HE Patterson Oti, Solomon Islands High Commissioner to Fiji launched the book
A book considering the association between extractive resource industries, for instance mining, and violence in contemporary Melanesia was launched at The University of the South Pacific (USP) by His Excellency Patterson Oti, Solomon Islands High Commissioner to Fiji at the Laucala Campus on 24 May 2018.
Authored by Professor Matthew Allen, Director of Development Studies at the School of Government, Development and International Affairs (SGDIA), the book, Resource Extraction & Contentious States: Mining & the Politics of Scale in the Pacific Islands considers how extractive resource industries can shape processes of state formation, shedding new light on Melanesia’s resource curse.
In launching the publication, HE Oti stated that Prof Allen’s book is not only theoretical and academic but it has an important policy dimension.
“Prof Allen applies his research findings to an analysis of the recent reforms to the mining regulatory frameworks in both Bougainville and Solomon Islands.
HE Oti said Prof Allen’s core argument is that islands have proved to be exceptionally fragile settings for large-scale mining operations, in both an ecological and a social sense and that the regulatory frameworks for mining need to take this into account.
“His conclusion is a positive one. He finds that the new mining law in Bougainville and the new mining policy in Solomon Islands have not only learned important lessons from the past, but also pay specific attention to the particular circumstances of mining on islands,” he noted.
This he said this applies, for example, to benefit-sharing arrangements, the requirement that all communities living on an island that hosts a mining project, not only the project landowners, must receive some sort of benefits, such as infrastructure and community development projects.
“This will alleviate the potential for mining projects to produce or deepen patterns of socio-economic inequality within islands, which, as the book shows us, were an important cause of both Bougainville Crisis and the Ethnic Tension,” HE Oti said.
Staff of USP and members of the public at the book launch on 24 May 2018
Prof Allen stated that large-scale mining was implicated in two major conflicts in the region - the Bougainville Crisis (1989-1998) and the Solomon Islands Ethnic Tension (1998-2003).
“..but much more so in the case of Bougainville where most informed commentators agree that the Crisis would not have occurred were it not for the social and environmental impacts of Rio Tinto’s Panguna mine, at the time one of the world’s largest copper and gold mines,” he stated.
He said given that these conflicts occurred on islands, the book sets out to ask whether there is something peculiar about islands – their islandness as it is referred to in the burgeoning island studies literature – that makes them unusually potent spaces for the contentious and frequently violent politics that attend extractive enclave economies.
“More specifically, the book asks whether the Bougainville conflict would ever have occurred, or occurred to some extent that it did, if Bougainville had not been a sub-national island jurisdiction of PNG, but instead a landlocked province within ‘mainland’ PNG, such is Hela Province,” he said.
Prof Allen acknowledged that the research project that culminated in the book was funded under an Australian Research Council fellowship and also received support from the The Australian National University and USP.
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