By Leonard Fong Roka
Panguna District police head Peter Tauna has warned gold miners that their activities are putting the road and people in danger (pictured in uniform) during an unplanned visit to the alluvial mining slope along the western side of the Panguna mine’s port-mine-access road on Monday, 2 August 2016.
“This is a public road that serves us in the Panguna District and most of south Bougainville,” Mr Tauna told a group digging for gold some 10 metres from the road.
“It provides us the access to Arawa and Buka where we receive much needed services.
“You must be aware that this road came into existence with BCL,” Tauna continued,” our government has no financial capacity to create such a road for us.”
“We are people with common sense so we have to be responsible.
“Mine the locations of the slopes that you see will not contribute in harming this public road.”
The gathered artisanal miners, most of whom came from the Bana District of South Bougainville, said that they were aware of the dangers thus they have already marked a spot where the activities will be restricted to.
Since the alluvial gold was discovered on the slopes between the former Panguna Mine’s Camp 10 site and the Shoofly Corner section of the Port-Mine Access Road in 2010, artisanal miners from all over Panguna and Kieta Districts had rushed here to make a living.
There are also miners working here who come from Bana and even some from across other Bougainville’s sister islands on the Solomon archipelago.
According to the miners a number of people have also accidentally died here. The first was a man from Wakunai District and the most recent incident saw the demise of a person from the Malaita Province of the Solomon Islands.
They also said landowners from the Moroni Village who oversee their activities also are concerned about the safety of the road that serves the public and so had enforced the boundary where all artisanal miners should not pass with their activities.
Police Officer Peter Tauna and his officers carefully walked around the rocky slopes talking to the busy miners.
Tracking up the ore veins, it is evident people have dug through the bed rock creating ditches some of which comes right near the Port-Mine Access Road bitumen.
Since the discovery of the gold, the activities of the artisanal miners have taken over a massive area of natural jungle. The area covered is roughly more than the combined space of 5 soccer fields.
Deep holes were bored into the slope with crowbars and miners were seen working inside without any safety measures in place.
People could be seen from the road downhill moving like ants. Beneath another mass of workers work on the Karona Creek. They work with sedimentation that is washed down from the slopes.
Peter Tauna, head of the Panguna Police contingent emphasized that the boundary must be respected for the good of the travelling public that use the Port-Mine Access Road.