A story from The Age, does Exxon Mobil have any less leverage we wonder?
PAPUA New Guinea's Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, has accused Australian mining giant Rio Tinto and its subsidiary Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) of being behind the PNG military's bloody suppression of Bougainville rebels opposed to the company's Panguna copper mine.
An affidavit written by Sir Michael when he was Opposition Leader in 2001 - and never made public - alleges that Rio played an active role in military operations that ultimately led to a civil war and blockade of the island in which 15,000 people died between 1989 and 1997.
''Because of Rio Tinto's financial influence in PNG, the company controlled the government,'' Mr Somare's affidavit states.
''The government of PNG followed Rio Tinto's instructions and carried out its requests … BCL was directly involved in the military operations on Bougainville, and it played an active role. BCL supplied helicopters, which were used as gunships, the pilots, troop transportation, fuel and troop barracks.''
The Somare affidavit was lodged as part of an ongoing class action in the United States by the islanders against Rio Tinto.
The case has been bogged down in legal argument for 10 years, preventing much of the evidence, including the Somare affidavit, from being made public. In his signed statement, Sir Michael claims that without Rio Tinto, there would never have been a war.
''It is my opinion that absent Rio Tinto's mining activity on Bougainville or its insistence that the Panguna mine be re-opened, the government would not have engaged in hostilities or taken military action on the island.'' The affidavit will complicate Rio Tinto's current attempts to reopen the mine, which is being supported by Sir Michael's government.
Sir Michael was unaware that SBS's Dateline program had obtained his signed statement from sealed US court material until his office was contacted this week. Sir Michael is recovering from double heart surgery in Singapore and his office was unable to say if he still stood by his comments.
The ailing leader's statement reinforces claims from the islander litigants and former rebels that Rio Tinto had a hand in the military's efforts.
Sam Kauona, a former fighter, said: ''It didn't surprise me, all the time we knew.
''We knew that BCL was financing this war on Bougainville because when we were fighting … all the BCL vehicles were being used by the security forces.''
Panguna landowner, former rebel and local chief Philip Miriori said Sir Michael's statement backs up his long-standing claims about Rio's complicity with the PNG military.
BCL chief executive Peter Taylor was aware of the affidavit, but said he was surprised Sir Michael would ''make these accusations knowing they're completely unfounded''.
Brian Thomson's report on the war in Bougainville screens on Dateline on SBS1 at 8.30 tonight.
This story was found at: http://www.theage.com.au/national/rio-tinto-caused-war-somare-20110625-1gkow.htm