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The Die Was Cast - My Journey to New Guinea

The Bougainville Aftermath

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December 7, 2016

A message from the webmaster:

It is perhaps not surprising that this blog and the Bougainville website are dying a slow death. However, as the numbers of ex-Bougainville employees are diminishing, it puts an even greater responsibility on those who are left to keep recording those times which were important to us as well as to the island of Bougainville.

An old Bougainville friend from those early days, who stayed until the very end of the construction phase, wrote, "I remember clearing up old files after Bechtel left. There were a couple of box files filled with letters from women, solicitors, lawyers etc., all much of the same theme, so-and-so was believed to be working on the project and was wanted for child support payments, etc. The standard reply clipped under the lid was to the effect that there were over fifty companies working on the project with a total of 10,000 workers, and if the writer would please care to contact the respective company. Of course, they knew that if they dobbed in one guy, they would instantly lose a big percentage of the workforce."

Camp 6 Loloho
Click on image to enter Bougainville Copper Project website

Back then, 'home' was a 9x9ft donga tastefully decorated with PLAYBOY centrefolds of girls waxed to the point of martyrdom, where one's wordly possessions easily fitted into a 2ft-wide metal locker and one's needs for comfort were satisfied by a red plastic chair on the porch.

Life was so simple then; we were so innocent!

Or, at least, some of us were. The old saying that Papua New Guinea attracted three types of men, namely missionaries, moneymakers, and misfits, had to be rewritten for the Bougainville Copper Project to include those running away from their wives, the police, or themselves.

If you have an anecdote to contribute or some old photos, please email me at riverbendnelligen[AT]

I look forward to hearing from you.

Peter Goerman
PO Box 233
Batemans Bay NSW 2536
Email riverbendnelligen[AT]
Skype riverbend2

December 6, 2016

Ian Rummery emailed from Jamestown on St Helena Island:


Hi Peter

As your blog entry says ex-Bougainville employees are diminishing and last Saturday my father Richard Rummery passed away. He worked at the Loloho power house and my sister Kay and I went to Bovo primary. We were there 1972 to 1979. I am so grateful to my parents that I had a chance to grow up in such a wonderful place.

I now live on the island of St Helena in the South Atlantic. There is something special about living on islands and I am sure that I can trace a direct link between growing up on Bougainville and now living out here. Though a completely different environment there are some similarities and I hope in time our son Tobias will come to appreciate how lucky he is growing up on St Helena.

And one day I hope to take my wife Belinda and Tobias out to Bougainville.

I could not get back to Australia to see Dad before he died but I spent a lot of time last week going through your website because our time on Bougainville was so special.

A few years back Graeme Wellington came on a cruise ship that stopped by for a few hours. He was one of the few people we knew from Bougainville that we stayed in touch with as he lived fairly close to us in WA. But if any old BCL employees visit they are most welcome and I would be happy to show them around.

Take care

Ian Rummery
P.O Box 112
St Helena Island
South Atlantic Ocean
Ph: ++ 290 23744
Email: rummery.ian[AT]


and, yes, they do have television ...

... and since 2011 an airport:


October 23, 2016

Cargo Cult


Don't judge them too harshly. We have our own cargo cult in Australia: we call it Centrelink.


September 16, 2016

PNG's Independence Day 16 September


It was in the dying days of 1974 when I received an urgent telegram from TOTAL - Compagnie Française des Pétroles to fly to what was then Burma to take up a new position as chief accountant in their exploration office in Rangoon.

I was at the time living in Papua New Guinea which was heading towards independence the following year. When the then Chief Minister Michael Somare - soon to be Sir Michael and Prime Minister of the independent country - heard of my impending departure, he expressed his regrets that I wouldn't be there for this momentous occasion. "However," he said, "the least we can do is make our Independence Day the same as your birthday."

And so it came to pass that my birthday and Papua New Guinea's Independence Day are celebrated on the same day each year.


P.S. Of course, if you believe this, you'll probably spend the rest of your life doing a convincing impression of a cabbage! ☺



September 1, 2016

First Contact

Watch the original upload on YouTube here


"First Contact" is a 1983 documentary by Bob Connolly and Robin Anderson which recounts the discovery of a flourishing native population in the interior highlands of New Guinea in 1930 in what had been thought to be an uninhabited area.

It is based on the book of the same name by the same authors. Inhabitants of the region and surviving members of the Leahy brothers' gold prospecting party recount their astonishment at this unforeseen meeting.

The film includes still photographs taken by a member of the expedition and contemporary footage of the island's terrain. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.


August 1, 2016

The full movie "Mr Pip"

Click here for a higher-quality screening.


May 14, 2016

Look what the scanner dragged in!

Remember those pre-glued photo albums of yesteryears? You pulled back that transparent coversheet, placed your photos on the sticky stuff, and rolled the coversheet back over it again. Almost fifty years later, the photos are still in almost-mint condition but there's no way of prising them off that glue again.

Having just bought one of those new print-and-scan CANON gadgets, I scanned a few of those glued-down photos to share with you. They all date back to 1970 and 1971.

Peter Goerman's audit office at Loloho


With Bob Green (left) on one of the islands offshore from Loloho

Peter Goerman doing what he liked best:
cutting contractors' progress claims down to size


Des Hudson stress-testing one of the girders for the new Loloho Powerhouse

Beach party at Loloho

On one of the offshore islands. From left to right John Gaskill, next one unknown, Peter Goerman having a laughing fit behind Jacko's back, Neil "Jacko" Jackson, and an Indian guy who's name I forgot

More of the beach party

And more. From left to right: Peter Goerman, Neil "Jacko" Jackson, Frank Joslin, the rest unknown

On the left Frank Joslin; "Jacko" Jackson with his back to the camera

More party-goers; the waving guy was Maurice somebody-or-other

Party, party, party ...

... and more of the same ...

... and then some more ...

... and more ...

... and more.

And here are a few more shots after I'd come back to Bougainville in mid-1972 as Office Manager for Camp Catering Services - see here:

'Beau' Player on the left; Roy 'Goldfinger' Goldsworthy on the right

No idea what the argument was about;
he was probably too drunk to remember himself

The guy with the cravat is Lloyd McChesney

The chap on the right was from Saskatchewan in Canada although considering the state he was in I doubt he was able to spell it;
in 1985 I bumped into him at the Blues Point Hotel in McMahons Point in Sydney and he was still (or again?) pissed

With his back to the camera is Les Feeney, always hard-drinking and always trying but hardly ever succeeding to light his pipe


May 6, 2016

Bougainville Copper Limited - Annual Report 2015


The issued capital of the company is 401,062,500 ordinary shares of Kina 1.00 each fully paid, and owned 53.83% by Rio Tinto, 19.06 by the Papua New Guinea Government, and 27.11% by pubic shareholders.

The mine assets totalling Kina 1,036,049,000 were fully depreciated or impaired (written off) in previous financial years, leaving total net assets of Kina 138,412,000 at 31 December 2015, comprised of Kina 108,953,000 in shares held in publicly listed investment companies traded on the Australian Stock Exchange, and Kina 29,459,000 in cash and other receivables. The share investments yielded Kina 3,778,000 in dividends while the cash earned Kina 1,029,000 in interest in the last financial year.

Dividing the total net assets of Kina 138,412,000 by the 401,062,500 shares gives a theoretical asset backing of K. 0.345 per share which is 65% of the currently traded share price of AUS$ 0.225 (or Kina 0.52 at the present exchange rate of Kina 1.00 to AUS$ 0.43).

The Annual Report 2015 gives some interesting information on page 1 on the 17 years of operation prior to 1989 and the 'Resource Statement' on page 10 assesses the financial viability of re-opening the Panguna mine.

There is a 'Statistical Summary' at the back of the printed Annual Report with some quite staggering production and earnings figures which are reproduced below for history buffs and those involved with BCL during its early years:

A little difficult to read but let's look at a few of them:

Net earnings in the first 2½ years alone were more than the total cost of the mine, viz. 1972 K.27.7million, 1973 K.158.4million, 1974 K.114.6million.

And the earnings continued to flow: 1975 K.46.2million, 1976 K.41.3million, 1977 K.28.5million, 1978 K.48.0, 1979 K.83.9million, 1980 K.71.5million, 1981 K.22.8million, 1982 K.11.2million, 1983 K.54.6million, 1984 K.11.6million, 1985 K.28.1million, 1986 K.45.3million, 1987 K.90.5million, 1988 K.108.6million - a stream of profits right to the very end.

They don't make mines like that anymore!

Anyway, like my mate says, it's only interesting if you're an accountant. And an accountent, accounttent, accountint --- good with math I am - albeit [re]tired now! ☺


May 4, 2016

Red Dog


Louis de Bernières, probably best known for his book "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" (and the movie by the same name), wrote the endearing true story about Red Dog which was later made into an equally charming movie.

As he explains in the inside jacket of the book, "In early 1998 I went to Perth in Western Australia in order to attend the literature festival, and part of the arrangement was that I should go to Karratha to do their first ever literary dinner. Karratha is a mining town a long way further north. The landscape is extraordinary, being composed of vast heaps of dark red earth and rock poking out of the never-ending bush. I imagine that Mars must have a similar feel to it.

I went exploring and discovered the bronze statue to Red Dog outside the town of Dampier. I felt straight away that I had to find out more about this splendid dog.

A few months later I returned to Western Australia and spent two glorious weeks driving around collection Red Dog stories and visiting the places that he knew, writing up the text as I went along. I hope my cat never finds out that I have written a story to celebrate the life of a dog."

I enjoyed the movie because the people in it reminded me so much of the people I met on Bougainville in the early construction days. Then I picked up the book - a mere hundred half-sized pages - and found some of the passages even more reminiscent of Bougainville. Listen to this:

".. the town was full of lonely men. There had been a few aborigines and even fewer white people there before the iron companies and the salt company had moved in, but just recently a massive and rapid development had begun to take place. New docks were constructed, new roads, new houses for the workers, a new railway and a new airport. In order to build all this, hundreds of men had arrived from all corners of the world, bringing nothing with them but their physical strength, their optimism and their memories of distant homes. Some of them were escaping from bad lives, some had no idea how they wanted their lives to be, and others had grand plans about how they could work their way from rags to riches.

They were either rootless or uprooted. They were from Poland, New Zealand, Italy, Ireland, Greece, England, Yugoslavia, and from other parts of Australia too. Most had brought no wives or family with them, and for the time being they lived in big huts that had been towed on trailers all the way up from Perth. Some of them were rough and some gentle, some were honest and some not. There were those who got rowdy and drunk, and picked fights, there were those who were quiet and sad, and there were those who told jokes and could be happy anywhere at all. With no women to keep an eye on them, they easily turned into eccentrics. A man might shave his head and grow an immense beard. He might go to Perth for a week, go "blotto on Rotto', and come back with a terrible hangover and lots of painful tattoos. He might wear odd socks and have his trousers full of holes. He might not wash for a week, or he might read books all night so that he was red-eyed and weary in the morning when it was time to go to work. They were all pioneers, and had learned to live hard and simple lives ..."

Sounds familiar? In case you've been wondering: I was the one with the odd socks ☺

Anyway, I'm sure Louis de Bernières won't mind me having quoted him; after all, you're all now going to rush out to buy the book, aren't you? ☺