11 Nov 2016

New Zealander details Panguna involvement 28 years on

From , 6:04 am on 11 November 2016

In 1988, before civil war broke out in Bougainville, New Zealander Martin Ward was there, leading a team studying the impacts of the contentious Panguna copper mine.

Panguna had been operating for about 20 years and generating a lot of money for Rio Tinto and the Papua New Guinea Government but doing little for the people of Bougainville, especially those around the mine.

People living there had been complaining for years about the damage caused but had been ignored.

Mr Ward, a trained geologist who describes himself as a poacher turned gamekeeper, had established a company in New Zealand that could look at all the effects of mining.

He says it was because of this work that he was brought in by the PNG Government to make an assessment of Panguna.   

Nearly 30 years on Mr Ward has written a booklet detailing his experience. It is called 'MiPela Kilim Yu Dai - Prelude to a Guerilla War' which is Tok Pisin meaning 'We will kill you.'

It comes from a threat made to the group by Francis Ona, who was to go on and lead the separatist faction during the civil war.

He spoke to Don Wiseman about the work his team undertook.  

Bougainville's Panguna Copper mine

Bougainville's Panguna Copper mine Photo: Supplied