Bougainville's Flag Click on the flag to read the story behind it.
Bougainville is politically an autonomous region within Papua New Guinea (PNG), but geographically a part of the Solomon Islands Archipelago. It is the biggest island in the north of the Solomons chain and is a mere eight kilometres from the sea border of the independent state of the Solomon Islands. Bougainville has been colonised and invaded a number of times over the past few hundred years. The history, including the development of the Panguna mine, is set out in Bougainville: the long struggle for freedom by the late Moses Havini.
Since at least the 1960s, Bougainville's economy and politics have been dominated by mining of its significant mineral resources, which led to the devastating 'Bougainville Crisis'of the 1990s.
In 2001 a Peace Agreementwas negotiated between PNG and representatives of Bougainville groups, providing for autonomous government, a referendum on independence, and a weapons disposal plan. This was followed by the enactment of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville Constitution and the election of the inaugural Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) in 2005. Further general elections were held in 2010 and 2015.
Referendum on independence The ABG must negotiate with PNG concerning the terms of the referendum on independence, which under the terms of the Peace Agreement is planned to be held on 15 June 2019.
With the referendum getting closer, a number of studies are being done on how an independent Bougainville could operate economically. A recent paper by Professor Satish Chand argues that income from large scale mining will not alone provide a solution, and discusses options based on cash crops and the fishing industry. For an article summarising the arguments, see "What can Bougainville do to run itself, post referendum?" Many organisations within Bougainville are working to develop sustainable businesses and industries, to provide work and income that will allow Bougainville people to live with dignity and retain their land and traditions. For more on this subject, click here.
Panguna mine: still controversial
Preparations for the referendum have seen a resurgence of debate about the Panguna mine, and about what place, if any mining should play in Bougainville's economy. The debate became more heated in July 2016, after Rio Tinto divested itself of its remaining shares in Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL), dividing them between the ABG and the PNG Government so that they have an equal stake. It has been suggested that the divestment will enable Rio Tinto to avoid having to repair the environmental damage from the mine. For more on mining issues in Bougainville click here.
* Education, training for life skills, leadership, community advocacy * Increase representation of women in politics & decision making * Reduce poverty in families * Network with national, Pacific & international organisations * Protect Hako's environment, heritage and culture * Funding & management capacity for infrastructure and community development * Strengthen marginalised people through literacy, life skills, education opportunities, health & family services