People & Power - Bougainville: Reopening old wounds - 17 Mar 09 - Part 1

Al Jazeera English
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Bougainville, a large island east of Papua New Guinea, is rich in copper, the extraction of which has caused much tension over the past fifty years.

Historically Bougainville was part of Papua New Guinea. In a town called Panguna on Bougainville island, a huge copper mine, once the largest open-cut mine in the world, was responsible for a large percentage of the entire country's revenue.

At the time, Bougainvilleans felt the wealth was not being properly distributed and resented the pollution that the mine released into their environment.

The dispute sparked a civil war in 1988 that lasted for nearly a decade, after which Bougainville won autonomy with the promise of a referendum on independance after 2015. With the deadline just over five years away, the island is hoping to achieve economic independance before the referendum.

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