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Cruise options bring hope

Bougainville looks beyond mining to tourism

WITH increasing pressure from local landowners on environmental issues, Bougainville is looking for options which will allow conservation of its natural resources. Until the political upheaval in the early 1990s and the struggle for independence, gold and copper mining provided the largest revenue stream for the island. But after a secessionist uprising, arson attacks on mining infrastructure and the loss of an estimated 15,000 lives, mining has all but come to a standstill as an industry.

The filing of a class action by Bougainvilleans against the once mighty Bougainville Copper Limited and alleged environmental damage caused by mining have done serious damage to investment opportunities. Enter Zhon Bosco Miriona of Bougainville Experience Tours and his small operation out of Arawa, the administrative centre of the island. In June Miriona took his business and Bougainville to the South Pacific Tourism Event in Melbourne, Australia.

“This is a huge opportunity for us – tourism allows the landowners to make money but at the same time keep our environment secure for the future generations,’’ Miriona said. “We have seen the impact of extractive industry and the people believe this is a more attractive option.”

Miriona operates a number of fourwheel drive vehicles which open up the interior of Bougainville and its forests and river systems to visitors from around the world. Numbers may be small at the moment but he’s confident that these will grow as news gets out of his island’s pristine water systems and untouched forests.

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