By Leonard Fong Roka
A family hamlet of Makosi, in the Upper Tailings area of the Panguna District, is under threat from water erosion and the residents have requested to move to a new location in the near future.
The family thinks the government should step in to assist in slowing down the rate of erosion generated by the water that originates from the abandoned Panguna Mine pit.
The family’s matriarch, Therese Pokamari, said their homestead was founded in 2004 by her eldest son, but now she sees no future if the erosion caused by the tunnel waterway washes away their houses, which had been built on the sedimentation and gravel from the Panguna mine.
“Our homes are what we value most as Bougainvilleans,” Mrs Pokamari said.
“If Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) was still operating I can go and tell them to fix this threat for my family.
“But they are gone, so we now have the government to look into issues affecting us.
“When BCL was operating, we all know, it maintained some order of the installations it had.
“But having left without properly closing down the mine we the Panguna people now face the problems.”
The volume of water leaving the Panguna Mine pit that is some 500 metres deep and 1 kilometer wide is large. It is sucked vertically down two or more pipe systems and reaches the drainage tunnel some hundred metres underground. From there the water—with additions from the many subterranean water systems—flows south and then west for 6 kilometres and comes out at the Makosi land where Pokamari dwells with her family.
“Makosi was our family’s only flat land in this mountainous Panguna District,” Pokamari admitted,
“Bougainville’s first president, the late Joseph Kabui – who is my uncle, played and gardened here as a child before the Panguna Mine was created.
“With the mine prematurely shut in 1990, my family came back to build homes here,” Pokamari continued, “in fact, the local level government office, a community’s aid post and a police post are all housed here on the Makosi land.”
“More developments are coming on this land, but their future is at stake with the threat posed by this waterway.
The Makosi land is the only massive flat area in the entire Tumpusiong Valley or the Upper Tailings area accessible by vehicles, thus local government authorities have chosen to settle there to serve the locals.
The family also established a kindergarten on their hamlet servicing the Upper Tailings area with now over 100 students that feeds into primary schools at Dapera, Darenai, Oune, and Sipatako.
“Makosi land was divided between my mother and her two other sisters,” Pokamari revealed.
“Makosi 1, which is higher in elevation, went to my two aunties and Makosi 2, which is lower in elevation, came to my mother and that is where I am.
“So Makosi 2 is now subjected to erosion since the flowing water body is attracted to the bank that is lowest.”