A high delegation of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville Government (ABG) representatives, who conducted a mining forum in Panguna and Arawa last Wednesday and Thursday, was met with stiff opposition from locals.
In Panguna, Regina Eremari, a landowner who represented the grassroots women of the area, said the ABG leaders were not considering the voice of the women.
“We women are the custodians and landowners of the land, not the men! In the past, it was the men who the led and spoilt our land and environment through mining, which resulted in the Bougainville Crisis,” she tearfully said.
“When Bougainville Copper Limited mined our land, we were displaced and placed in settlements, and still live in these settlements today. Our gardening grounds were destroyed.
“Now where will they put us if they want to mine the land again? Because most of us have moved back to where the mining once operated and have made our homes in and around the mining pit area.”
She also called for ABG to be transparent with decisions that involve mining, because Bougainville is still in the early stages of the peace process and there are so many outstanding issues that still have to be dealt with.
Meanwhile, in the Arawa forum, women leader Lynette Ona questioned the ABG members present as to which landowners they had consulted with, to say that Panguna landowners have agreed to open the Panguna Mine under BCL.
“I am a landowner and my land is right in the centre of the Panguna Mine pit and no one has consulted with me for my land to be dug up. And my stance is ‘No Mining, No BCL!’ BCL is not welcome to come and dig up my land again, never!’ she exclaimed.
The delegation, led by Vice President and Minister for Minerals and Energy Resource, Raymond Masono, and Director Office of Panguna Mine Negotiation, Bruno Babato, included Minister for Economic and Trade Development - Fidelis Semoso, Minister for Autonomy Implementation - Albert Punghau, Minister for Finance and Treasury - Robin Wilson, DPI Minister - Nicholas Darku, Minister for Education - Thomas Pa’ataku, Secretary Department of Minerals and Energy Resources, Shedrach Himata, and their team.