Bougainville Special Correspondent
Over the past five years the Managing Director of Bougainville Copper Limited, Peter Taylor, has kept shareholder hopes alive that there will be a profitable return to mining on Bougainville.
This advice goes against most learned opinion, surveys from the mine impacted area, and tireless messages issued by community bodies. But the proof is in the pudding, despite recent claims by Peter Taylor that a ‘clear majority’ of landowners welcome BCL’s return, the company has yet to take even tentative footsteps near the mine. Even its efforts to organise a Bel Kol ceremony where ‘grease’ is on offer, has yet to come to pass, despite annual promises from BCL’s Managing Director that this year is THE year.
The corporate doctor’s prognosis is in, the patient is in a vegetative state, there are no signs of economic life.
Yet the plug is not pulled.
Although BCL has failed to return to profitable mining – and appears no closer than in 2010 – keeping the company alive, in this vegetative state, is to the benefit of some stakeholders.
For example, while BCL has lain in a corporate coma over the past five years, its Managing Director Peter Taylor has been paid 6.3 million Kina by the company for his professional efforts. According to BCL’s annual report this amount only partly represents Taylor’s total remuneration, an undisclosed sum is also paid by Rio Tinto, BCL’s parent company.
The company’s non-executive Directors are also rewarded handsomely for their time attending four Board meetings, and providing corporate oversight. Take the example of Sir Rabbie Namaliu, while some have called Namaliu a war criminal for presiding over the bloodiest period in the Bougainville war, when military forces executed civilians, torched villages and raped women, BCL has nonetheless seen fit to pay Namaliu K683,000 over the past five years.
Of course, it is not simply a matter of BCL management keeping the patient alive, so they can go through its wallet. They have been given hope a miraculous recovery might take place.
While expert after expert has studied the patient and formed the same bleak conclusion – its over – a parade of politicians have been prepared to dismiss all the expert opinion as hocus pocus quackery, promising in a few years the patient will be doing cartwheels across the block.
So the charade goes on.
For the foreseeable future it seems BCL’s Managing Director will continue to front gatherings of shareholders claiming a clear majority of landowners eagerly await BCL’s returns, hoping a mixture of sheer ignorance and wilful blindness grips his audience.
After all, could anyone faintly aware of the mine’s history take this view seriously?
Are outsiders versed at all on the decade of fierce resistance that was waged against the mine’s construction, the widespread demoralisation communities felt as it exacted an unmeasurable toll on their land, environment and health, and the visible scars it has left on families, as BCL’s infrastructure was wilfully lent to armed soldiers, who committed unspeakable atrocities.
After all this do people seriously believe a ‘clear majority’ eagerly await BCL’s return?