But Bougainville Copper simply abandoned the site in the face of a landowner rebellion. English. A claim was pegged out before the owners of the land could even know what this meant. It had been a long time coming. Following the discovery of vast copper ore deposits in Crown Prince Range, Bougainville Copper Limited (Bougainville Copper or the company) operated a large open pit mine and processing facility at Panguna in central Bougainville in the North Solomon’s Province of … The Panguna copper mine was operated by Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL), owned by Conzinc Riotinto of Australia (CRA), an Australian subsidiary of the British mining company Rio Tinto-Zinc. Like many Bougainvilleans that day, he sensed a greater import. They also brought education and new ideas, different from the colonial powers. Given the current confrontation with China, these countries are therefore likely to do everything they can to ensure that Bougainville gains its independence following the referendum and prevent a hot spot from erupting within their buffer zone. They are destroying people's property, shooting cars, destroying their food gardens. Burghley Yard, 106 Burghley Road, London NW5 1AL, © Conciliation Resources But first came a brutal blockade of the island. They said no. The army quit as agreed, but then a decision by the Commissioner of Police and Controller of the State of Emergency, Paul Tohian, to withdraw the last thin line of ordinary officers on the ground, left Papua New Guinea without a single government official, politician or member of the security forces on the island. It was in 1882 that the first traces of copper, the substance that was to so define the island's future, were found after a ship's surgeon, attached to a British expedition to Solomons Islands, H.B.Guppy, managed to collect some ore from south-east Bougainville and declare 'copper will not improbably be found in association with these islands'. Facing severe financial and logistic constraints the national government turned to the mine’s operator, Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL), and PNG’s principal international benefactor, Australia, to prop up the PNGDF. Almost 20 years ago a brutal civil conflict ended in Papua New Guinea in which one in ten people on Bougainville died - but the war set the island on the road to independence. Explore ways to support our work and help make peace possible. The conflict was sparked by an Australian-run gold and copper mine, then the world’s largest. Bougainville’s independence is a good opportunity for Australia and its joint mining corporation with the UK, Anglo-Australian multinational Rio Tinto, to regain access to the island’s resources and develop them again. More were to follow. For two decades (1972-1988) prior, the island played host to one of the world’s largest copper-gold mines, run by Rio Tinto subsidiary Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL). Privacy Policy The peace agreement signed in 2001 in Bougainville, an autonomous region of Papua New Guinea (PNG), ended the most violent conflict in the South Pacific since World War Two. That is why Oceania rarely makes world news, which local populations accustomed to living a quiet life are probably fairly content with. From 1988 to 1998 the most violent conflict in the Pacific region since the Second World War erupted on the islands of Bougainville, now an autonomous region in Papua New Guinea. Only much later and quite reluctantly did these loyalties widen to their broader language groups, let alone to a national identity. Simon Kenema, ‘An analysis of post-conflict explanations of indigenous dissent relating to the Bougainville copper mining conflict, Papua New Guinea’, Australian Association for the Advancement of Pacific Studies, Issues 1.2 and 2.1, April 2010 . It was April Fools Day 1972. It was April Fools Day, 1964, when the first of the company's geologists walked into Panguna Valley. The active fighting continued until the end of the 1990s. The 10 year conflict was brutal and resulted in over 20,000 dead. It did, however, lead the following year to the establishment of a Bougainville Transitional Government under the leadership of Theodore Miriung, a lawyer and former legal adviser to Francis Ona. Apart from copper, there is also gold, other valuable metals, and a certain amount of oil to be found on Bougainville Island. Deep in the Crown Prince Ranges of central Bougainville, the roar and hum of the world's largest open-cut copper mine had not yet fallen silent. Bougainvillean leaders alleged that the mine had devastating environmental consequences for the island. The 'merciless intrusion' of CRA continued unabated. The administration was forced to negotiate with the villagers over the price of the land at least. Bougainville Copper Limited, Bougainville Island, Papua New Guinea. Sofia Pale, Ph.D. of Historical Sciences, research associate with the Center for South-East Asia, Australia and Oceania at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”. It was then that villagers all over Bougainville realised that they must now live lives of constant vigilance. People are really scared of them. But somewhere in the dappled green jungle above the great gash of the Panguna mine, Francis Ona was at work. The interim government, announced by Ona, included the former Premier Joseph Kabui as Minister of Justice and Sam Kauona as Minister for Defence. By the 1960s, Bougainvilleans had withdrawn their labour from all foreign-owned plantations. When the Australian Prime Minister, John Gorton, made a fleeting visit, the Chairman of a recently formed opposition group, Paul Lapun, sought an 'official referendum to determine the future of Bougainville', an option Gorton immediately ruled out. Facing a Vietnam-like situation, the PNGDF not only failed in their stated task, but they demonstrated an alarming lack of discipline, training, planning and leadership. Network edition New Eastern Outlook 2010-2020. PNG Prime Minister James Marape has offered economic control but stopped well short of committing to independence for Bougainville. Taxes from BCL alone accounted for 16 per cent of the young nation's budget. The principals of Sandline International, a London-based private military company began their first approaches to the desperate leaders of PNG. In 1989 in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, a copper mine co-owned by an Australian mining company and the PNG government became the focus of conflict. RNS was not afraid to set sail on its own. As the 1990s progressed, anarchy bred anarchy and conflict spread throughout the island's communities and language groups. In 1997, negotiations mediated by New Zealand began between the PNG government and secessionist leaders. We have taken the move after painful struggle for the last 20 years of PNG rule. The Panguna mine on Bougainville Island, one of the world’s largest copper deposits, began production in 1972, shortly before the RNS declared independence, and the new state knew how to provide for itself. They were part of the Australian-administered territories of Papua and New Guinea until 1975. As medical supplies dried up and emergency evacuations became impossible, the blockade became responsible for the deaths of thousands of civilians – many more than died as a result of the fighting. Panguna was an experiment that would one day become the 'biggest jewel in the RTZ crown,' but also its greatest curse. Bougainville Island is one of these places, located about 800 km east of the island of New Guinea. The post mortem examination found his spinal column had been completely severed. The Celestial Empire has also set its sights on Bougainville, which China made clear by immediately recognizing the results of the December referendum. Mary-Louise O’Callaghan describes the events that led to the declaration of Bougainville’s independence and the descent into lawlessness and violence that followed, ending with the frustrated peace efforts of the Arawa Peace Conference and the entry of the private military company Sandline International. What Ona is fighting for is that everybody, right down to the last born, should get compensation because our traditions have been broken and we will not be able to pass anything down to them.' ... Rebel guerillas above the Panguna copper and gold mine in Bougainville in 1994. Credit: Ben Bohane. Terms & Conditions, +44 (0)20 7359 7728 Resistance forces armed by the PNGDF began to spring up as the more vigorous communities attempted to protect themselves from BRA attack. This was to mean that the largest and richest island in the Solomon Islands chain was not available to be part of the new British Protectorate of Solomon Islands in 1893. Seemingly unaware of this growing backlash, in Port Moresby the Cabinet of Prime Minster Rabbie Namaliu approved a call-out by the PNG Defence Forces (PNGDF). Australian accents echoed through the offices of Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) and drifted across the tennis courts of Arawa in the neat, flat coastal capital which had been purpose-built to service the mine. All air and sea transport was halted. Eight years to the day after the first of CRA's geologist had walked in, production at the Panguna mine commenced. However, the young state of Papua New Guinea also had plans for Bougainville’s resources, and has sent a group of police over to the island. High winds and strong currents forced the French explorer to make other plans that night, in 1768, when he anchored just off the coast of Buka, the smaller of the two main islands of Bougainville. First there was a series of arson attacks, explosives were stolen from the mine and then, to the dismay of the miners and the surprise of everyone, the massive power pylons supporting the feeder lines along the mine-access road began to fall, their supports expertly blown away by one of the first of Ona's recruits; a bright, young, Australian-trained lieutenant from the Papua New Guinea Defence Force, Sam Kauona had joined the 'holy war'. More noble intents led the Catholics, in 1902, to Bougainville but the advent of the Missionaries of the Catholic Society of Mary, or Marists as they were commonly known, had their own impact on Bougainvilleans' traditional ways. Strapping the helicopters with machine guns, the army had easily converted the gifts into gunships. It had promised much but delivered very little for the local people. In December 2019, a referendum was held as promised. 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