Bougainville President John Momis has slammed the ‘evil’ decision by Rio Tinto to walk away from the terrible ‘environmental and social impacts’ of its Panguna mine.
For a company that celebrates its ‘social responsibility’ credentials, Momis claims, ‘this is hypocrisy!’.
Of course, he is right – Mine Watch has regularly raised warnings about doing business with Rio Tinto.
But, is it not then deeply hypocritical to storm out in front of the media and damn Rio Tinto for its ‘evil’ decision, when the President has done everything in his power to stop landowners from bringing this multinational to account?
Take the class action against Rio Tinto in the US courts. This could have have delivered billions USD in compensation to Bougainville. It was strongly opposed by President Momis.
He told landowners to abandon their legal action, allow Rio Tinto to return, then the company could pay ‘compensation’ out of their profits (as they do a second round of environmental and social damage!).
Here is what President Momis said to SBS television in 2013:
‘I think it can be negotiated outside of court. In fact, I believe if our people are prepared to allow negotiation with Rio Tinto we would get a much better deal’.
Has Momis apologised for getting this so wrong?
No, of course not. In fact he has the hide to tell the media ‘the ABG is seeking legal advice about possible court proceedings against BCL for the environmental and social impacts of the mine’.
Yes! After telling landowners to stop their litigation because Rio Tinto are nice guys who can be trusted to negotiate a fair settlement, he now acts the hard man talking litigation once the bird has flown the coup. Hypocrisy?
This was not the only occasion President Momis warned landowners against seeking justice. Take this speech to landowners in 2014, where he warned against efforts to exclude Rio Tinto from Bougainville:
‘Many people have asked, why is the ABG so beholden to BCL? Now the fact is this. The Bougainville Copper Agreement was made between the colonial Australian government and Rio Tinto. That agreement according to many of us, is a bad agreement. But unfortunately it is the agreement that governs the operation of the mine. So if we just ignore it, then we could be creating the impression that the ABG does not believe in good governance, does not believe in established international best practices’.
President Momis continued:
‘But if we, even before we start talking with them, without testing the waters, without finding out from them whether they are genuine or not, decide to either nationalise Panguna mine, or just expropriate it, then we could be up for libel. Remember Rio Tinto is a very powerful company! Mining companies have their own associations, they dont step on each others toes they may compete against one another, but they have a very strong brotherhood, that has special rules and protocols that they respect. So my suggestion to landowners and the people of Bougainville is for us to start negotiating, get our mining law passed, and start negotiating with them’.
Momis has blundered badly. When all sensible people said we must take this company to court, get justice, and exclude them from Bougainville, because they cant be trusted. Momis scorned these voices, and told landowners to welcome back Rio Tinto. Better the devil you know!
The fact is President Momis and Rio Tinto are equally culpable for this mess. Both owe the Bougainville public an apology.