Bougainville Copper Ltd is an Australian copper, gold, and silver mining company that operates the Panguna open cut mine on the island of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea (PNG). It was one of the world's largest open-pit mines. The Panguna mine dominated the economy of the island during the 1970s and 1980s. It also was highly significant to the overall PNG economy: In the 1970s and the 1980s the company's tax and dividend payments added up to approx. 20% of PNG's national budget.
Major shareholders are Rio Tinto (53.6%), Papua New Guinea (19.1%) and the European Shareholders of Bougainville Copper (ESBC) with approx. 4%. The remaining freefloat of 23% is held by private investors.
The mine was vitally important to the economy of Papua New Guinea, but the people of Bougainville were seeing little benefit from it. The PNG national government received a 20% share of profit from the mine of which the Bougainvilleans received 0.5% - 1.25% share of the total profit. The mine is a massive surface mine. Bougainvillean leaders alleged that the mine had devastating environmental consequences for the island. They also claimed that Bougainville Copper had set up a system of apartheid on the island, with one set of facilities for white workers, and one set for the locals. They accused Bougainville Copper Ltd., of being responsible for poisoning the entire length of the Jaba River, and causing birth defects, as well as the extinction of the flying fox on the island.
The first Bougainville independence movement began to arise in the late 1960s, as people began to air their grievances against the Australian colonial government over the handling of the Panguna mine. Australian External Territories Minister Charles Barnes was accused of telling the Bougainvillean people they would "get nothing". The issue of compensation went to the High Court of Australia, where it was found that the compensation was inadequate under ordinary federal Australian law, but that as an external territory, Papua New Guinea was not guaranteed the same standards that applied to mainland Australia. 
The mine closed in 1989 as a result of sabotage by the Bougainville Revolutionary Army and associated forces, which sought Bougainville's secession from PNG and an end to the mining on environmental grounds.
The mine nowadays remains closed but rumors about reopening the mine recently proved to be true with the BCL Managing Director Peter R. Taylor stating to be interested in reopening the Panguna mine. At the beginning of March 2006 first negotiations between Rio Tinto Group and the PNG Mining Minister Sam Akoitai have been confirmed. However, since the Panguna mine is located on land controlled by secessionist King David Peii II (Noah Musingku), the opening of the mine by Australian and PNG interests remains unlikely.
Bougainville Copper Ltd. furthermore holds 7 additional mining licenses on Bougainville which currently remain under a mining moratorium.
During the company's annual meeting in May 2008 and brokered by the President of the European Shareholders of Bougainville Copper (ESBC), Axel G. Sturm, landowners from Panguna expressed their desire for BCL to return to the area. This move can be considered as a key step towards the reopening of the Panguna mine.
Joanne Dateransi has stated publicly that the landowners, of who she is one, do not now or ever want the mine reopened. This interview went out live on blufm.org on 25 March 2009. The reasons given were the irresponsibility of the mining company, the environmental damage they caused, and the attempted genocide of the traditional landowners, which ensued once the mine had been closed. Joanne is in fact the owner of the land which the Panguna site is located on, and any claims that landowners want the mine reopened should be treated with suspicion and caution.
In his first statement on Radio Australia Pacific Beat on 8 June 2010 the newly elected President of Bougainville, John Momis, declared that the Panguna mine has to be reopened to assure economic growth of Bougainville in the future.
The intent of King David Peii II, who controls the area of the mine, seems to be to keep the mine closed, but use its in-ground assets to back international trade programs benefiting Bougainville.
Citizens of Bougainville have filed a class action lawsuit in the United States against British-Australian company, Rio Tinto arising from the environmental damage caused by the mine and war crimes occurring during the civil war years. In August 2006, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected Rio Tinto's effort to dismiss the claim. See Sarei v Rio Tinto, 456 F.3d 1069 (9th Cir. 2006).
- Official website
- European Shareholders of Bougainville Copper (ESBC)
- Undervalued-Shares.com: Bougainville Copper: Roaring back into life?
- Undervalued-Shares.com - Swen Lorenz: An entirely new take on Bougainville Copper
- Bougainville Copper Limited - All Annual Reports since 1967