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.