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Panguna Mine Legacy Impact Committee holds first meeting

A positive first meeting of the Panguna Mine Legacy Impact Assessment Oversight Committee was held in Buka in 2021. 

The Autonomous Bougainville Government hosted representatives from clan, landowner and community groups, the Papua New Guinea Government, Rio Tinto, Bougainville Copper Limited and the Human Rights Law Centre. 

The committee met to discuss the way forward in assessing the environmental and human rights impacts associated with the former Panguna mine.

Minister for Department of Primary Industry and the Regional Member for Central Bougainville Women, Hon. Geraldine Paul, representing the ABG in her opening remarks said “this process is equally important and necessary for all parties, the people of Bougainville, ABG and BCL.”

She thanked Rio Tinto and BCL for accepting the responsibility to work with ABG and noted that “ABG has given its full support through the executive council for the Panguna Mine Impact assessment to be carried out”.

In addition, Hon. Geraldine Paul updated the committee that a political timeline has been set for Bougainville’s Independence hence this process is timely to complement the political aspirations of the people of Bougainville.

Rio Tinto’s representative on the Committee, General Manager for Closure Delivery, Mr. John Dumbill said, “Rio Tinto is sorry that we did not come forward earlier to understand the impacts from the mine. We are ready and willing to participate in this process with you. I hope that I can help to move this forward, and I am personally committed to making sure this process is fair and representative."

The Honourable Theonila Roka Matbob from the ABG and spokesperson from the Panguna Complainants group, who also recently won an international award for her efforts in seeking justice for affected communities, thanked him for the apology and noted that Rio Tinto had been constructive  in working through the complaint that had been brought against them by communities through the Australian National Contact Point (AusNCP):

“This meeting marks what we hope is the start of a new chapter for the communities impacted by the Panguna mine. Personally, it fills me with great hope to see all these stakeholders come together to discuss a way forward to find solutions to the huge problems our people are living with. We are looking forward to working with the Committee to ensure work on the ground can start as soon as possible," Hon. Theonila Matbob said.

The committee, through its Independent Chairman, Mr Martin Brash of the Tanorama Consulting Group released a statement following the meeting on Tuesday, “All parties at the meeting have committed to collaborating in a fair and effective process that helps address the concerns of affected communities. 

In this first meeting, the committee has established operating arrangements for the process and have also finalised and endorsed a procedure to go to market to find a professional firm to complete the technical impact assessment.”

The committee also accepted a resolution from Honourable Geraldine Paul from the ABG to hold the next meeting in Panguna in February this year where they are expected to receive a desktop report that traces available relevant background information about the environment and population in Panguna. This report will help inform both the committee and the impact assessment contractor, who is expected to be appointed by the committee in April 2022.

The Panguna Mine Legacy Impact Assessment Oversight Committee members include:

1.       Hon. Theonila Matbob, Member for Ioro and Minister for Education, representing the complainant group

2.       Mr Wendelinus Bitanuma, Paramount Chief, Bakorinku Clan

3.       Fr. Bruno, delegate of Paramount Chief, Barapang Clan

4.       Mr. Gregory Dora, Paramount Chief, Kurabang Clan

5.       Mr. Peter Tauna, Paramount Chief, Basikang Clan

6.       Ms Angela Kabarui, President Panguna Women’s Federation

7.       Mr Bonaventure Kenulei, Coordinator, Catholic Diocese Listening Project

8.       Ms. Bernadine Kiraa, Chairperson, Lower Tailings Landowner Association

9.       Ms Theresa Jaintong, Chairperson, Sokate Landowners Association

10.   Mr Flynn Moses, Technical Adviser, Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA)

11.   Hon. Geraldine Paul, Minister for Primary Industry and Marine Resources, representing the Autonomous Bougainville Government

12.   Dr Naihuwo Ahai, Director, BRPS, representing the Autonomous Bougainville Government

13.   Hon. Peter Tsiamalili Jr, Member for Central Bougainville, Government of Papua New Guinea

14.   Ms Keren Adams, Legal Director, Human Rights Law Centre, representing the complainant group

15.   Mr John Dumbill, General Manager Closure Delivery APAC, Rio Tinto

16.   Sir Mel Togolo, Chairman, Bougainville Copper Limited.  

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