It was Sunday the 24th of April when I and JM and my nephew where driving up to section 16 to refill. I saw a white man whom I recognized from a far distance. JM stopped the truck beside him and I opened the cabin door and called out: David. David is an Australian who has become my friend after meeting and knowing him through a woman from my area. He’s been in Mekamui/Bougainville for some years. Now he has gone back to Australia and lives in Canberra where I met him last year in November. He told me than that he wanted to visit Mekamui/Bougainville again. I went back to my motherland in the middle of March, he came over in the third week of April. He wanted to go to Buin,South Bougainville but it was Easter weekend so he couldn’t find any transport. We left him in Arawa and went to Tororei and told him that when we get back I would get in touch with him.
I arrived back late in the night so I texted him and told him that I would meet him on Easter Monday as I will be leaving my motherland on the weekend. When we met on Monday morning he told me that he wants to take pictures of locals or grassroots, as he refers to them, when panning gold. I quickly tried to contact the Mekamui General Chris Uma to give us green light to go past the check point but couldn’t get through to him. I tried to contact Mekamui commander Moses up at Panguna too but his wife answered the phone and told me that he is out so I told her that I will call him in the night. We left my sisters residence and walked down to the Arawa town centre. On our way we met General Uma and I told him about David and he told me to see the Mekamui Officers and Connol Alex at the check point. I left David and went to see the Mekamui officer, who said it was ok.
Later in the night I talked with Moses and he gave me green light that David could go up. I texted David and mentioned to him that he will meet with me at the main market to catch the bus. The next day we met at the market and waited for the bus, in no time the bus came and we hoped on it. As we were driving the driver asked me if I had informed the Mekamui Soldiers at the check point. I told him I will let them know when we get there but the two commanders and officers I had informed yesterday.
We came to the check point and stopped I talked with a soldier there than he had to call connol Alex so I went out of the bus and talked with Alex telling him that David is very helpful and his blog is linked to our blog so he let us go through.
As we arrived in Panguna we went straight to Commander Moses residence. His wife came out and told us that Moses is already at the gold panning area. So we took some pictures at the resident area of the people who are panning for gold than we walked up the former married quarters area. Our guide told us to take our shoes off as we will walk following the stream. The stream where people were panning up stream was all dirty and very brown. We walked some distance before we came to the place. The third lot of people we met asked me if Moses knew we were coming. They told me that a couple of weeks ago he kicked out another white man who went there with late Francis Ona’s son. I told them: yes he knows I told him last night. In fact he told me during our interview earlier about the panning but I didn’t make it there, so when David came over and wanted to take the pictures of people panning gold I thought it will be great and Moses dreams will come true that people are sweating their soul out to make a living rather than letting the biggest mining company do the job with massive destruction and little money.
While interviewing the panners who are landowners and others from Nagovis they told me that they don’t want the biggest mining company like Rio Tinto’s BCL to come again. A person who is known as John told me that the people, who want BCL to come back and mine the land, are lazy people they just want to sit and earn money and not work as we do.
We walked back and waited for the bus at the bus stop for a while as we saw a small boy aged about 10 coming around dressed up well. In the morning we had seen him at the panning site and he showed me some gold on a disk. I asked him if he managed to sell it, how much would he make? He told us 3 grams a local buyer bought for PNGK65. So within hours of work he earned PNGK195.
That is why people are saying no to destructive mining with very, very little money.
I jumped on the bus leaving David behind as he wanted to take more pictures and Moses had been willing to accommodate him. While taking the trip back we went to new Dapera village to drop of some cargo for a person who runs a store. While waiting I walked to the old man who was standing outside his store and asked him if they were there when the mine was in operation. He said yes and pointed to the other side which is now only gravel and told me that was the Dapera village: this is where we have been relocated or moved to.
I said to him, so when the mine re-opens you people will be moved again. He looked at me and said, young man there will be bloodshed, killing young man we don’t want to move. I went back to the bus and took a picture of him feeling sorry for him, as to move and mining to come back is the last option he and his people want.