NOOSA - The Human Rights Law Centre in Melbourne has said Rio Tinto Ltd should fund an investigation of health and safety issues and clean up the environmental mess from the Panguna copper and gold mine in the 20 years from 1970 to 1990.
It says the review would be a starting point for compensation talks and negotiations about rehabilitating the old minesite at Panguna and nearby waterways including the ruined Jaba River.
In a cynical move, Rio Tinto gave away its majority 53.8% share ownership in Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL) to the PNG and Bougainville governments in 2016, leaving behind many health and environmental problems that are likely to cost tens of millions of kina to remediate.
Rio Tinto has acknowledged these concerns but excuses itself by pleading it has not had access to the mine since 1990 when it retreated from Bougainville amidst rising community protests.
“We believe the best means of addressing any current issues is through the owners of the mine working directly with the people of Bougainville,” Rio Tinto said in a statement.
The Human Rights Law Centre said the Bougainville mine and its waste dumps contaminated the minesite and adjacent river valleys, restricting access to clean water for 14,000 people who live downstream and denuding watercourses for 40 km down to the west coast.