As tensions in Bougainville increase due to injustices related to the Panguna mine, the mine is forcibly shut down and eventually abandoned in 1989. With the Bougainville population bearing all the costs of environmental damage and health risks without getting any of the benefits, this causes such outrage that it sparks a war for independence from Papua New Guinea. Thousands are killed in this conflict which concludes in 2001 when a peace deal is signed under which Bougainville remains part of Papua New Guinea but with governing autonomy and a commitment to a deferred referendum on autonomy or independence. At the end of 2019, the referendum is held and 98% of Bougainvilleans vote for independence.
The Panguna mine’s entire history of causing social and environmental problems as well as its role in the violent conflict for independence is noticeably absent from Rio Tinto’s own timeline.
Cut and Run report by LMN