29 Aug 2008

Bougainville presidential election shapes up as referendum on mining

6:12 pm on 29 August 2008

An advisor to the government of the autonomous Papua New Guinea province of Bougainville says for the next presidential election is shaping to be a referendum on mining.

Bougainvilleans, who are due to go to the polls in late November, appear divided over whether the province should resume mining activities.

There are fears that a new deal involving mining that the autonomous government has entered into with a Canadian company, Invincible, could re-ignite the tensions which sparked Bougainville's bloody civil war.

However Australian academic and Bougainville government advisor, Anthony Regan, says the government sees the deal as a way to use mining revenue as a basis for a wider economic development package:

"Involving fisheries, forestry, eco-tourism and so on. Well that's what the Invincible Resources company people say they're doing. There are critics who say that's not what they're doing, that they're really only interested in mining. No one really knows. So it's turned into a highly controversial and divisive issue at the moment, whether big-scale mining should be allowed to go ahead."

Anthony Regan