Bougainville: Blood and Treasure  

Posted by Big Gav in , , ,

SBS had an episode of Dateline this week which looked at the past and future of the Bougainville copper mine - Blood and Treasure.

This is the Panguna mine, two kilometres wide and half a kilometre deep, the war ensued here after the mine was closed down. It claimed the lives of 15,000 Bougainvilleans, around one 10th of the population. The PNG government was desperate to reopen it because it provided 20% of government revenues. The people of Bougainville got a little over 1% and a degraded environment, which is why they revolted.

In 2001 in the aftermath of the war many of the islanders launched a class action in the US against Bougainville Copper Ltd's parent company Rio Tinto. The case has been bogged down for 10 years. The landowners accused Rio Tinto of genocide, citing the company's support of the blockade of the island and the military action which took place after the revolt against the mine began. The plaintiff's lawyers claiming that Rio Tinto's manager on Bougainville at the time encouraged continuation of the blockade for the purposes of starving the bastards out.

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