bougainville copper mine conflict
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 frustrated peace efforts and the entry of a private military company. From Port Moresby the view was of a recalcitrant province led astray by a few troublemakers and criminal elements. The Bougainville Conflict. Terms & Conditions, +44 (0)20 7359 7728 They were part of the Australian-administered territories of Papua and New Guinea until 1975. Only the water border with Solomon Islands remained open. The mine had brought thousands of non-Bougainvilleans to the island. So a campaign of sabotage against BCL and ultimately the national government was launched. Conciliation Resources is an international organisation committed to stopping violent conflict and creating more peaceful societies. In their long socks, white shirts and uncomfortably tight shorts , the men of CRA had come, if not by stealth, then without permission. As the violence spread, in Port Moresby and Canberra the race was on to vilify Ona, first as a disgruntled former employee, then as a 'hysterical extremist' and finally as 'mad' or even dead. As people now tend to say, Oceania is the “soft underbelly” of Australia and New Zealand. The dispute was essentially a land owners' revolt over getting none of the massive profits generated by the mine. US strategic security also depends on who controls this region. Vying for economic and political influence in the young state and for access to its resources may now become a new area of rivalry between China and the West, which has already colonized the entire region in the past. The island suffered much unrest triggered initially by the use of non-Indigenous labor in the Island’s largest copper mine. Instead, the defeat of Germany in World War I saw Bougainville annexed to Australia's New Guinea territories and after an initial, unsuccessful bid for independence, the island was subsumed into the state of Papua New Guinea, which gained its independence in 1975. BCL, 56 per cent owned by the Australian subsidiary Conzinc Rio Tinto, Australia (CRA) itself a subsidiary of the multinational mining company, RTZ and 20 per cent by the Papua New Guinea Government, reacted with disbelief. Company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales (03196482) By 1971 more than 1000 construction workers had come to the island. It was not an absolute victory for the BRA nor was it a conclusive defeat for the government but from now on the Government only had two choices as to how it might return – with the permission of the BRA or by invasion. Instead, Spicer's attempts to wrest control of Bougainville from its own people and its destiny was to spell the political ruin of Julius Chan and with that, the end of efforts to resolve the crisis militarily; the beginnings of real negotiations for peace, nine years after Francis Ona first threw down the gauntlet. It has remained closed since 1989. Fortunately, no major clashes have broken out, and the decision taken following negotiations was that the North Solomon Islands were to remain part of PNG, although it gained greater self-governance rights and a province called the Northern Solomon Islands was created. The 'merciless intrusion' of CRA continued unabated. The Celestial Empire has also set its sights on Bougainville, which China made clear by immediately recognizing the results of the December referendum. It was the most serious conflict in the south Pacific since World War II. Charity registered in England and Wales (1055436), Peacebuilding NGO Supporting People Affected by Conflict. People are really scared of them. 'The traditional system will never work again. 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. In a decision of the full court it was ruled that section 122 of the Australian constitution empowered the Commonwealth Government to make such laws without having to provide 'just terms of acquisition'. Many o… More than 98% of voters cast their ballots in favor of independence from PNG. 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. The Bougainville Copper Project in the then Territory of Papua New Guinea ran from 1966 to 1973 and cost some US$350 million. Technology was changing; an open-cut mine of the scale which was being planned for Bougainville had never been tried before. A decade of violent conflict. In the end, there was no final burst of gunfire, no mad rush of expatriates to the airport but through a mixture of deception and disobedience, Bougainville, in the first half of 1990, slipped from Port Moresby's control. 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. On September 1, 1975, however, just before PNG gained independence, Bougainville and the other islands which were to later form the Autonomous Region of Bougainville declared themselves the Republic of the North Solomons (RNS), independent of both Australia and PNG. Mining operations were officially halted on 15 May 1989, due to militant activity and the mine has remained closed since. 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. The island’s residents have grown accustomed to blaming PNG and Bougainville Copper Limited acting on behalf of the PNG for all the troubles they have endured over recent decades (Bougainville Copper Limited is still suing the Autonomous Bougainville Government after the cancellation of its exploration license). But overall, Chan's faith in the Bougainvillean leadership's willingness to negotiate was never quite restored, nor did he ever really trust Miriung, who was not afraid to speak out against the atrocities still being committed by the PNGDF – like the summary execution of eight young men at the Pokarai care centre in the north-west of Bougainville in June 1996. Significantly Ona was also angry with the older generation of landowners – including his own uncle, Matthew Kove, who had disappeared in suspicious circumstances months earlier – for what Ona claimed was the misuse and unfair distribution of the landowners' share of royalties from the mine. Ahead of his time, Espie engaged broadly and deeply with anthropologists, the indigenous population and government. At its peak in mid-1971, it employed a labour force of some 10,700. The terror started in 1989 with helicopters loaned by the Bougainville Copper Limited to the riot police. In a way Peter Tarupiu was one of the lucky ones. Killed in August 1989, in front of his parents, at least there was witness to his death. Police Riot Squads were sent in by the national government to capture him – dead or alive – but this only served to broaden Ona's support. 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. Bougainville Copper Limited was just the latest in a series of outside elements which for more than two centuries had come to Bougainville's shores to toss and turn the island and its people for their own intent. With little left of traditional or modern structures which might have restrained them, elements of the BRA and others who claimed to be acting at their behest, committed murder, rape and robbery in the name of the 'war'. Neither could the miners foresee what lay ahead. 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. According to various sources, the war had a total death toll of between 15 to 25 thousand people. The Bougainville Peace Agreement was signed as a result in 2001, under which the North Solomon Islands became part of the Bougainville Autonomous Region, which gained its own autonomous government and received the right to hold an independence referendum. On 17 May 1990, the Independent Republic of Bougainville was declared amid a day of celebrations, marches and speeches led by the self-proclaimed President, Francis Ona who announced that the 'longstanding wish of the Bougainville people to become a separate nation' had finally been granted. 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). The countries in Oceania are no exception, including Papua New Guinea, where Beijing has made its presence felt, and the number of Chinese citizens in PNG has increased significantly in recent years. 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. 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'. 'We are generally peace-loving, law-abiding people. Apart from that, many labor migrants were brought to the island to work on the copper field, mostly Papua New Guineans who were not welcomed by the Bougainvilleans, as they perceived them as a threat. 'The only one mad enough to take on BCL', Ona, the thirty-something surveyor from the Nasioi language group of Central Bougainville, had quit his job at the mine the previous year, 1988, to launch a campaign against the mine and the company who operated it. All air and sea transport was halted. They are bashing people without questioning them and putting them in jail. The separatist fighters once again declared the North Solomon Islands an independent state, and halted operations at the copper mine pending its nationalization. Most of the profits drifted abroad, or were funnelled to the PNG state. The Bougainville Civil War is considered the largest conflict to have occurred in Oceania since World War Two. Burghley Yard, 106 Burghley Road, London NW5 1AL, © Conciliation Resources 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. But first came a brutal blockade of the island. The blockade, which was enforced by Australian-donated patrol boats, largely succeeded. He also spoke of dubious environmental practices at the mine, listing hazardous chemicals used on site (but always denied by the company) and the impact of the 'economic apartheid' practiced by BCL with a 'dual wage structure' that paid considerably lower rates to local employees. The conflict was sparked by an Australian-run gold and copper mine, then the world’s largest. 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. This is due to the fact that Australia, New Zealand and their ally, the United States, are now fighting to maintain their influence in the Asia-Pacific, as China has been gaining economic, political and military power for many decades, and is now keen to become the dominant force in the Pacific Ocean. Following discovery of the Bougainville copper deposit in Papua New Guinea (PNG) in 1964, Espie was appointed to manage the design, construction, financing and operation of the world’s largest copper mine. Matters weren't helped three years later, in 1965, when the Australian minister for External Territories, Charles Barnes, put in an appearance on the island only to abruptly declare that the Nasioi, as the owners of the proposed mine site, could expect exactly 'nothing' for their land but would have to be content with the standard paltry compensation for lost properties such as houses and coconut palms. 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.' By far the majority of the mine's workers were 'red-skins' from the island of New Guinea; their presence and their difference – physically from the black Bougainvilleans and culturally – only serving to enhance the sense that the mine and all that came with it had been imposed upon the people of Bougainville. In June 1989 a 28-day State of Emergency was declared and the first of a decade of futile and often ill-conceived military actions – Operation Blueprint – was launched. As the 1990s progressed, anarchy bred anarchy and conflict spread throughout the island's communities and language groups. Bougainville Island is one of these places, located about 800 km east of the island of New Guinea. Economically, the most obvious income stream for the resource-rich area is mining, but that would involve revisiting the issues that started the bloody conflict in … Taxes from BCL alone accounted for 16 per cent of the young nation's budget. Explore ways to support our work and help make peace possible. War broke out between Bougainville secessionist forces, primarily the Bougainville Revolutionary Army, and the PNG government. When members of these Highland-hardened squads raided villages and torched houses on the mine access road and committed other human rights abuses, Bougainvilleans were not cowed. Islanders were driven off the land to make room for mining operations. But somewhere in the dappled green jungle above the great gash of the Panguna mine, Francis Ona was at work. It was April Fools Day 1972. Many innocent people, old people, women and children are being slaughtered.'. It was April Fools Day, 1964, when the first of the company's geologists walked into Panguna Valley. In 1997, negotiations mediated by New Zealand began between the PNG government and secessionist leaders. It was no longer simply the copper mine that was in the hands of the BRA but the island's airstrips, roads and even doorway security at the largest supermarket. As the end of his term loomed in 1996, with nothing to show on Bougainville but death and defeat, Julius Chan had run out of ideas. Apart from copper, there is also gold, other valuable metals, and a certain amount of oil to be found on Bougainville Island. The introduction of Australian and New Guinean workers caused resentment and the exploitation of the mine became increasingly intertwined with issues of indigenous identity. By the time of European contact, the island's 45,000 or so inhabitants provided for themselves by gardening, hunting and fishing. The costs of the ensuing conflict, sometimes called the Bougainville Civil War, were immense. Claiming to speak on behalf of all Bougainvilleans affected by the huge copper mine that BCL had dug through his ancestral lands, Ona had formed the 'New Panguna Landowners Association' and delivered an ultimatum to the company: pay up 10 billion kina (A$14.7 billion (1989 value)) in compensation for the impact of the mine, or else. A new report by the Human Rights Law Centre in Australia details the continuing devastation wrought by a copper and gold mine that closed more than 30 years ago in the Papua New Guinean territory of Bougainville. The post mortem examination found his spinal column had been completely severed. 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. 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”. In 1988, locals on Bougainville Island began killing the migrant copper workers. It had been a long time coming. They are destroying people's property, shooting cars, destroying their food gardens. Network edition New Eastern Outlook 2010-2020. The Marists brought with them a system of beliefs, which would gradually release many communities from this tyranny. It was this loss – the loss of land not to just one generation but to all the generations to come and all those that had been, that the miners did not seem to comprehend. This occurred as a result of the conflict between the forces led by Francis Ona, Supreme Commander of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) and the Papua New Guinea Defence Force. A claim was pegged out before the owners of the land could even know what this meant. Ona stated that his people fight for: 1) land and the culture, 2) land and the environment, and 3) independence (Rotheroe 2001). 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. According to their account, the young university student was struck repeatedly with wood and rifle butts by soldiers of the PNGDF. 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. Everyone can be a peace champion! The copper mining on Bougainville Island was carried out by Bougainville Copper Limited of PNG, a subsidiary of the Australian-British Rio Tinto Group. We are fighting to save our land from foreign exploitation.' The Autonomous Region of Bougainville is now set to gain independence within the two years under the terms of agreements to which not only PNG and Bougainville are parties, but also Australia and New Zealand. We draw on our shared experiences to influence policies and improve peacebuilding practice worldwide. 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. With their villages relocated and their lands despoiled by the wastes from the mine, by the time Francis Ona took up their cause, there were many women in Central Bougainville who felt completely disempowered in their role as land-owners. This humiliation was further compounded in September when 12 PNGDF soldiers were killed and a further five taken hostage at their camp at Kangu beach in south Bougainville and a month later, in October, when Theodore Miriung was assassinated by elements of the military using a vehicle disguised as an ambulance. The mine was officially mothballed on 7 January 1990 but early negotiations led in March 1990 to a ceasefire being declared. Former employee of the company Bougainville Copper Limited and Bougainville native, Francis Ona, came to lead the resistance against the Panguna mine, and in turn the resistance for independence from Papua New Guinea. They railed against the national government. Bougainville Copper Limited, Bougainville Island, Papua New Guinea. It was then that villagers all over Bougainville realised that they must now live lives of constant vigilance. Burghley Yard, 106 Burghley Road, London NW5 1AL, Company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales (03196482), Charity registered in England and Wales (1055436), Safeguarding, transparency and other policies, Constitutional accommodation and conflict prevention, A Bougainville Interim Government perspective on early peace efforts, From Burnham to Buin: Sowing the seeds of peace in the land of the snow-capped mountains, The role of women in promoting peace and reconciliation, Resolving two dimensions of conflict: The dynamics of consent, consensus and compromise, ‘Joint Creation’: The Bougainville Peace Agreement - and beyond, Key points of the Bougainville Peace Agreement, Aid as an instrument for peace: A civil society perspective, The role of the United Nations Observer Mission, Reflections on the Truce Monitoring Group, Making, building and sustaining peace by peaceful means, Key texts and agreements: Accord Papua New Guinea. Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) is a mining company of Papua New Guinea (PNG) that is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX). It was a time of terror, of wild unrestrained violence by a security force that had been sent to do an impossible job. The introduction of Australian and New Guinean workers caused resentment and the exploitation of the mine became increasingly intertwined with issues of indigenous identity. Bougainville Copper Limited estimates that the mine still holds more than five million tonnes of copper and 19 million ounces of gold -- worth tens of billions of dollars at current market prices. The complex thread of custom which had governed the lives of the Bougainvilleans for millennia did not really begin to unravel until the arrival of the radically different Europeans at the end of the eighteenth century, although there is evidence of a Polynesian integration into Bougainville's Melanesian populace 33,000 or so years earlier. Available in Bougainvilleans, whether resentful of a clansman's prominence or coveting another's land, whether wishing to avenge the death of an antecedent or the despoiling of a female relative leapt into the lawless vacuum of civil strife, maiming and killing their own. 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. Havini, 'The long struggle for the independence of Bougainville' (Bougainville Freedom Movement, Sydney n.d.). The more the Australian administration insisted upon the construction of the copper mine – for the sake of the future state of Papua New Guinea they said – the more the issue of the mine and Bougainville's future political status became inextricably mixed. The following year the first call for a referendum, including the option of secession, was made by a group of Bougainvilleans students who, meeting in Port Moresby, formed the Mungkas Association. Operating completely outside of the PNG constitution but with local knowledge and kinship, they were to become one of the state's most effective 'weapons'. The views of the authors do not necessarily coincide with the opinion of the editorial board. A desire for self-determination, land disputes and environmental damage related to mining all helped fuel the conflict. For Bougainvilleans, their sense of separateness – physical, cultural and emotional – from Papua New Guinea had been fuelled by their particular experience of this policy; the presence of the giant copper mine and the use of the wealth it generated to pay for the development of the young nation-state. As to landowner grievances, see John Conncll, 'Compensation and conflict: the Bougainville Copper mine in Papua New Guinea', inJohn Connell and Richard Howitt (eds), Mining and Indigenous Peoples in Australasia (Sydney 1991), 55-75. It had promised much but delivered very little for the local people. Both organisations provided considerable assistance. Bougainville Copper’s main objective is to work cooperatively towards realising the vision of resuming active exploration and sustainable copper, gold and silver mining at Panguna, in central Bougainville, after mining ceased in 1989. Total death toll of between 15 to 25 thousand people the world 's largest open pit copper gold in., locals on Bougainville, which would gradually release many communities from this.. Was sparked by an Australian-run gold and silver mine at the Panguna mine, then world. To support our work and help make peace possible PNG ) gained independence PNG. 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