Thai geologist shot dead in second mining-related killing in Bougainville

Bougainville has a fraught relationship with mining. Disputes over the Panguna mine (pictured) were the catalyst for the decade-long civil war that devastated the region.

Channon Lumpoo, 27, was shot as he conducted exploration activities for a new gold mine in the region

Dickson Sorariba | The Guardian | 25 February 2020

A Thai geologist working at a new gold mine in Bougainville has been shot dead in the second killing at a mining project in the autonomous region of Papua New Guinea in recent months.

Channon Lumpoo, 27, was shot by a high-powered weapon on Monday in the Kokoda constituency of south Bougainville.

Channon was a geologist with Austhai Geophysical Consultants, which is attached to a Philippines-owned company SRMO, and was involved in exploration activities at the time of his death.

Deputy police commissioner and chief of the Bougainville police service, Francis Tokura, said police were conducting investigations around Arawa because they were unable to travel further inland between South and Central Bougainville where the killing took place.

Bougainville police said the remoteness of the location made it impossible to conduct proper investigations.

Late last year, a Papua New Guinean geologist was killed in a similar manner.

Tokura said the incident continues to overshadow the image of the Autonomous Bougainville Region, which voted overwhelmingly for independence from Papua New Guinea in a referendum late last year.

Mining is a fraught subject in Bougainville, with disputes over the Panguna gold the catalyst for a decade-long civil war in the region, which ended with a peace agreement in 2001.

Tokura blamed the foreign companies operating on the island for not following proper protocols.

“If the companies had followed proper process in talking to the rightful landowners prior to conducting exploration activities, I’m sure we would have avoided such unwarranted deaths,” said Tokura.

The deputy police commissioner has called on all companies intending to enter Bougainville to talk to rightful landowners and report to the Bougainville police and the ABG government before conducting their business.

“Mining is a very sensitive issue and there are various factions who claim ownership of these mines. I appeal to all companies intending to do exploration activities to refrain from such investment until all issues are sorted out,” said Tokura.

He said there are illegal weapons still in the hands of locals and any misunderstanding may result into unnecessary killings.

The body of the Thai national killed is at the morgue in Buka while preparations are done to fly the body to Port Moresby for a postmortem.

The Thai consulate in Port Moresby said it was aware of the death of its citizen. It declined to make further comment when contacted.

3 Comments

Filed under Bougainville, Exploration

3 responses to “Thai geologist shot dead in second mining-related killing in Bougainville

  1. saka ben wia

    These ill mannered australian companies that own the exploration companies should be dragged by their balls to come forward and account for these deaths – loss of lives.

  2. Marcus Mapen

    Geologists are becoming target practice for paramilitary landowners in Bougainville. People who don’t know what geologists are will think they are invaders with laser guns and nuclear weapons going in to conquer/steal the land.

  3. Brian LaBerge

    Chris, this has been some of our recent challenge (see below). Once the major campaigning for the referendum on separation started in September, the political reality in BV got really unpredictable. We didn’t expect the result that occurred with 98% voting to leave PNG and that has shook up BV and PNG politicians and they are now heads down trying to come up with a framework that is right for the region/country.

    The village model to provide material to the equipment didn’t work. We were getting way too much low grade material, which is hard on the machinery. Accordingly, the equipment has been mothballed again, in anticipation of Richard returning to the area. We are currently having discussions with a PNG based visa specialist, but Immigration is up in the air as no one is sure when BV will take over immigration and what implications that would have on an approval we have PNG.

    Peter Nerau, Tommy’s father, is a strong ally and is currently working as an advisor with the BV Parliament and we are hopeful that by the end of summer, we will have some resolution and we are able to move personnel into the country.

    The equipment is now in the 100% location, our relationship with the Clan remains strong, but we need to work though some of this political risk, so our geologists remain safe… the geologist in this piece was killed in the remote south, we would be working right in the disputed Panguna region, which is important from an access, production and historical perspective. Once we get some resolution, I think we will have strong support to get underway with gold production.

    B.

    B.

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