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Rio Tinto's billion-dollar mess

Monday 22nd of August 2016 12:38:02 PM

Panguna Mess

Panguna was once known as the world’s largest open-cut copper mine which used to deliver riches, but is now an eyesore sitting right on Australia’s doorstep, a giant mess big enough to tear a country apart.

The gaping hole in the mountains became the flashpoint of a bitter civil war in Papua New Guinea in the 1990’s. The war forced the closure of the Panguna mine on the island of Bougainville 27 years ago, and finally now Rio Tinto has come to the decision to cut its losses and walk away.

This decision has angered local leaders on Bougainville as Rio Tinto side-stepped demands for a billion-dollar clean up.

The local leaders on Bougainville who are contemplating forming an independent nation and struggling with finances are threatening an international campaign to shame the company into making a contribution.

But they also want Australia (as the former colonial power responsible for authorising the mine) to contribute to a special fund to repair rivers poisoned by toxic sludge and compensate the people who lost their homes.

John Momis, president of Bougainville's autonomous government, told Fairfax Media "It would be a big amount of money that would be required to restore as much as possible the damaged environment and relocated villages,".

"Probably a billion dollars. Nobody really knows, but that would be about the amount of money required."


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