Papua New Guinea Peace Talks to Begin

Article excerpt

THE rebels of Bougainville Island and the government of Papua New Guinea plan to begin a second round of negotiations on Sept. 24 aimed at settling one of the South Pacific's major conflicts.

Although the venue and agenda have not yet been set, the two sides are likely to come closer to addressing the basic issue: some form of sovereignty for Bougainville.

The rebels are demanding self-determination. Bougainville is geographically closer to the Solomon Islands, and the islanders have darker skins than the residents of New Guinea.

"That's the whole basis of our disagreement," says Moses Havini, a Bougainville representative in Sydney.

At some point the two sides will also have to begin discussing the future of the Panguna copper mine, one of the world's largest open-pit mines. Government sources say it is still too early to discuss reopening the mine. Mr. Havini says the issue will have to be treated "very, very seriously, in terms of compensation and environmental effect."

Havini claims that compensation was set 20 years ago, and has not been adjusted for inflation. "The landowners are not happy with the amount given them compared to the amount going to Australia or PNG," says Havini.

Bougainville Copper Ltd. reports that it is 53.6 percent owned by CRA, a Melbourne-based mining company, 19.1 percent by the Papua New Guinea government, and 27.3 percent by the public. …