Following the discovery of vast copper ore deposits in Crown Prince Range, Bougainville Copper Limited (Bougainville Copper or the company) operated a large open pit mine and processing facility at Panguna in central Bougainville in the North Solomon’s Province of Papua New Guinea (PNG) between 1972 and 1989.
The mine produced copper concentrate that also contained significant quantities of gold and silver. On 15th May 1989 production was brought to a halt by militant activity and the mine has remained closed since.
In the 17 years prior to 1989, the mine produced concentrate containing three million tonnes of copper, 306 tonnes of gold and 784 tonnes of silver. The production had a value of 5.2 billion Kina (K) which represented approximately 44 per cent of Papua New Guinea’s exports over that period.
Contributions to the National Government in the form of taxes, duties and dividends were approximately 17 per cent of internally generated Papua New Guinean Government revenue during that time.
A total of K1,088 million was contributed to the National Government, which represented 62 per cent of the net cash generated by the project between 1972 – 1989. In addition, payments to the then North Solomons Provincial Government and Panguna landowners, together with provisions made since 1990, amounted to K114 million.
Further, Bougainville Copper’s presence in the North Solomons Province had promoted the development of significant local business enterprises to provide goods and services required for the mining operation and for the residents of the province.
Bougainville Copper trained some 12,000 employees, including approximately 1,000 completing full trade apprenticeships and some 400 completing graduate and post-graduate studies that resulted in considerable progress in the localisation of the company’s employees and significantly added to the number of skilled workers elsewhere in the country’s workforce.
On 1 July 2016, Bougainville Copper Limited’s major shareholder, Rio Tinto, transferred its 53.8 per cent shareholding for distribution to the Autonomous Bougainville Government, for the benefit of Panguna landowners and the people of Bougainville, and to the Independent State of Papua New Guinea.
Bougainville Copper Limited is now an independently managed company.