Bougainville warThe Panguna mine

Foreign treasure hunters have descended on the battle-scarred and economically bereft Pacific island of Bougainville, as jockeying for its natural riches intensifies. Hot on their trail: The Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The serving Bougainville President, Dr John Momis, has been outspoken against what he labels “back-door mining deals” as landowner groups, local militias, and international prospectors – small and large – jostle in anticipation of new mining laws and the re-opening of the war-ravaged island to exploitation of its mineral wealth. But his government is under attack from powerful opponents who accuse the President and his AusAID-funded advisor (lawyer and long-time Bougainville scholar Anthony Regan) of crafting laws that sympathise with Australian interests and favour the return of Rio Tinto subsidiary Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL). Regan has strenuously denied such claims.