9th February, 1969 : The mining giant Conzinc Riotinto of Australia is planning to develop a rich new copper deposit on Bougainville Island, in Papua New Guinea, to supply $1,000 million worth of ore to Japan. The company said today it hoped to begin production in 1972 to supply 950,000 tons of copper ore to Japanese smelters over 15 years. Based on present coper prices, it could earn more than $140 million a year, trebling Papua New Guinea’s export income.

[ The discovery of vast copper ore deposits in the Crown Prince Range on Bougainville Island in 1969 led to the establishment of the huge Bougainville Copper Mine by the Australian company Conzinc Rio Tinto. The Panguna mine began production in 1972 under the management of Bougainville Copper Ltd, with Papua New Guinea as a 20% shareholder. At the time, the Panguna mine was the largest open cut mine in the world. It provided over 45% of Papua New Guinea’s national export revenue, and was, as such, incredibly important to the economy.

The mine brought thousands of non-Bougainvilleans to the island, most of whom were Papua New Guineans, who were known as “red-skins” to the Bougainvilleans because of their red skin colour, in comparison to the black Bougainvilleans. Many “white-skins”, mostly Australians, were also brought in to work at the mine. This immigration caused further tension among the Bougainvilleans, who did not want foreigners on their land, especially the “red-skins,” because of their cultural differences.

Conflict began to emerge from the start of mining operations at Panguna, with many of the local landowners opposed to it due to the influx of workers from other parts of PNG, as well as environmental concerns and resentment over profits leaving the island.” Read more about Bougainville Civil War (estimated 15,000 to 20,000 dead).

Also China eyes Bougainville gold and copper. ]

About Avadoro Worden

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