Mining and environmental legislation in Autonomous Bougainville, Papua New Guinea

Lesley Siowi, Environmental Scientist, Autonomous Bougainville Department of Mineral and Energy Resources, participated in the 2014 Environmental Management in Mining course at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia . The lessons learnt from this course have helped inform the design of Bougainville mining legislation.

From 1971 to 1989, the island of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea (PNG) hosted one of the largest open pit copper mines, the Panguna Copper Mine. The mine was operated by Rio Tinto through its subsidiary Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL), generating over 40% of PNG’s GDP. However after several years of operation, the landowners of the mining lease area felt they were being marginalised by both the government of PNG and BCL as they were not receiving benefits from the mine - the area remained relatively destitute with poor infrastructure, lack of basic amenities,  and meagre  education and health services.  

What started off as a request by local landowners to negotiate better terms for their land lead to a war for many years with thousands of lives lost, millions of dollars  worth of damage, human rights abuse and the displacement of almost 80% of the local Bougainvilleans from their homeland.

Peace has been restored with various agreements in place and the emergence of a new Bougainville with an autonomous status granted by the Government of Papua New Guinea. The Autonomous Bougainville Government aims to utilise the vast mineral, oil and gas resources as a catalyst for economic recovery and independence. They have developed mining policy, mining legislation and mining regulatory Framework to guide inclusive sustainable development from minerals resources.

Community consultations were conducted across Bougainville to enable the community to not only be aware of the legislation but to also provide feedback. Prominent key issues raised were benefit sharing and distribution, social and environmental disturbances as a consequence of mining operations.

From the Environmental Management in Mining Course, Lesley found the discussions on rehabilitation and mine closure plan useful and as result of that Bougainville mining legislation has a section on rehabilitation and mine Closure that incorporates the financial security aspect that was learnt during the IM4DC environment course.

“A very important positive impact that the IM4DC has had on the Department of Mining in Bougainville is that the officers that have attended various courses and have influenced  greatly the development of mining policies and legislation by incorporating important issues learnt during their time with IM4DC.”



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