Sunday, 7 June 2009 12:18 AM

Lest we forget: Panguna Mining

Dear Editor

Please allow me to put this few words of reminder to my good people of Solomon Islands and especially of those of the Guadalcanal province. As the debate heated, on whose licences are to be allowed for mining of gold, lets not forget what had happen to Bougainville, Panguna mining just a few years ago.

The island of Bougainville with the massive natural resources of forests, copper, platinum, silver and gold has been ripped from its prosperity and right for nearly 20 years. As the largest open cut mining in the world the Australian owned CRA Ltd has employed thousands of local workers and hundreds of expatriates. Formed and came into operation in the 1960s it has a generated a profit of 3 billion USD for the last 20 years with only a thousand dollars given back to the land owners.
Conned, exploited and manipulated by the rich foreign guys the poor land owners ignorantly sign the mining deal. Around 10 years later the Bougainville copper mine started to undergo some threatening situations due to the unfair treatment of the locals.

And it has blown out of proportion as the upcoming generations knew that they have been coned of their resources, rights and dignity. They had seen and experience the impact of the environmental damages and the unfair economic benefits that has been going on for years. After countless protests and demands against illegal mining activities on futile and forbidden lands, (some land were taken by force) that had been ignored, the locals took matters into their own hands.

As the PNG and Australia government saw the rebellion of the people started to escalate they sent in the riot squad. Yet the riot kept escalating and those governments sent in the army troops. Documented evidences reported that Australia suspended its Foreign Act Crime just to send in Army expertises and pilots to train PNG soldiers to the so called "keep the peace mission" in Bougainville, which claimed around 15000 thousand innocent lives.

Let's see what main purpose of this fighting is. The CRA Ltd under Rio Tinto Zinc own around 53.6 % shares and PNG government 19.1%, nearly half of PNG export earnings. So we can suggest that there are more outside INTERESTS to the resources, rather than to the interest of the people of Bougainville.

Documented evidence reported locals were resettled into desolate ground with no proper housing or basic necessities, while their land is being curved into ruin for the luxury and benefits of others. Schools and clinics were built by the locals own pocket money, while the multi - billion Dollar Company and the PNG government did not even show any support.

Another horrific documented evidence was the environmental damages on land and rivers. Billion of tons of toxic chemical waste such copper, mercury, lead and arsenic were dumped into the rivers and stream killing the wildlife and leaving the surrounding forest land barren. People down the river who use it for basic survival had to escape the pollution by entering into other tribes' territory which causes ethnic quarrels while the mine keeps on building profits after profits.

So what I have written is just a glimpse of what might happen if our land owners and the government do not seriously consider these issues. Mining is good for the economy as well but we must think and be informative on such issues before we seal the deal otherwise we will regret but it is too late. Lest we forget it has happen before and it can happen again. Think twice and be wise.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this letter/article are those of Ruks Loko and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.

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