Posts Categorized: Panguna

Mine pit drainage threatens Panguna hamlet

By Leonard Fong Roka

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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.

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“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.”

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Panguna ex-combatant hands over weapon for peace

By Leonard Fong Roka

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Albert Nekinu (pictured right), a former ex-combatant from Barako Village of the Panguna District, willingly surrendered his gun to the local police after he was touched by the Bougainville peace awareness of an auxiliary police officer Junior Taneavi (pictured left).

The young Nekinu joined the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) late in 1994, thus did not see much action with the dawning peace process. But he had a .308 mm WW2 US infantry rifle which he obtained in the Torokina ammunition dumps.

“I had the rifle to fight,” Mr Nekinu said, “but then our leaders talking about peace, thus I did not have much opportunity to go into action against the enemy.”

“But now that we are in peace, as an ordinary serviceman in the BRA, I feel sad when our leaders in the BRA who may have had a voice in the creation of the Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA) are still holding onto guns.

“Peace is what our people need to move Bougainville forward to independence,” Mr Nekinu continued.

“We want a weapon free Bougainville where everybody is free as it was embedded in the BPA.”

One auxiliary police officer, Junior Taneavi, is singlehandedly spearheading peace awareness in the Tumpusiong Valley area of the Panguna District.

Taneavi was catalytic to the surrender of the weapon and said that people should work towards a better peaceful Panguna District.

“Panguna District is where the crisis erupted from and so it is our business to get working,” Mr Taneavi said.

“Every combatant in the district, be they from the Meekamui or any other faction, must honour the BPA for it is here we are seeing change and services for us and the people.

“We cannot go elsewhere,” he continued, “the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) is the government we are eating from and nobody else.

“Thus we all have to uphold the BPA and move with it just like our young man Albert Nekinu.”

Mr Nekinu admitted that after listening to all the Officer Taneavi’s words of peace building on Bougainville he felt really guilty seeing that normalcy for Bougainville can only come through the way ABG is moving with in accordance to the BPA so he went home took his weapon and handed it over.

Junior Taneavi then brought the weapon to Officer Peter Tauna (pictured middle with Chief Michael Pariu) who is responsible for policing in the Panguna District.

On Monday 2 August 2016, the weapon was locked away under Bougainville Police Service custody.

 

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Panguna people cash cropping at east coast plantations

By Leonard Fong Roka

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More people from Panguna are now purchasing land blocks in the east coast corridor of Bougainville, stretching from the Buin District in South Bougainville to Tinputz District in the northern region.

Nearly all these people are moving off to grow cash crops, especially cocoa and food gardening, as a source of income.

“Not a single village in Panguna can be left out if one searches the origins of people now cash cropping in the many pre-crisis cocoa and copra plantations,” said Tumpusiong man Francis Batana.

“There are people from all the villages in Panguna planting cocoa and gardening along the coast.

“In the process many are also marrying into those coastal communities.”

Francis Batana took up a block of land at the old Kuruvina Plantation in 2012. He and his family have built themselves a living hut and spent most of their time there, returning home every weekend.

“Gold panning and its monetary value was shrinking here,” Batana said, “thus I left for Kuruvina in 2012, following other Panguna men who attained land blocks earlier”

“My cocoa trees are now ready to bare fruits and I will reap what I did sow.”

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People from Panguna, using little they earned from alluvial gold panning and other commercial activities especially the now gone scrap metal industry, have ventured into getting land blocks in the hot coastal areas.

“Cocoa grows more healthily down there than here in Tumpusiong and the rest of the Panguna District,” Batana continued.

“Many people were there when I arrived and still more people are coming after me.”

Panguna people can now be found in the Wisai area of Buin District and they are now also buying land blocks in Tinputz District. All plantations especially Arikua, Kuruvina, Tenakau and so on in the Wakunai District have a man from the Panguna District sweating in his block.

“Most of these plantations, left behind by owners, were subject to dereliction and overgrown by bush thus local customary landowners who take possession of them sell small blocks to us, “ Batana said, “so we are now reviving them slowly.”

Nearly all land block owners from Panguna hire vehicles to bring their garden produce for selling at home in Panguna. This development is now another big step forward for the Panguna people who lack farm land and rely on market food and vegetables for their sustenance.

“Those of us at the actual mine site in Panguna have no agrarian land,” Martin Nakara, a PMV truck owner from Guava Village and land block owner in Arikua said.

“So I have a block of land there for cocoa and food gardening.

“I am working Monday to Friday driving passengers from Panguna to Arawa and back. In the afternoon of Friday I and my family go back to the block to garden and work in our cocoa plot throughout Saturday. On Sunday we drive throughout the Panguna mine site and down the Tumpusiong Valley selling baskets of sweet potato and vegetables to the public.”

Martin Nakara’s charges K20 to transport land block owners and their garden produce from the blocks to Panguna every weekend. Most Panguna people employ his truck to travel and ferry goods.

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Patients in Panguna suffer disharmony at health centre

By Leonard Fong Roka

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Sick patients at the Panguna Health Centre have spoken positively about the health services and facilities on offer there, but have raised concerns about the nearby social issues inconvenience which can inconvenience their recuperation.

Guardian Paansi Siviro, from the Upper Tailings area of Panguna who was found caring for her husband, claimed that Panguna Health Centre seemed to be the best place for patients who are admitted to recuperate, but it is surrounded by an irresponsible squatter population who come from the most isolated villages of the Panguna District.

“These settlers are really noisy and disturbing to the sick during the daytime and into the night hours,” Paansi said.

“Most of our sick people and even us, the guardians, are really fed up with such an environment of carelessness.”

The Panguna Health Centre is housed on the ground floor a 3-storey building, which is surrounded by similar structures.

On the second-floor is the Panguna District Administration and at the top are the public servants’ residential cottages.

These former Bougainville Copper Limited buildings were clustered on a slope at the Karona Section of the Panguna Township. After the crisis, the Bougainville Government and AusAID rehabilitated one of the buildings to house the Panguna District administration and Health Centre.

“The worst affected patients are the mothers who are here to deliver their infants alongside their newly born children,” Paansi continued.

“Every now and then they endure the reckless household noises just about 10-metres above us since the maternity ward is faces the offices and the residential areas of the squatter settlers from the Pangka-Irang Villages including some from Mosinau, Guava and other places and villages.”

Another patient, Victoria Dasiana from Damara Village of Panguna District, added, “Drunkards also can be found with their music and noise seated around the health centre till morning whenever cash is full in their pockets.”

“It is so irritating for us but what can we do? Nothing.”

According to Panguna Health Centre also has no cooking facility for the sick. Most spend little money they come with at the market and retail outlets.

Mothers in the maternity ward just try to shut the louvre windows of their ward and try to ignore the noises above them.

There may be a need for a medical facility further down the Tumpusiong Valley (Upper Tailings area) where there is another population centre.

Many of the sick patients admitted to the Panguna Health Centre are from the Tumpusiong Valley.

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Darenai Primary School suspended amid safety concerns

By Leonard Fong Roka

Leonard Fong Roka at the Darenai site Leonard Fong Roka at the Darenai site

The principal of Darenai Primary School, Mr Justin Roka, has ordered his school to suspend classes following an armed standoff in the Tumpusiong Valley of Panguna District on 26 February.

“Such incidents where there is the use of firearms on the doorstep of a school are real seriously issues under the education policies,” Mr. Roka said in a community meeting over the incident.

“This school can be shut down just for the safety of your children or we as the leaders of the school could be hold responsible.

“Thus I have no other alternative but to suspend classes till you community members, Jaba Resources Limited and leaders resolve this issue once and for all.”

It is believed the clash was related to a disagreement over cement and gravel production project taking place in the area.

About two months after the disagreement over compensation for the termination of employment, a man mobilised band relatives, and armed with two high-power rifles, they raided the project site taking items they wanted and destroy any other property, vehicles and equipment.

The raiders then fled but their vehicle became stuck in the sedimentation at which point security guards were able to catch up to them. The raiders broke company, some escaped while others were captured and sent to Arawa Heath Centre for medical treatment.

“The conflict is still going on,” Mr. Roka said, “the [project partners] and their local employees have been banned from entering Arawa Town.”

Concerned parents of students have voiced that the incident was a risk to the school, staff and students. Thus as of the 29 February the classes were suspended and staff sent home.

The principal and the school board of management are now busy going in between the warring groups to try to get them to sign a guarantee letter that despite their conflict they will not be of any harm to the school, the staff and the students.

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Ioro 2 office officially open to deliver services

By Leonard Fong Roka

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Two important leaders were present to officially open the Ioro 2 Council of Elders (CoE) located in the Tumpusiong Valley of Panguna District.

Central Bougainville MP and Minister for Communication Hon. Jimmy Miringtoro and the head of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade office in Buka, Mr. Tim Bryson were greeted by an excited crowd of local people.

Mr Bryson stated the Bougainville is a friend to Australia and the government is committed to assist the region. There are 42 CoEs that the Australian government is committed to assist in terms of infrastructural development.

He continued to say that Australia has given the Panguna people K580,000 for the CoE infrastructural development and Ioro 2 and Ioro 1 were the first projects to attain such a funding across Bougainville.

Hon. Jimmy Miringtoro took time to explain the importance of the CoE system of governance.

“CoEs were established during the crisis and the government on Bougainville took them on-board around 2006,” Hon. Jimmy Miringtoro recalled.

“[At that time] the government was not that serious, so the CoE have suffered greatly in terms of finances and infrastructure.

“It was only in 2013 that the government is seriously supporting the CoEs with funding and so on, so as the MP for Central Bougainville I am up with all the CoEs and the Districts of Central Bougainville.”

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Miringtoro continued stated that the National Government is serious about development and progress in Bougainville.

“PNG is not a rich country but we are trying our best to see change amongst our people,” Miringtoro continued, “We are managing our debts and trying to bring vital services to Bougainville.”

“We cannot make it alone. The government needs you people to contribute and to support.

“I thank you, the family that has given the government this piece of land; land is an issue of impediment across Bougainville.

“I tell you that government needs land and if people continue to harass development in their land without taking proper channels to address issues, Bougainville will not progress.”

Chief of Enamira, the land where the CoE office is located, Mr Michael Pariu asked Mr Miringtoro and Mr Bryson in his speech to fund an aid post, a women’s resource centre and a community hall. To this both leaders responded positively and Ioro 2 CoE will get this funding assistance.

The funding assistance to this office began flowing in as early as 2007 when the building was actually erected. This packages including water hoses, an aid post and a police office and water tanks.

Then over the years a water tank and the whole water hose then stretching nearly a kilometre and half was privatize by a local community police office. When the community saw his actions they also rushed onto the remaining hose.

The next lot of funding saw a new water tank and the extension of the CoE building and ablution blocks. The opening ceremony along saw new water hoses that are now stretching about 2 kilometres.

For the opening ceremony Hon. Miringtoro made K10,000 of public funds available and the community added some K5,000 including singsing and other ritual ceremonies related to house blessings.

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Fear of Kavarong overflow builds

By Leonard Fong Roka

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Gold panning activities upstream and frequent landslides are now paving the way for a catastrophe in the Tumpusiong Valley because of an accumulation materials that block the Kavarong River levee that runs through the deserted Panguna Mine site.

Since the mine operation ceased in 1989 there has been no maintenance to the levee and over the years minor landslides, that have occurred both away from the mine upstream the Kavarong River and at the concentrator area, brought sedimentation down to the levee, leaving it shallower than ever before.

Many complain now that the Tumpusiong area is too focused on the alluvial gold miners up the mine’s former Karona Township, where activity began about 2005 and is still continues today.

“The [alluvial] gold mining activities at Karona are creating many problems,” some road users said on a PMV to Arawa.

“They will destroy once and for all the Port-Mine Access Road near where they work at the former Camp 10 compound.

“Only BCL had this road for us. The government cannot finance such a road and we, the Tumpusiong people with the Nagovisi and the Siwai will suffer,” the passenger said.

“Then there is the problem for us the Tumpusiong people with the levee where now the Kavarong is overflowing and sinking into the gravel land of the mine.

“These gold miners whilst running after money forget that their activities bring heavy sedimentation downstream to the levee.”

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Karona is not the only place with alluvial gold mining activity occurring. Further upstream on the Kavarong River people are digging along the river itself and there are now about 13 mining camps dotted on the jungles of the Crown Prince Range that have their waste reaching Kavarong.

Much of this waste has slowly made its way to the former mining township of Panguna and built up on the levee between the pit-access tunnels and the new Dapera resettlement village, a distance of about two kilometres.

The reason for this stoppage is that around the year 2000 a massive landslide took down the slope that hosted the concentrator-light vehicle road and settled on the levee forming a water reservoir. Since then minor landslips and residues of human activity have banked here.

In 2015 gravel slips at the stoppage and a landslide Shoofly Corner of the port-mine access road washed down and further buried the levee beneath the mine’s concentrator area. Now the water from the meeting rivers are flowing over the sedimentation from the eastern side of the levee to get onto the western side of the levee.

Thus now every rain fall is creating a massive lake behind the stoppage that floods the areas of the former mine’s light vehicle workshop, the secondary crushing site, the gravel processing site, the communication centre and the tyre workshops.

According to people nearby, the flooding have few more months to reach a conveyer belt tunnel near the secondary crusher site to flow down the solid waste spreader lane to begin burying the communities of the Tumpusiong Valley.

Most of the water though is now being leached into the gravel land every time it floods.

On days without rain the formed body of water remains well over the rim of the V-shaped levee. With rain it just spills onto the roads jamming traffic that now employs the mine side to travel since the concentrator side was affected beyond repair by landslide and gravel slips.

The most communities with the most fear for the future are downstream in the Upper Tailings area. After the crisis began and mine operations ceased many people left the mountains and began settling along the Kavarong River banks and the Panguna-Jaba section of the highway that runs onto South Bougainville.

Most people now run their businesses and have built fine homes here thus any disaster that happens if the levee is not corrected early means they will lose all their valuable assets.

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Koromira gold hunter to return after 8 years in Panguna

By Leonard Fong Roka

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Nearly every educated man or woman from a college or university returns to go job hunting after completing their years of studying or job training, but this was not so for Joe Onake of Koianu Village in the Kokoda Constituency of Central Bougainville. He is satisfied.

“I was in Port Moresby and heard people making a fortune in alluvial gold mining around Kieta, especially Panguna,” he recalled.

“I decided I need to partake in all these activities. Life needs experimentation to make it realistically enjoyable.”

Joe Onake left Arawa High School in 2000 and headed for Port Moresby where joined the Catholic Church Don Bosco Society completing his secondary studies and holding dreams of becoming a missionary within the congregation.

He continued here, undergoing the teacher training with minors in electrical studies. But upon his graduation in 2007, instead of a job hunting spree, and with flaring tales of alluvial mining in the Panguna District in his ears, he purchased a gold weighing scale and flew into Bougainville.

“I did not go home to Koianu,” he said, “But I hung out in Arawa with a little cash and began buying gold from people from Panguna, Evo and Kupe.”

“I made some money here on the streets of Arawa and also made a few friends especially from the Panguna District. Then slowly I entered the Panguna District itself.”

Digging for gold at Panguna, the mine site, was too difficult though for Joe Onake.

“I saw up at the mine site that panning was too difficult and went into the Tumpusiong Valley or the tailings area of Panguna,” Onake said.

“I spent nights with friends, woke very early and began buying their gold dust and so on.

“When the cash went out I came down to Arawa or Buka and sold the gold and returned back to Panguna and did the buying all over again.”

Gradually, Joe made friends with the locals and the Nagovis people. He even got married to a woman form Takemari Village in Nagovis whom he met panning for gold in the Tumpusiong Valley.

By 2011, Joe Onake had made his fortune of over K100,000 and was still going on. Slowly building his reputation has a gold buyer with always-available cash on hand for the miners in the Tumpusiong Valley.

Along the way he also began to pan regularly to support his stay in the place he does not belong to. He dug for gold and then bought it himself to cater for his food and travel funds.

In late 2015 Joe Onake, with almost double his 2011 earnings, decided to look for a job and a settled life outside of gold panning.

“There are attractions of the gold rush in Torokina,” he said, “but I am now not interested to venture further.”

“I am growing old and need to go back to Koianu and building my home with the fortune I have made so far.”

Joe Onake is just one such man making a fortune while away from home in the many erupting alluvial gold mining sites around Bougainville. It is not only Bougainvilleans that crisscross their island. Many from across the Solomons are also making a fortune here.

He is now selling his few old belongings, a shelter he built to live in and a few tools, to the other mining people.

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A cry in the heart of a Panguna saw miller

By Leonard Fong Roka

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My uncle Steven Domiura is just 32 years of age and over this relatively short period of time he has witnessed the burden that local population growth has put on the few forest resources that his communities in the Tumpusiong Valley of Panguna District can reach to improve their living standards.

A trip to mill my timber at Nakorei Village in Buin last December was a cry in his heart.

The hardwood tropical tree (called bee in Nasioi, tolas in Buka or Moikui to the Buin people) is a sought after tree for building homes across Bougainville. It is sawn raw or felled and left to decompose its outer bark and expose the hardwood and timber millers love it since their chainsaw reaps the tree easily despite its hardness and weight.

In the Upper Tailings zone of the Tumpusiong Valley this valuable timber tree, both those matured and standing and those felled many years ago and laying on the ground, have now disappeared. There are a few still buried in the Panguna mine created tailings of the Tumpusiong Valley but that will take some period to await erosion to expose them for the timber hungry Tumpusiong people.

Since getting his chainsaw four years ago, Domiura had not touched a bee in his timber milling career at home, but a trip to Nakorei Village was mesmerized as he was hopping for four days from bee to bee, around the tiny hamlet of my in-laws.

“In Panguna today we have the money or have easy access to cash but no tree to cut and mill timber to build our homes,” he said in Buin.

“Unlike up at Panguna, the people at Nakorei village struggle a little to make money but they have the resources like the jungle to help them improve their living standards.

“In Buin’s Nakorei Village everywhere you look there is a moikui lying on the ground or standing in the forest waiting to be milled for timber, but in Panguna every maturing tree is felled day by day to meet their needs.”

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Most people in the Panguna District now go searching for timber into the Bana, Siwai and Buin Districts of South Bougainville. At home most are penetrating deep into Bougainville’s mountain backbone the Crown Prince Range, while others travel north on the east coast of Bougainville as far as Wakunai District for timber. Others are growing their own trees or buying timber at the many timber yards in Arawa Town.

For Steven Domiura and his chainsaw Nakorei Village was a shock. Out of the 350 pieces of timber on my list he milled 230 pieces in four days, intermittently giving way to the downpour of rain.

‘The bee here is too much,’ he was joked, “in the kitchen huts, under all these sago thatched homes they lay waiting for a chainsaw to cut them up.”

“In the gardens and the cocoa plots the timber hoisting trees are there.”

“Many of these trees, felled some years back, have decomposed their outer softer skin layers and are now dry that the chainsaw has no difficulty penetrating the bole so I have the efficiency to get more timber in a day.”

Steven and his machine will be back in Buin in February to complete his contract of milling my timber for a house in Buin and continue onto extracting timber for a house in Panguna.

Milling timber in Buin for Panguna has its own costs especially transport from Buin to Panguna that is about K1000. Getting Steven to Buin from Panguna costs some money. His chainsaw hire goes for a K150 per day and the operator goes for a K100 per day including his assistants.

The chainsaw’s fuel and lubricants gets a toll on pockets. In Arawa petrol hangs around K5 per litre and the pre-mix goes to K6 and in Buin it goes up to K6 per litre and the premix goes to K7. While the 2-stroke oils to mix with the petrol vary in accordance to their container sizes.

The engine oil to cool the cutting chain is the most expensive item so most rural chainsaw operators now prefer cooking oil for their machines, but nothing should come in between to bringing a chainsaw man from Panguna to Buin.

There is a belief, perhaps embellished, across the timber milling populace of Bougainville that a chainsaw man from an environment with no trees will kill any tree with more efficiency than the chainsaw man from the tree-rich environment.

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East New Britain relatives visit Panguna after reconciliation

By Leonard Fong Roka

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A trip to Bougainville, made possible by the Bougainville Peace Building Program, to partake in the reconciliation and remains retrieval of late John Roka was not wasted as my relatives set their feet on the edges of the giant Panguna mine pit with excitement.

After our reconciliation with the Bougainville Revolutionary Army men that killed my father, his relatives remained with us for two weeks to await their departure since the MV Chebu makes a trip once a fortnight. This delay thus had them take a trip to Panguna on a Sunday afternoon.

They have heard it; they have read about it, and they were intrigued about the stories that surrounded this giant mine pit on Bougainville.

It was excitement and reflections for older aunty Roslyn Kalago (pictured far left), my late father’s elder brother’s widow from Ragunai in East New Britain, who had last visited Bougainville before the crisis.

“This was a magnificent township before the crisis,” she reflected to her entourage as the transport made through the destroyed Panguna Township up the Kawarong Road that further led to the bush track over the Crown Prince Range into Kupe and then Arawa.

“This was the best in the Pacific in those days, though there was disharmony to the people.

“Of course Bougainvilleans are free now and working on their political future.”

The sight of the mine pit was breathtaking.

Aunty Helen Devoku (pictured in the middle), late father’s sister, began ordering every one for snapshots she wanted to show her relatives back in Kimbe Town and Bali Island, my late father’s home island, in the Talasia District of West New Britain.

Following his elder sister was Robin Kalago, late father’s younger brother, who ran everywhere with a mobile phone video camera to capture the hike and the few remaining metal frames left behind by the Chinese scrap metal collectors.

The relatives left Bougainville happy with bags of betel nut, whole roasted pork and taro, a wild collection of flowers from Panguna mine site and along the port-mine-access road.

To them Bougainville was really are blessed island and its people need to recognized that and rebuild it for their own betterment and its political future.

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