Media release

Progress welcome in resolving Bougainville mine grievances

The Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility​ (ACCR)​ welcomes today’s announcement of progress in discussions between members of the Bougainville community, Rio Tinto Ltd and the Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC). The discussions are facilitated by the Australian National Contact Point (Aus NCP) for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises pursuant to a complaint filed by members of the Bougainville community represented by the HRLC.

Under the agreement between the parties , there will be an independent assessment (“The Panguna Mine Legacy Impact Assessment”) to identify actual and potential environmental and human rights impacts arising from the Panguna Mine abandoned without remediation in 1989, and to develop recommendations for what needs to be done to address them.

According to the parties’ statement, the Assessment is one of three commitments from Rio Tinto sought by the communities under the complaint to the AusNCP. The complaint also seeks commitments from Rio Tinto to:

  • Engage with Panguna mine-affected communities to help find solutions and undertake formal reconciliation as per Bougainvillean custom;
  • Contribute to a substantial, independently managed fund, to help address the harms caused by the mine and assist long-term rehabilitation efforts.

Following the conclusion of the Assessment, the Parties and other stakeholders will engage in further discussions in relation to the recommendations made by the Assessment and the remaining commitments sought by the communities.

ACCR’s Legal Counsel James Fitzgerald said:

“This is an important initial breakthrough after many long years of struggle by affected communities of Bougainville.

“A thorough impacts assessment is a necessary precondition to the negotiation of a lasting settlement on just terms between Rio Tinto and the people of Bougainville.

“The parties should be commended for their progress. It is also an encouraging sign of practical progress from Rio Tinto under its new leadership.

“However justice delayed is justice denied: It is essential that the Assessment deliver complete and reliable data to enable the parties to progress and finalise settlement as soon as possible.”