The region, which is pursuing independence from Papua New Guinea, has attracted mining and minerals exploration companies from around the world, drawn by its valuable copper and gold reserves.
Over a two-year investigation, Jubilee Australia tracked the companies vying for the right to mine on the island, ranging from one-person outfits to global operations backed by major investors.
Several of these companies are hoping to reopen the defunct Panguna mine, which sparked a brutal ten-year conflict on the island and continues to pollute the surrounding waterways decades later.
Jubilee Australia’s report finds that at least two of the companies seeking mining rights at Panguna have been making payments to landowner groups and stakeholders who are likely to be involved in decisions about whether to reopen the mine.
The report also looks at two leaked corporate presentations prepared for the Bougainvillean Government.
Fyfe Strachan, Policy Director at Jubilee Australia, said: “Whether or not to reopen Bougainville to large-scale mining is a decision for the government and people of Bougainville. Any reopening of mining in Bougainville needs to have the free, prior and informed consent of landowners, deliver genuine benefits to local communities and avoid repeating the environmental devastation of the past.”
The report also raises questions about corporate accountability, transparency and who is responsible for safeguarding human rights and the environment when multinational companies are operating overseas.
It recommends putting in place a mandatory human rights due diligence mechanism and a corporate beneficial ownership register to hold companies to account for the impact of their operations on communities overseas.
Ms Strachan said: “A strong and stable Bougainville is in Australia’s strategic interest. Australia’s regulatory regime offers few avenues to hold companies to account for their behaviour overseas.
“Those mechanisms that exist are poorly resourced and difficult to access for affected communities. Without stronger checks and balances on businesses operating overseas, Australia will continue to see its strategic interests undermined by its own corporations.”
The report can be downloaded at: www.jubileeaustralia.org/resources/publications/scramble-for-resources.