A bulldozer arrives

“The Sarang is in Kobuan bay.  Now we can get a road into Panguna.”

Times were changing.  The Malecula, the tramp steamer that had supplied Bougainville with equipment that could not be brought in by air, was not big enough for CRAE needs.  The Sarang was now coming to Bougainville.  This trip it brought the first bulldozer to the prospect.

A road into Panguna would mean that the increasing fuel needs for the drills would no longer have to be supplied by helicopter.  It also meant that trucks and heavy equipment could start coming in.  Soon, CRAE would begin tunnelling into the Panguna Antap ridge, to see if the estimated mineral values were real and generally present in the rock.

What else did it mean?  It meant that a copper mine at Panguna was becoming a very real possibility.  It also meant that village land would need to be taken for road right-of-way.

It didn’t take long for problems to surface.

“Pakia meris are stopping the bulldozer!”

CRAE, having purchased land from Arawa plantation, soon had the road to Panguna cut through plantation property.  When the bulldozer reached the jungle, though, they were getting on to Pakia village property.  Negotiations with Pakia village elders were sitll in progress when the bulldozer reached their land.

Having received no instructions otherwise, the bulldozer operator began clearing the road through Pakia property.

That’s when the meris (women) of Pakia village showed up, standing in front of the bulldozer.

The women had their children with them.

Some had babies in their arms.

Development of the road to Panguna stopped.


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