disadvantage landowners?

      I’m just curious. As you say, the bill is now law whether Jubilee likes it or not.

  2. Fred Hela

    Excuse me, it’s not Jubilee that is concerned rather it’s the people. Have they been properly consulted, what lawyer of international caliber represented the wishes of the landowners and how does the landowners , well lets say the resource owners know the bill was written up for their sake. It could be very similar or worse than the last which gave no hope to the people of Bougainville and PNG as a whole. Foreign legal experts never write up mining legislation for the benefit of the resource owners, it’s always about maximizing profits for so called investors. Thank you Jubilee for standing up against these crooks!

  3. Francis Kabano

    Is Mr Burain Minister for Minning in Bougainville? I thought he was the Secretary?

  4. ErengDuu


  5. Pingback: President Momis left red faced over Jubilee attack | Papua New Guinea Mine Watch

  6. pui nirai

    The Bougainville Mining Laws will stand. The People will accept and comply. The minority that JA hoarded, interviewed and put words into their mouths will come around to the majority that respect the Government they elected and Jubilee Australia will be whimsical memory of the past. I cannot understand why the foreign legionnaires in this blog and other social media can’t get it. It is like grasping at straws.

  7. Dansi

    pui nirai the same can be said about the mining law, the minority that ABG hoarded, interviewed and put words into their mouths, can you even prove that the people of Bougainville know about this law and its contents, or have they been told to accept and comply because Adam Smith Institute says so.

  8. pui nirai

    Dansi, that’s for you to prove. Our proof is in the leadership that our people return through a democratic process through the ballot every 5 years. The arrangement with Adam Smith is legitimate, proper and sanctioned in the most transparent way in terms of universally accepted good governance practices. ABG is the Government of the people, by the people and for the people. Sorry, you cannot do anything about this no matter who you align yourself with. ABG is not accountable to you or any other foolhardy person abroad that has whimsical views only fit to be carried on social media. We have elections right now, a process where the leaders are going back to the people to whom they are ultimately accountable. You people just don’t get it, do you. If you did not know, our President is not nominated, selected or elected by the Parliament. He is directly elected by the People. He is bestowed with and enjoys a very clear and unquestionable mandate that is more powerful than that of any one or all of the elected MHRs put together. Our pre-independence constitution has also ensured that we do not end up with a dictator like Fidel or his brother Raul in Cuba or their deceased proxy mate in Venezuela.

    • Dansi

      Sure pui nirai a democratic process to ensure the grapple hold of the minority is maintained on the unaware majority. The election process will determine who will get in and I’m sure by now people of bougainville would want a leader who will truly represent their views. After all the blood of the fallen are still crying for justice. Leadership should go to the person who will unite bougainvilleans, and not to divide us like where we are now.

  9. Cat Man

    Dansi, do you believe that it’s the current leadership that has divided the people? Nothing to do with foreigners imposing their views and their preferred lifestyle for Bougainvilleans?

  10. Do you mean the foreigners imposing their views by the foreign owned mining company Rio Tinto?

  11. Cat Man

    I don’t have shares in Rio Tinto or BCL, but what I see the Rio Tinto conglomerate doing is trying to rescue (or sell?) a very expensive investment, but this time under the jurisdiction of new mining legislation that has been developed in consultation with the Bougainville community.

    No, the foreigners I’m referring to are those who know very little about Bougainville and who believe Bougainvilleans are longlong buskanakas who can’t think straight and make decisions for themselves. You, Vacant Vicki, are among the foreigners I’m referring to.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s