Rio starts talks about the future of Bougainville mine

 

Talks are today being held on the reopening of Rio Tinto’s Bougainville copper mine, and for the first time landowners will be formally consulted about the project.

The Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) is holding a series of Mining Forums to consult the island's population before starting negotiations for the reopening of the mine.

According to the ABC, development at the mine in the 1980s resulted in a decade-long civil war, leaving more than 10,000 people dead.

But now the Bougainville government is looking for new development opportunities.

Hundreds of landowners from the Panguna area are expected for the two-day meeting in Arawa.

The meetings come after three years of talks and is part of a series of forums across.

The government previously held three mining forums.

The deputy chairperson of the Panguna and Affected Resource Owners Association, Theresia Jaintong, expected many people in the community to attend.

"All the landowners and all the Council of Elders, the chiefs, the women, the churches, the disabled, the youths, everybody will be there," she said.

"It is the way forward for the Panguna mine to be reopened and also the people must speak.

"We will encourage them to speak positively about what they think, and with a lot of common sense, looking into the future for the younger generation."

AGB Mining Minister Michael Oni told Radio Australia more consultations will take place over the next few months.

Senior lecturer in environmental engineering at Monash University and chairman of the Minerals Policy Institute, Gavin Mudd, told the ABC a significant amount of damage remains on the island and that this needs to be addressed before mining activities are once again ramped up.

The island has suffered the devastating effects of acid mine drainage, where minerals were left lying on the ground and have reacted with rainwater to produce sulphuric acid.

Mudd estimates clean-up costs could equate to $1 billion or more.

"But that cost at the moment is being borne by the local environment and the community.

"Their gardens are gone; their water quality is severely impacted."

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