Rio Tinto challenged over Bougainville legacy at AGM in London

Rio Tinto’s Annual General Meeting was held in London on 12 April, 2017. The London Mining Network attended the AGM and has published a report that includes, among many issues, a section on Bougainville and the Panguna mine…

Richard Solly | Co-ordinator of the London Mining Network

I asked about the company’s legacy in Bougainville. I said: “Concerning the June 2016 transfer of Rio Tinto’s shares in Bougainville Copper Ltd to the governments of Papua New Guinea and Bougainville, a note on page 167 of the 2016 Annual Report says, ‘The carrying value has previously been fully impaired and therefore the transfer resulted in no financial impact for the year ended 31 December 2016.’ I suppose this is equivalent to saying that the shares are worthless. Presumably the only way of extracting any value from the shares would involve re-opening the mine – but Bougainville Copper Ltd estimates that the costs of re-opening the Panguna mine would exceed US$5 billion, and this does not account for the expenses of concluding several essential ‘due diligence’ studies. It would take years to get the mine up and running again, and doing so would deepen dangerous divisions among the people of Bougainville.

“I have two questions. Did Rio Tinto or BCL ever commission any studies of the environmental damage caused by the mine waste to the Jaba river and surrounding regions, including an assessment of clean-up costs? If so, will the company make those studies public? How does Rio Tinto reconcile its claimed commitment to sustainable development, environmental stewardship and protection of the environment, with the mess it has left behind on Bougainville, surely one of the greatest environmental disasters in the world?”

[Rion Tinto Chairman] Jan du Plessis said that Rio Tinto had decided long ago that it would not be allowed to go back into Bougainville, and it had no desire to do so; but in the right hands and under the right conditions a mine could be developed. The fact that Rio Tinto believed that in its hands the asset has no value does not mean that it would have no value in other hands. Stakeholders including – now – local landowners could decide how they wanted to use the asset.

Jan du Plessis added that when Bougainville Copper left the site in 1989, because it was forced to leave, he knew it was compliant with all environmental and other obligations. The company now had no idea of the current situation of the site as it had not been allowed to go on site since. He was quite certain that there was no report about environmental damage, as the company had not been there for 30 years.

I said that I was asking about studies and reports that may have been done when the company was active at the mine. Jan du Plessis replied that by 1989 the company was fully compliant with its environmental and other obligations and that since then it had conducted no further studies. I should have mentioned – but failed to do so – that John Momis, President of the Bougainville Autonomous Government, has spoken of the inadequacy of the environmental regulations in place at the time that Rio Tinto was mining in Bougainville, and of the possibility of suing the company for its legacy of pollution.

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PNG group claims another attack at gold mine

The Toronto-based mining giant, Barrick Gold, owns roughly 50 per cent of the Porgera Mine

Radio New Zealand | 19 April 2017

A Papua New Guinea human rights group says one person was shot and killed, and another critically wounded in another attack at a controversial gold mine in Enga province.

The Akale Tangi Association, which is based in the area surrounding the Porgera mine, said the incident happened on Sunday, when guards opened fire on two people panning for gold on mine property.

The mine and its major shareholder, Canadian company Barrick, have been consistently criticised for human rights abuses in neighbouring villages, particularly at the hands of security contractors.

The association’s executive officer, McDiyan Robert Yapari, said he had met with local police and written to Barrick about Sunday’s incident, but he had little hope of an outcome.

He said the government and Barrick had for years promised investigations and action to address human rights concerns, but next to nothing had happened on the ground.

“We have written so many letters, the attention of Porgera and gross human rights violations has already reached the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights,” Mr Yapari said.

“All these issues of human rights abuse have been raised and Barrick purports to say the company is committed to protecting human rights, but according to us, it is a whole lot of bullshit.”


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Call for extra security in Hela before PNG elections

The spectre of tribal fighting is a constant in Papua New Guinea’s Hela province where villages are typically protected by trenches and tightly guarded gates. Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

Radio New Zealand | 14 April 2017

There’s an urgent need for bolstered security in Papua New Guinea’s Highlands province of Hela, according to its deputy governor.

Thomas Potobe’s comment comes after a military and police callout to a province plagued by tribal conflict and a build-up of high-powered firearms.

The late December callout saw 300 police and military personnel deployed to the region which is central to the country’s US$19-billion LNG gas project.

As the callout wound down last month, police and Hela authorities admitted its corresponding guns amnesty was only a partial success.

Mr Potobe warned that since the last elections in 2012 tribal tensions in the area have worsened.

“And this time I think there’ll be fighting all over the place in the province,” Mr Potobe said. “But last year we had big fights in the province and at the moment now we cannot manage it.

“It’s very important, we need more security personnel on the ground.”

Last month, PNG’s police Commissioner Gary Baki floated the idea of recruiting hundreds of ex-servicemen to Hela to help address the lawlessness and fighting.

Mr Potobe said the plan was requested by the Hela provincial government, but it was clear that neither provincial or national government had the money to pay for this.

He has confirmed fears that lingering tension in and around the provincial capital could escalate again.

“Not only in Tari but also the Highlands around. We need more security on the ground, including Tari,” he said.

“The view of the province, and the electorate, for me, it does not look good for the new elections.”

The elections period officially starts later this month with two months of campaigning before a two-week polling period commencing in late June.

Last month, Mr Baki told RNZ International that in a change from previous polls, provincial police commands, rather than national headquarters would coordinate policing in each province during elections.

But he insisted there would be extra provision made for additional police presence in security hot-spots such as Hela.

Echoing this, the government’s chief secretary Isaac Lupari said that securing the LNG project area remained a priority, suggesting an increased police deployment in coming weeks was possible.

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Yet Another Two Local Indigenous Porgerans Shot by Barrick Hired Security Personnel at Porgera Gold Mine

McDiyan Robert Yapari

Once again it really saddens me to notify you all that yet another serious human rights abuse has been once again committed by Barrick Gold Corp and its allies here at Porgera, PNG. 

Despite several attempts to hold Barrick accountable for its previous gross human rights violations, including killings, beatings, raping/ganging, illegal detention and forcefully evictions done so far by Barrick Gold Corp at Porgera Gold Mine, the Barrick hired Security Personals and PNG Mobil Squads have shot two young man aged between 23 and 26 in the early mornings of April, 16th 2017.

One of the young man died instantly while the other sustained serve injuries and is fighting for his life at a hospital.

Upon receiving the news, I have personal attended the scene where the decease’s relatives were hosting funeral services and interviewed some locals there and found out that these two young men were panning for gold at the PJV’s Open Pit when they were allegedly shot by Barrick Hired Security Personals and PNG Police Mobil Squads.

I further interviewed a young man who had accompanied these victims and he said that they (including the victims) were panning for gold bearings ores at the PJV Open Pit and all of a sudden two Toyota Land Cruiser white in colour, fully loaded with Police and Security Personals appeared and had open fired directly at them.

He further added that he was at least 5-6 meters away from the other two and while he was still watching, a Security Personal pointed his high powered gun (Sig-riffle) directly at the deceased and shot him. After noting that the deceased was shot, he fled for cover and heard several other gun shots too. He also said that he was shot too many times but fortunately, he missed all the bullets.

After sometimes later about 30 to 40 minutes, he called for help and other alluvial miners came to where he was. The alluvial miners mobilized themselves and went to see what had happened to the deceased and the other person whom he had left.

Upon arrival at the scene, they found out that the deceased was shot at his head and the bullet penetrated right through his forehead. He further added that the other alluvial miner was shot at his lower abdomen and was bleeding very severely.

After noting this, they rescued the injured personal and carried the death corps to their home village.

Supplementary to this incident, I have written to Barrick’s President and its Senior Managements of a forced eviction, rape and assaults of several indigenous people on the March 25th and Barrick has responded and said that they will set up an investigation into the allegation, however; nothing has been done since today.

I did all my best to raise these and other similar abuses and had alarmed the Barrick to provide remedies but Barrick is so stubborn and too ignorant.

I belief all avenues to address, mitigate and prevent such human rights abuses are exhausted now. Also, the Barrick created Operational Level Grievance Mechanism is ineffective, manned with incompetent personals.

I now call upon Barrick to seriously looking into these human rights allegations and promptly respond without delay.

We at Porgera are fed up of Barrick’s assurances of “will do, we are working on it, we are committed to respecting human rights and other such bushtits.”

Also, I now appeal to the Government of PNG and Canada to intervene and look into these allegations seriously.


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Easter and the environment

Namosi exploration

Archbishop Peter Loy Chong | The Fiji Times | April 14, 2017

Peace — Shalom! (May you have fullness of life). Peace is the first word uttered by Jesus to his disciples after he rose from the dead. Jesus greets the disciples who were still traumatised by his humiliating and brutal death.

Easter celebrates the most important event of the Christian tradition, namely the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, the writings of the New Testament have no record of Jesus’ actual rising from the tomb. Instead it only has accounts of the appearances of Jesus to the disciples. This means that the disciples’ knowledge and experience of the Risen Jesus was given to them. In other words revelation is a gift from God. Therefore, to understand what happened on that original Easter and to reinterpret its meaning for Fiji today we turn to the disciples’ experiences of the risen Jesus.

The Easter-experience took place in the context of Jewish peoples’ suffering and hope for liberation. Ever since the Babylonian exile around 587BC, the Jews have always looked forward to their liberation when God will send a messiah. One of the earliest records of Easter is found in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (1Cor.15:3-5); “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” The New Testament Easter narratives taken as a whole hold the following structure:

  • Jesus revealed God to the disciples,
  • The disciples had to overcome a certain doubt or disbelief,
  • The Risen Lord charged them with a mission.

Easter began with an experience. Jesus’ life, teachings, miracles, suffering and death gave new meaning and purpose to the disciples. They experienced liberation, truth and hope. In other words they came to know Jesus as the Christ, the anointed one, the messiah. In Jesus they found the truth that was worth living and dying for. Easter and Jesus’ resurrection is not only about the dead body of Jesus coming back to life, rather it was more about how the spirit and life of Jesus lifted up the lives of believers. Easter charged them with a mission for the whole world. This is the Easter Good News.

What is the Easter mission for Fijian Christians? In this reflection I want to focus on our Easter mission in the context of climate change and caring for our environment or in the word’s of Pope Francis I, Our Common Home.

Today the message regarding the vulnerability and destruction of our common home, the earth, has been made clear. Pope Francis’ letter addressed to all the peoples of the world, “Laudato Si: Encyclical Letter on Care for our Common Home” states that the earth, our sister, now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.” (Laudato Si no.2) He adds that “The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.” (Laudato Si’no. 66) Human beings are responsible for the cry of the earth, our sister and mother.

Pope Francis raises important questions that challenge our Easter mission to protect and raise our fallen home and all that live in it.

  • “What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?”
  • “This question does not have to do with the environment alone and in isolation; the issue cannot be approached piecemeal.”
  • This leads us to ask ourselves about the meaning of existence and its values as the basis of social life: “What is the purpose of our life in this world? What is the goal of our work and all our efforts? What need does the earth have of us?”
  • “Unless we struggle with these deeper questions I do not believe that our concern for ecology will produce significant results.”

Last week I came to know of a quarry operating near Natadradave, Dawasamu that intends to crush all the stones and rocks it can find in the river alongside the village and sell the crushed stones locally and overseas. They have carried out an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) and hence given a licence to operate a quarry. I am deeply concerned how the extraction of stones from the river will affect the environment in the nearby villages of Natadadrave and Delakado. What impact will it have on the fishes, prawns and other creatures that depend on the river including human beings? What will happen if there is heavy rain and flooding?

The people of Natadradave are not the only victims of some so-called development projects. We already have bauxite mining in Bua. There is mining interest in Wainunu, Bua. A mining company has been carrying intensive mining explorations in Namosi for the last 40 years. Some reliable sources state that their licence for Deep Sea Mining in Fiji’s ocean has been issued. Along with the extractive industries we have to take into account the logging industry and any industry that exploits our natural resources. All these projects carried out in the name of development must be evaluated and questioned in regard to social and ecological justice. How do they develop and protect human beings, creatures and the environment?

Easter brings the message of hope to the Jews and early Christians who have been oppressed for years. Easter message therefore speaks against the destruction of peoples, the environment and the planet. May the Easter services and prayers give us the strength to follow the Risen Lord courageously in his suffering, death and resurrection. Alleluia!

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Government of El Salvador votes to ban outright all metal mining in the country.

Just before the vote, legislators unfurl banners saying “No to mining; Yes to life” throughout the assembly.

“water is worth more than gold and that life is more valuable that corporate profits”

Centre for International Environmental Law | 7 April 2017

The decision makes the small Central American country the first to halt a modern day gold rush, effectively stopping all mining projects in the pipeline.

When the National Roundtable Against Metallic Mining first proposed this legislation almost ten years ago, many thought the idea was preposterous, unwinnable, and a non-starter.

But the Salvadoran social movement never wavered in its resolve. Years of organizing, educating, and mobilizing – led by courageous activists on the frontlines in the northern province of Cabañas, led to the vote which declared unequivocally that water is worth more than gold and that life is more valuable that corporate profits.

The final vote tally mirrored the results of a national consultation process in which more than 70% of Salvadorans voted against mining in their territories.

In El Salvador, a water-parched country with 96% of its surface water already contaminated, communities heard from affected groups in neighboring Guatemala and Honduras about the devastating impacts of mining. These stories added to El Salvador’s own experience with gold mining companies.

In the mid 2000’s, Commerce Group failed to mitigate contamination from its San Sebastian mine into a local river, which now has eleven times the healthy limit for cyanide and one thousand times the limit for lead. In the case of Pacific Rim Mining (now OceanaGold), El Salvador defended itself for seven years against a $250 million lawsuit after it denied the company an extraction license for environmental reasons.

El Salvador won the case in October 2016, though OceanaGold has still not paid the $8 million awarded to El Salvador, nor has the company left the country. After this historic vote, OceanaGold can no longer harbor any aspirations of mining in El Salvador. The entire country has united under a single slogan: “Yes to life. No to mining.”

Their perseverance against enormous odds is an inspiration for all of us.

As Cristina Starr from Radio Victoria said:

“Today water won over gold.”

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Former Bougainville speaker lashes out at BCL

Peterson Tseraha | Loop PNG | April 13, 2017

Former speaker of the Bougainville House of Representatives Andrew Miriki has lashed out at the type of manner in which Bougainville Copper is re-entering into the region.

The former speaker and also rebel hardliner during the crisis told PNG Loop that BCL boss Peter Taylor, should be ashamed of himself for entering Bougainville without addressing and compensating the 20,000 lives lost.

“First of all we should all know and understand the fact that this are the very people who caused a war for us to be slaughtered, it should have been admirable if they approached us in a more culturally related fashion.”

 “Like bringing a pig and shell money,” Miriki said.

“We have the most unique mining laws ever on this planet where the landowners own the resources now, and I would like to ask the government of the day now, that if we own our resources what’s BCL doing knocking on our door again?” he said.

“We don’t care if it’s even the new BCL the same laws apply and the same burden and mistakes the old BCL did you also carry,”  Miriki said.

He added that the ABG and its administration is now completely BCL are now all BCL infested and that does not look good.

“Even if they are to follow our laws they must not be treated special, they must be told straight in their face to pay the 10 billion compensation and put the mine back on tender,” Miriki said.

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