Panguna mine

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Panguna mine
Bougainville Panguna mine shovel.jpg
Shovel at Panguna mine undergoing maintenance. At this time, the shovel was engaged in overburden removal. c. 1971
Panguna mine is located in Bougainville Island
Panguna mine
Panguna mine
Autonomous Region of Bougainville
Country Papua New Guinea
Coordinates 6°18′54″S 155°29′42″E / 6.315°S 155.495°E / -6.315; 155.495
Products Copper Gold Silver Uranium
Type Open pit
Opened 1972
Closed 1989

The Panguna mine is a large copper mine located in the east of Papua New Guinea in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville. Panguna represents one of the largest copper reserves in Papua New Guinea and in the world having estimated reserves of 1 billion tonnes of ore grading 0.34% copper and 12 million oz of gold.[1]


The discovery of vast copper ore deposits in Bougainville's Crown Prince Range in 1969 led to the establishment of a huge copper mine by Bougainville Copper Limited, a subsidiary of the Australian company Conzinc Rio Tinto of Australia. The mine began production in 1972 with the Papua New Guinea National Government as a 20% shareholder of which the Bougainvilleans received 0.5–1.25% share of the total profit. It provided over 45% of Papua New Guinea's national export revenue and was incredibly important to the economy.

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. (BCL), 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. This led to an uprising in 1988 led by Francis Ona, a Panguna landowner and the Commander of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army which caused civil war in Bougainville and led to the closure of the mine. Mine production was officially halted on 15 May 1989 and led to the complete withdrawal of BCL Personnel by 24 March 1990.[2]

Current Status[edit]

The world's then-largest open pit copper gold mine generating over 40% of PNG's GDP has remained closed since 1989 as a result of the conflict between the forces led by Francis Ona, Supreme Commander of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) and the Papua New Guinea Defence Force. The 10 year conflict was brutal and resulted in over 20,000 dead. The dispute was essentially a landowners revolt over getting none of the spoils of the massive profits generated by the mine. Many of the leaders of the BRA are the traditional owners of the land within the mine lease and remain in occupation of the entire mine area controlling entry at the Morgan's Crossing Checkpoint which is manned by armed men permanently and presents obstacles to prevent any attempt to run the gauntlet. PNG was supported by Australia and the mines operator, Bougainville Copper Limited ("BCL") (ASXBOC) in the conflict which sought Bougainville's secession from PNG and an end to the mining on environmental grounds. The area of Panguna has also been closed off by Panguna landowners, represented by the Meekamui Tribal Government and remains a 'no go zone'. The mine is controlled by the Me'ekamui Tribal Government of Unity and its leaders, President Philip Miriori and Vice President, Phillip Takaung and Stanley Ona, son of Francis Ona. The area is secured by the Me'ekamui Defence Force (formerly the Bougainville Revolutionary Army - the "BRA"). The MDF is led by Commander Moses Pipero. Both President Miriori and Commander Pipero were visited and acknowledged by large feast and speeches held as part of the historic visit by the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea on 29 January 2014 to Panguna.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Panguna Copper Project". 2012. Retrieved 2013-07-26. 
  2. ^ "About the Company". Retrieved 24 August 2015.