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Faces of Bougainville Island

Timothy Ashton | Autonomous Region of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea

This family was conducting roadside sales for travelers just south of Nooma Nooma plantation

In 1988 the people of Bougainville rose up against Rio Tinto and the central government of PNG over the unfair distribution of wealth and pollution coming from the Panguna copper mine.

What started as a local dispute rapidly escalated into a full revolution after the PNG government sent in their ill disciplined troops with shoot to kill instructions. The soldiers arrived 120 Kilometers north in Buka where they proceeded to rape and burn their way south.

The conflict went on for 10 years, with the central PNG government being urged on by Australia which in turn was being urged on by the shareholders of Rio Tinto.

Nearly 20,000 bougainvilleans (10% of the population) died primarily as a result of the blockade which was enforced to the point that the ICRC were refused entry to provide humanitarian assistance to the civilian population.

Despite the peace negotiated once the Bougainvilleans forced the surrender of the PNGDF on the island, PNG still refuses to release the funds agreed to for the rebuilding of the islands economy.


 The fighting ended in 1998 and in 2004 the final peace agreement which allows for a 15 year period for Bougainville to rebuild and then hold a referendum on whether they should become independent.

One of the criteria of the peace agreement is that the holding of the referendum is dependent upon Bougainville proving it has the financial capacity to become independent. Because of the islands immense natural resources PNG is standing in the way at every opportunity and of course Rio Tinto too are playing hardball over the re opening of the mine

So many lives lost, all in the name of greed.

enjoy the people. It is very hard not to





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