Reopening old wounds, a large island in the Solomon sea east of Papua New Guinea, is rich in copper, the extraction of which has caused much tension over the past 50 years.

In the 1970s, Bougainville Copper Ltd, a subsidiary of mining giant Rio Tinto, began exploiting the island’s huge copper reserves.

In the town of Panguna, a huge copper mine, once the largest open-cut mine in the world, was responsible for a large percentage of Papua New Guinea’s revenue.

At the time, Bougainvilleans felt the wealth was not being properly distributed, and they resented the pollution caused by the mine.

This lack of any tangible benefit for the islanders sparked a civil war in 1988. It lasted for nearly a decade, after which Bougainville won autonomy with the promise of a referendum on independence after 2015.

With the deadline just over five years away, the island is hoping to achieve economic independence before the referendum.

Filmmaker Dom Rotheroe was on the island as it emerged from civil war in 1997. Now he has returned to find its people divided over whether to reopen the mine despite it being the very cause of the conflict 20 years ago.

Part 1

Part 2

2 thoughts on “Reopening old wounds

  1. I haven’t seen the videos yet as my internet is super slow here at work, but I highly recommend reading the book “Mr. Pip” by NZ author Lloyd Jones. The story centers around the Bougainville conflict and the villagers who were caught in the middle. It is a fictional tale, but based on the real life reports the author had previously done on the Bougainville events.

    I think the mine should be reopened under ownership of a Bougainville formed corporation. This can be done under the advisory of the PNG government, and perhaps good economic relations can be formed between the two entities when 2015 comes around.

    Personally I like the stand that PNG has taken with Bougainville currently. Give them a bit of the autonomy they want, but also give them a voice in the parliament and treat them as a state of PNG. The people of Bougainville are different from the people of PNG but both sides will benefit from very close ties.

  2. It may be a complex task to do so, but can’t we all just be Papua New Guinean’s with one Constitution moving forward. We stand a better chance working together rather than running all our own little countries all over the Pacific.

    Who is the Mekamui Kingdom answerable to? And why should one small group of rebels hold back economic development for everyone? In today’s real world we need real economic solutions to raise the level of health, education and lifestyle whether that is with PNG or not is another matter but if ARB wants to see a better life for their children, they all have to ask themselves these following questions:

    1. Do you want to continue entertaining the Mekamui Kingdom? They have have proven only that they know how to run money scams and rebel armies, when have they looked seriously at the economy of the ARB?

    2. Who’s interests does the Invincible Mining Company represent? With a world class copper mine sitting rotting away, why wasn’t a tender done globally to find the best mining option to assist the ARB?

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