Bougainville: Panguna Mine

Bougainville and all its history is almost synonymous with the Panguna Mine that is located in the mountainous center of the island. The massive amounts of copper and gold and silver were discovered here in 1969. It was developed into the largest (at the time) open pit mine in the world and extraction began in 1972. At one point, Panguna mine was responsible for 45% of the entire GNP of Papua New Guinea, but only 0.5% of the profits were distributed back to Bougainville. Combined with apartheid-like working conditions, soil pollution, and animal extinction – this all led to an uprising and civil war in 1988 and the rebels sabotaged the mine and it shut down. The conflict lasted 10 years and 20,000 died. Today, the mine is dormant and slowly disintegrating, flowers and moss growing on the equipment, and the massive pit slowly getting covered by tropical vegetation. Still, it’s an incredible site and it takes a good hour on mountain roads to get here.