Jubilee Australia stands by Bougainville mine report | Pacific Beat

Jubilee Australia stands by Bougainville mine report

Jubilee Australia stands by Bougainville mine report

Updated 2 October 2014, 17:04 AEST

Jubilee Australia says it takes the views of Bougainville's President and landowners very seriously but it is unlikely that its controversial report 'Bougainville Voices' will be withdrawn.

Jubilee's researchers interviewed 65 people from villages affected by the Rio Tinto-owned Panguna copper mine and found they were overwhelmingly opposed to the re-opening of mine.

Bougainville President John Momis and the chair men and women of all nine landowner associations from mine-affected areas have rejected the findings and in an unprecedented move, have written to Jubliee's board demanding an apology.

Presenter: Jemima Garrett

Speaker: Luke Fletcher, chair of Jubilee Australia board

GARRETT: Wrong, misleading and divisive is how the chair men and women of the nine landowner key associations on the Papua New Guinea island of Bougainville describe the picture painted by Jubilee Australia in it report 'Bougainville Voices'.

In their letter to the Board of the Australian NGO they say the organisation should be ashamed of itself and they want an apology.

Their key complaint is that the reports findings - of overwhelming opposition to re-opening of the Panguna copper mine and universal dissatisfaction with the consultation process - are dramatically out-of-step with public opinion. They say if the researchers had done their job properly they would have discovered that.

Luke Fletcher is the Chair of the Jubilee Australia Board.

FLETCHER: I think it is unlikely that we will withdraw the report but it is certainly something we take very seriously. We are actually very pleased that this is has started debate. We certainly didn't mean to offend anyone. We think that some of the comments on the report may reflect people who perhaps didn't read it carefully enough, in terms of some of the criticisms that have been made.

GARRETT: The jubilee researchers interviewed 65 people in 10 villages. They found their interviewees through unnamed intermediaries who they describe as 'culturally-appropriate gatekeepers'.

Anonymity was needed, they say, to ensure people's safety and willingness to speak freely.

It is not a view the landowner leaders have much sympathy for. They say their associations are the result of 5 years of consultations and that they were elected by meetings attended by more than 2400 people.

The landowner leaders say Jubilee should have sought their views.

Luke Fletcher says the decision not to was deliberate.

FLETCHER: We had the sense that if we were in any way associated with the current landowner associations of ABG (Autonomous Bougainville Government)that may make it difficult to feel comfortable in talking to us so it was a deliberate strategy to try and come in as independent and not be perceived and to be part of any particular agenda. As it turned out, it is really important that we did do that, because even though we only spoke to a small number of people the feelings of the small number of people suggest to us that they wouldn't have spoken to us if we were allied with these groups.

GARRETT: The President of Bougainville and the chairs of the landowner associations do not deny there is opposition to mining in Bougainville. They just say that what you found does not reflect the views of the people. If you did not get in touch with the landowner bodies or take a random sample do you acknowledge that the views in the report may not reflect the views of people affected by the mine.

FLETCHER: Well, I think that is a very good point about the random sample. This report was never supposed to be a random sample. We simply do not have the resources that it would take to talk to the number of people that would be needed to do a proper randomised sample and we were very clear in saying this was not is not what it was. It is just an attempt to get a snapshot, if you like.

GARRETT: President Momis and the chair men and women of the landowner associations want the report withdrawn and they want an apology. Are you prepared to do either of those things?

FLETCHER: Well, we have received this request and it is a request that we take very seriously. There is a process that we have as an organisation to deal with these sorts of things. We have an internal process where we are looking at every single comment they have made about the report and assessing them and if we find that there is merits and that the report is so flawed that it merits being withdrawn then we will take that action. I would say it is very unlikely and I would say that for this particular reason is that the people who were involved in this report are all very highly qualified academics and all the questions that are being raised about the report are questions we had with ourselves and very deeply before we released it.

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