| Foreign Brief
MELBOURNE – Yesterday marked the last day of the independence referendum in Bougainville, an autonomous region of Papua New Guinea.
The referendum provided citizens with two choices: the enhancement of current autonomy arrangements or independence.
The current PNG prime minister James Marape favours a shared region, with Bougainville having increased autonomy.
If Bougainville is to gain independence, it will face major economic issues, as the region relies heavily on PNG for financial support.
Although rich in natural resources, its main source of income, the Panguna copper and gold mine, has been closed since 1989, the second year of a decade-long civil war that resulted in the peace agreeing leading to the referendum.
Even if PNG agrees to reopen the mine, it could not be operational until 2025. Thus, independence—the option favoured by most citizens—would pose a number of issues requiring negotiation with the PNG government.
The referendum’s results will be released on 20 December, with a vote for independence the most likely outcome.
However, with numerous political and economic questions yet to be resolved with PNG, the process of becoming an independent nation could take years for Bougainville to achieve.