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Voices of Bougainville Report

In September 2014 Jubilee Australia published its report, Voices of Bougainville: Nikana Kangsi, Nikana Dong (Our Land, Our Future).

Background to the research:

Twenty five years after the Panguna mine in Bougainville closed, discussion around re-opening the mine has started to gain momentum. Despite suggestions of near unanimous support for the mine’s reopening, anecdotal evidence to Jubilee colleagues suggested there was significant local opposition to re-opening the mine.

With the Panguna region closed to outsiders, voices of those most affected by the mine were not widely heard in the current debate. These views are presented in Jubilee Australia's report, Voices of Bougainville: Nikana Kangsi, Nikana Dong (Our Land, Our Future)(or download it here).

People Interviewed

Researchers travelled to ten different sites in the Panguna region at the invitation of community leaders during November and December 2013.  They spoke with people from most of the key villages in or around the mine site.

Jubilee’s primary objective was to sample a broad cross-section of society from the mine-impacted communities in order to understand more deeply community perspectives. The sample was qualitative and exploratory, and was not intended to be representative of the entire district. To that end interviews were conducted with adult women, adult men, young people (over 18 years old), elders and village leaders. Jubilee interviewed 65 people individually, as well as one focus group discussion with 17 participants.

Preliminary observations:

•    Interviewees unanimously referred to the mine operation period (1972 – 1989) as a negative one which produced a range of irreversible impacts on their communities;
•    Many interviewees believe that the company who previously operated the mine and is working towards its re-opening, BCL, bears a direct burden of responsibility for the civil war that occurred after the mine’s closure. They do not believe that BCL has adequately faced justice, or that true and lasting reconciliation has taken place;
•    There was an almost unanimous view that the mine should not be re-opened in the immediate future.  The reasons given for the opposition include the negative environmental and social impacts associated with the mine, the lack of meaningful reconciliation and justice, and the ongoing effects of trauma from the conflict;
•    A significant minority were prepared to consider discussing the prospect of reopening the mine under certain conditions, such as after Bougainville independence, or if the mine were to be operated by a local rather than foreign company;
•    The majority of people interviewed were deeply critical of the recent mine consultation process.  Many believe they were excluded from the process;
•    A majority of people interviewed believe their island should explore alternatives to industrial scale mining.

Public Debate

The Voices of Bougainville report received significant media attention:

•    The Guardian: Opposition to Bougainville's Panguna mine 'higher than media suggest'
•    Radio Australia: Report says lots of opposition to Bougainville mining
•    ABC: Bougainville landowner associations demand apology over 'divisive' Panguna mine report

Bougainville President, Chief Dr John Momis, wrote to Jubilee and demanded that the report be withdrawn. Below are the letters from President Chief Dr John Momis to Jubilee Australia:

•   22 September 2014 letter;
•   24 October2014 letter;
•  2 November 2014 letter; 
•   1 December 2014 letter.

Jubilee Australia responded to the letters: 

•   26 October 2014 response;
•   18 November 2014 response;
•  7 January 2015 response.

Take Action

The people of Bougainville have been seemingly forgotten by a world that would rather not know about their trauma, or those responsible for it. Worse still, they have been told their community carries the blame.


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