Bougainville shareholders call for independent inquiry

SHAREHOLDERS at Rio Tinto subsidiary Bougainville Copper are calling for a full inquiry into the company’s involvement in a decade-long civil war ahead of plans to reopen the Panguna mine in Papua New Guinea.
Bougainville shareholders call for independent inquiry Bougainville shareholders call for independent inquiry Bougainville shareholders call for independent inquiry Bougainville shareholders call for independent inquiry Bougainville shareholders call for independent inquiry

The company has been eyeing a resumption of mining of the giant Panguna copper deposit after a recent visit by PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill prompted conciliatory sentiment among war-torn communities.

But a resolution to be discussed at the company's annual general meeting says proposals to restart the mine should wait until an independent jurist makes a full inquiry into the company's involvement during "counter insurgency operations conducted around the time of the mine closure".

It also urges that recommendations be made to redress any past wrongdoing and the full report be made public.

Up to 20,000 people were killed in the conflict fought between PNG forces and the Bougainville Revolutionary Army, which began in 1990.

Lobby group, the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility, which is a shareholder in Bougainville Copper, said it would push the company to address the concerns of the local community and environmental issues before attempting to reopen Panguna.

"The best chance of BCL's mine being reopened will come from commitments to future good corporate citizenship by BCL," ACCR executive director Caroline Le Couteur said.

"Rio Tinto, its largest shareholder, has made such commitments.

"BCL should too. That is what our resolutions call for.

"To improve the chance of the mine reopening, to get a better deal for the people of Bougainville and ensure the environment disaster of the previous operations are not repeated, we are calling on BCL to invite an independent jurist to conduct a full enquiry into the involvement of BCL in the civil war and ensure any proposal to restart the mine should deal with the outcomes of that enquiry.

"We are also calling on BCL to commit to a high standard of environmental rehabilitation."

The votes will take place during Bougainville Copper's annual general meeting in Port Moresby on May 6.

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