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Panguna ex-combatants call for reconciliation to go ahead


EX-COMBATANTS from A Company of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA), which was raised in the Panguna District, have voiced concerns over a number of issues involving Panguna mine-affected people.

A meeting of Ioro council of elders at Enamira village, led by ABG Mining Minister Robin Wilson, discussed the prospective bel kol (reconciliation) process with Bougainville Copper Limited.

The ex-combatants claimed to have been long suppressed by non-Panguna people and other ex-combatants acting without considering the needs of Panguna people and creating confusion about the roots of the Bougainville crisis.

“Our comrades from other areas of Bougainville do not know our problems,” former A Company operations commander Dominic Bobake argued.

“In Panguna our land is affected by chemicals from the massive pollution we have living with since the Panguna mine was established.

“Our health and life is in danger, so we need the bel kol to go ahead so we can, under the auspices of our traditions and culture, have BCL or Rio Tinto on the ground to discuss and address the issues,” Mr Bobake said.

“These issues include whether we should re-open the mine or officially shut it down. The Panguna mine is not a closed mine but a deserted mine.”

Enamira chief and chairman of the Upper Tailings Landowner Group, Michael Pariu, told the meeting that time was running out.

“We as leaders are trying to address all our issues with BCL, but we are barricaded from moving forward,” he warned.

“We have too many Meekamui groups pushing their own agendas. We have many former BRA groups talking against us. Now we have another group, the Hardliners from Kongara. Who are we to listen to?”

Mr Wilson told the meeting that it was time to examine the timeline of the genesis of the Bougainville crisis and see when the respective Central Bougainville communities joined the fighting.

The meeting said the Panguna people had been struggling with BCL over environmental carnage and the unfair distribution of benefits since 1987, but the political aspects of the Bougainville crisis did not arise until 1989, which saw many ex-combatants from other areas join the militancy.

“You have to engage your comrades on this now,” Mr Wilson said. “You were fighting to shut the mine without any political ambitions but took a political turn to gain popular support in 1989.

“Your district is not viable to agriculture so we cannot talk about agriculture in Panguna.

“Also you are living with chemicals in the land, rivers and air and all these need an environmental audit. The bel kol will pave the way for a solution to your issues.”

The meeting agreed there was a need for other ex-combatants whose home areas were not affected my mining to respect the ambitions of the Panguna people.

Many people in Panguna now fear Rio Tinto will offload its majority stake in BCL because of uncertainty about what kind of a company would buy the shares. At the Panguna meeting it was stated that BCL has been genuine in recent times.


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Jaffie Amani

I heard from some friends that there are cyanide tanks located near the mine and they are about to collapse.

Let's forget politics and get BCL to assist in disposing these chemical before the tanks collapse and destroy the environment.

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