Latest News

Jubilee Statements

Monitoring the impacts of government and corporate behaviour in communities overseas.

Devil in the Detail

Release Date: 11-Nov-2015

After a 26-year absence of mining in Bougainville, and after the island suffered a brutal civil war, a new mining act has opened the door to tenement applications.

The Bougainville Mining Act, passed on March 26, 2015, raises serious concerns as local communities are largely unaware of its provisions that include hefty penalties and imprisonment for infringement of the Act.  

A new report produced by Jubilee Australia analyses provisions of the Act which could be in violation of international covenants and with Bougainville’s constitution. It also compares claims made about the Act by politicians and others, with its actual terms.

Executive Summary Available Here

“Given the bloody history and sensitivities around mining in Bougainville, it’s vital that the Act is understood,” Jubilee Australia CEO, Brynnie Goodwill, said

“The profound impact on the socio-ecological, cultural and economic wellbeing of local communities must be protected.” 

A number of provisions give rise to concern. Under the new mining law: 

“The Australian government should also be aware of the authoritarian and regressive aspects of the mining act, and should be raising these human rights concerns with the Bougainville authorities so that amendments can be made, and consent by local communities achieved, before any mining lease applications are accepted." 

“This law was drafted by Adam Smith International, funded by the World Bank, with the transitional mining act developed with assistance from Australian advisors funded by DFAT." 

“The UN Special Rapporteur, James Anaya, has published a report on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Extractive Industries, and the UN Mining Working Group recently published a ‘Rights-Based Approach to the Extractive Industries in the Pursuit of Sustainable Development.’” 

“These two reports provide a dramatically different approach to mining, and would be a more appropriate model for Bougainville,” she added. 

“Australian mining companies will undoubtedly be involved in future projects, and their activities, including their political engagement, should be held to the highest standard, given the history of engagement on the island,” Goodwill said. 

The re-opening of mining in Bougainville sits on the backdrop of unresolved issues stemming from the establishment and eventual closure of the Panguna Mine, a large-scale copper and gold mine operated by Rio Tinto subsidiary Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL). In 1989, after industrial sabotage by local landowners protesting conditions, the mine closed as the island plunged into a decade-long war, where up to 20,000 people, 10% of the population, died.  

A referendum on the independence of Bougainville will be voted on during the next five years. There is strong interest on the island for expansion of the once vibrant agricultural sector that returns revenue directly to landowners without disruption to land and culture, increasing production of cocoa, coffee and copra.