Leonard Fong Roka
After 1997 when the Bougainville Peace Process slowly gained momentum the people on the coastal plains of Nasioi, especially around Arawa, slowly began to rehabilitate their old cocoa and coconut plantations. On the higher altitudes like Panguna where cocoa does not yield, people sought means to earn the cash the coastal people were enjoying; most young men began to labour for the coastal people.
For those in the village it was a search for a resource that would counter the cash economy the coastal people were enjoying. Panguna people attempted butterfly, coffee, vanilla and the spice farming but it all did not work well to their liking.
So by chance in 1998 the Moroni and Dapera villagers began the sharing tales of the world oldest precious mineral, gold. They knew for oral history had it that it was first mined in the mountains of Kupe in the 1929 to 1930 era; and the Barapinang (what is now Panguna area) much later.
They knew also the tales of the heydays of the Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) that gold was processed in the Panguna mine’s concentrator within their reach thus they began to sample the area; using old methods of panning, they discovered the valuable mineral of the world since the Biblical times was there waiting for them.
A gold rush dawned. People as far as Siwai in South Bougainville and Arawa in Kieta’s east coast flocked into Panguna to tap in. The BCL tailings affected Tumpusiong Valley people also joined the rush for gold money.
By the mid-year of 1999, the entire Concentrator Zone of the Panguna site began controlled by the landowners and a few BRA leaders. Tumpusiong miners were slowly pushed to the periphery thus their numbers slowly declined from the scene.
Doing nothing back in their homes they slowly developed a thought that the vast sedimentation the BCL and Rio Tinto dumped into their valley came from Panguna so there must be traces of the old valuable mineral in store for them.
So without the entire valley knowing a person by the name of Boniface Arunara in late 2000 began sampling for the mineral his people were kicked aside for at Panguna mine site. He did love to pan at Panguna before but sadly he was wounded by the Papua New Guinea military in left leg and thus he does not walk long trails.
Arunara identified the mineral at a spot known as Sinari-tave in the Tumpusiong Valley. He secretly mined it for a few weeks but he was discovered and excitement diffused so the entire valley was searched and gold uncovered and mined as off.
Gold panning turned the Tumpusiong living standard positively high according to Bougainville measures and scales. Small businesses mushroomed and everybody has money earned with hard clean labour.