PAUL Coleman OBE – a mining executive who understood the impact of resource extraction on landholders and allowed it to influence his approach to the task – died in Brisbane on Saturday after a lengthy fight with cancer.
Last year, Papua New Guinea made Paul an Officer in the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his service to commerce, the mining sector and charities.
Just a fortnight ago, although very ill, Paul, conscious of his long-standing position as PNG manager for Rio Tinto and as company secretary of Bougainville Copper Limited, made a final visit to PNG.
It was a tough final journey, but he said farewell to his colleagues and friends and to the country he had served with great distinction for many years.
In his approach to managing BCL’s return to Bougainville in recent years, a task in which I was able to observe him closely as a consultant to BCL, Paul showed he had learned well the lessons of the past.
He knew how to avoid the pitfalls of mining in sensitive social and environmental situations. He established a secure pathway for those who followed.
Paul was a gradualist in his methods, understanding the need to consult each step of the way and knowing it was better to move slowly with people’s full assent than hastily in defiance of their concerns.
He possessed great sympathy and support for the aspirations of PNG and Bougainville, and ensured that BCL adopted a philanthropic not just a commercial approach to its activities.
In doing this, he built a large network of admirers and friends in PNG and in the autonomous province.
The BCL board of directors, expressing deep sadness at his death, said that Paul “was integral to the restoration of dialogue between the Autonomous Bougainville Government and BCL” and paid tribute to his activities in community and philanthropic activities in PNG.
Paul leaves behind his dear wife Kym.