Reopening old wounds

https://i0.wp.com/english.aljazeera.net/Media/Images/AJILogo.jpgBougainville, 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