MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Bougainville to see benefits in five years: Kabui

Published by MAC on 2002-09-19

Bougainville to see benefits in five years: Kabui

The president of the Bougainville People's Congress, Joseph Kabui, has expressed confidence that the situation will be a lot better in five years time with an autonomous government that will deliver better services.

"The real benefits will be seen in 10 to 15 years time," he said, adding that development would take on a "Bougainvillean model" just as it had done in the peace process.

Mr Kabui said he was against the opening of the Bougainville copper mine even though small-scale mining could be encouraged if it was properly managed and well controlled. He said the Panguna mine, which still had more than 400 million tonnes of copper and gold-bearing ore, would not be opened "as long as I am breathing air".

However, Mr Kabui acknowledged there were some people in Arawa, not far from the mine site, including former Panguna Landowners Association chairman Michael Pariu, who wanted the mine opened to create jobs and other opportunities.

"This could even be a referendum issue if there is strong popular feeling," he said. "I am really anti-mining now. I'd rather have a crystal clear river flowing out. With mining you get all the chemicals flowing down the river."

Mr Kabui said the future emphasis in Bougainville would be on agriculture, marine resources and eco-tourism.

He said there was "huge potential" in cocoa, copra and forestry, noting that the province had been responsible for more than half the nation's cocoa exports.

Mr Kabui said international buyers favoured locally grown cocoa - output is forecast to rise from 10,000 tonnes this year to 25,000 tonnes in five years - because it "has a special flavour you don't find anywhere else in the world".

"There is a lot of thinking going into downstream processing. We will look at policies for cocoa, copra and timber," he said, while adding that equity negotiations with foreign companies would be done "in such a way that Bougainville must have a major share". The forestry sector, he said, was presently a small cottage industry and "we will encourage it in a big way"

Mr Kabui said that although the potential was not as great as on the PNG mainland there were well-resourced forest areas in south Bougainville and on the west coast. He said cocoa was one crop the province was "going into in a major way" with potential benefits for thousands of households.

The copra industry could also make "a big turnaround" especially if it could be processed as an alternative to diesel fuel for use by vehicles and by generators. "It is very viable and will cost less than imported fuel," he said.

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