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Iconic copper mine in Bougainville is the site for ecotourism

The old copper mine Panguna in Bougainville is a site that is today perfect for tourist. A quarter of a century ago it was the my still is the occasion for a bloody conflict.

© Jeremy Weate, Wikicommons

The copper mine Panguna in Bougainville, an island in the pacific Ocean, that state belongs to Papua New Guinea, is already 27 years deserted.

The copper mine was, since 1969, operated by the Australian company Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL). In 1989, the mine closed, after an uprising of indigenous landowners. They were furious about the economic exploitation, the degradation of their land and the pollution of the local rivers by the population were used for drinking water and fishing.

It was the first time in history that an indigenous group of people as a large multinational corporation to its knees, and forced them to be a valuable investment to protect the environment.

The conflict, however, was also the occasion for the outbreak of a civil war that ten years would last for 20,000 people, 10 percent of the total population, their lives.

Trekkers and bird watchers

Today is the mysite looks deserted but the local entrepreneurs, including former activists play with the idea of making the site a key role to play in the sustainable development plans of the island. The mine re-opening is excluded.

“Our future would be very threatened if we the my back open. Thousands of people have as a result of the conflict around the mine, the death found. Open them up is not an option. We need to find another way to make the economy a boost,” says Philip Takaung, vice-chairman of the local government in Panguna.

Together with the local people, he thinks, especially to tourists that the valley of the Crown Prince Range would be able to visit and stay in ecolodge is on national geographics. Also the fact that the rainforest here is a huge attraction to hikers and bird watchers, is an asset.

Important historical site

“On the site would be the local families also plant and build and traditional dishes to offer to visitors,” says dorpsbewoonster Christine Nobako.

Zhon Bosco Miriona, manager at the local tourist organisation Bougainville Experience Tours, is happy with the plans. He guides currently 50 to 100 tourists per year.

“Panguna is an important historical site in Bougainville,” he says. “People can learn here about a significant conflict in our history and see with your own eyes what damage had been done,” he says.

Sharing stories

A recent study by Australian ngo Jubilee Australia pointed to tourism as the second best alternative for mining after horticulture and livestock.

“Bougainville is a perfect place for eco-tourism”, says Lawrence Belleh of the department for tourism in the capital, Buka. “The nature here is still pristine, you have the mountains, the lakes and the sea. In addition, there is to the public at large yet very little is known about the history of Bougainville. All those stories we want to share it with people who come to visit,” she says.

The tourism sector is aware of the fact that the improvement of transportation facilities, and only now the main work points to tourism a boost.

On the question of whether the island is safe for foreign visitors has Belleh already this answer ready: “Bougainville is one of the safest places for tourists in the whole of Papua New Guinea. The people here are friendly, they will greet you, invite you into their house and are always ready for you to give a guided tour.” (IPS)

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