21 Oct 2013

MP from Central Bougainville says the people don't want mining

5:58 pm on 21 October 2013

The Papua New Guinea MP representing Central Bougainville, Jimmy Miningtoro, says the people living near the Panguna mine do not want it re-opened.

The autonomous Bougainville government has been consulting around the province about a possible re-opening since the beginning of the year but talks planned last week in the Panguna region were derailed by former combatants.

Mr Miningtoro says this is an indication the people don't want mining.

He told Don Wiseman he wants the ABG to instead emphasise agriculture, starting with copra and cocoa and also looking to new crops.

JIMMY MININGTORO: Coffee can come into the island. Coffee has been doing very well in the island during German days and there are remnants... People have been looking after coffee for many years here.

DON WISEMAN: Most of these products, though, the returns on them at the moment, particularly if you look at mainland PNG, the returns on them are meagre, aren't they? They're very poor.

JM: Yeah, OK. These are just some examples, but we can find out more because there are crops able to meet the international market and we can work it out from there.

DW: You come from Central Bougainville, don't you?

JM: Absolutely.

DW: You're absolutely convinced that there are people around there and along the river that took those tailings that are adamantly opposed to a return to mining?

JM: Of course, of course. The people, they don't want mining. Now, also if you look at the way things have been going on, especially re-examining the mining activity on the island, it has taken so long for ABG. What I see is this - at this point in time ABG must direct its attention to agriculture. Now, there are reasons. One, at the moment we don't have the capacity to handle the mine on the island in terms of our workforce, so that is why I see mining at this time must stay out and the agriculture industry must come in, so that at least we can be able to sustain the island. Now, at the moment we are depending on the national governments funds, but the national governments funds are not filtering to Bougainville because the government on the ground is not meeting the compliance of how the money will be spent, so that's the problem.

DW: I think a lot of the focus on mining by the ABG was because of this sense that coming up in a little over a year's time is this period when they've got to seriously look at this vote on possible independence. And part of the requirement is they have a viable economy, isn't it? Are they going to have a viable economy based on agricultural staples? Is that possible?

JM: Well, New Zealand is run by agriculture, so it's not a mistake. I don't think New Zealand has a very big mining industry. You have an agriculture industry that is serving New Zealand. So it doesn't hurt if we develop proper agricultural systems with crops that can meet international needs, then we can be able to sustain our economy. Now, I don't see the future here for mining activity at this point in time. Because at the moment, as I have said, there is no capacity. And also if ABG cannot manage the government at the ground at the moment, how can ABG managing the extracting industry which they don't even know.

DW: They don't even know...?

JM: The operation of the extracting industry.