The Die Was Cast - My Journey to New Guinea

The Bougainville Aftermath

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August 31, 2015

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 when 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 riverbend[AT]

I look forward to hearing from you.

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

August 30, 2015

Remember the chain letters MONEY TREE and MONEY MACHINE ?

They were a variant of those letters encouraging people to forward one dollar in cash to a list of people provided in the text, and to add their own name and address to the bottom of the list after deleting the name and address at the top. Using the theory behind pyramid schemes, the resulting chain of money flowing back and forth would supposedly deliver a reward of thousands of dollars to the ones participating in the chain, as copies of their chain spread and more and more people sent one dollar to their address.

The Bougainville version of this chain letter, sometimes called MONEY TREE and at other times MONEY MACHINE, required the participant to buy his first chain letter from somebody who had previously been sucked into the scheme (and there were plenty of sellers around!).

He was then supposed to send $1 to the name and address appearing at the top of the list, add his own name and address to the bottom of the list, and send it to the promoters in Australia TOGETHER WITH A MONEY ORDER FOR $5. The promoters would in due course send him another five copies which had his name moved up by one spot. He could then sell these five copies for $5 a piece to the next five sucker.

Of course, most people 'forgot' to send $1 to the person at the top of the list and just hurried off their $5 money order to the southern promoters (who presumably drove to the post office in gold-plated Ferraris to collect their mail containing all those $5 money orders and soon afterwards retired to their mansions on the Gold Coast) to get their five copies to sell on so they could get at least their own money back ($5 for the initial purchase and $5 to the promoters) plus, if they were lucky enough to find five suckers, an extra $15.

Every so often there were rumours that somebody had received heaps of money through the mail, no doubt engineered by the promoters to keep the scheme alive, and things got so heated up at one point that the Post-Master General completely banned the sale of $5 postal orders.

If you remember those schemes and can add a few tales, perhaps even still have a copy of one of those name slips, I'd love to hear from you.

email riverbend[AT]


August 28, 2015

Johannes van der Linden sent these photos:

I was there from 1970 and even was seconded to Bechtel working
in the Cinema centre in Melbourne.

My Department employed 120 people, the average age was 19, I was the old man at 32: 5 Expats average age 22, the rest Bougainvilleans and other Papua New Guineans hired straight out of mostly Mission Schools.

One of the lab techs became a Professor in Chemistry and Minister of Minerals and Energy, Samson Akoitai, unfortunately he died last month.

They were the best crew I ever had, smart kids.


August 12, 2015

Mark Frankling emailed from France:

Mark L Frankling in Paris, France, but who now lives with his family in Burgundy. As he writes, "The above photo was taken in Paris (1998-2013). We got fed up with Paris and moved to our home in Burgundy in October 2013. Much better here in the countryside, good food, warm fireplace and lots of forests and lakes. We have a 4-month-old son named Ashley. He is very popular but geez - i have ringing ears and a sore back :-) You would be impressed with our huge dog (Anglo-Fran├žais); despite his big bark he usually hurts himself chasing butterflies & birds."

Hi Peter

I have good memories of the Kieta wharf on Bougainville. My father had me working and driving the forklifts, usually it was copra and cocoa from the plantations as well as general cargo. He also put me on a ship to Wakanai to pick up some logs for export. It was as hot as an oven working on those ships but I enjoyed every moment of it. I just want to say a big hello to my old friend Sean McNamara who lived in Arawa. We were swimming in the Bovo River when a sudden change in weather sent down a huge mud flow from the hills. (This was about 250 metres away and coming down fast!!) We were all very lucky to be alive today. Other good memories included a "decent cup of tea" with the legendary Bob Strong. He was the manager of Toboroi plantation and the transport manager at Rabaul Stevedores, Kieta.

Here is a picture of some "oldies" who lived on Bougainville in the 1980s. Peter Hallmann was a pioneer and a very good carpenter who lived in Kieta. He made my father some very nice Pacific maple wooden chests. (Made in Bougainville). He was one of the last expats to leave Bougainville when the conflict began in 1989. He is from Brisbane Australia. We last paid him a visit in 1994/95 in Brisbane. He was a bit ruffled because he was chased to Port Moresby by the Papua New Guinea secret service because he stayed on living in Bougainville until 1992/93. He saw some horrible things from both sides of the conflict, as you could imagine. We heard stories of the Police chief on bougainville trashing up the bar at the Kieta Hotel because he needed a drink after hours, and that was in peace time before 1989.

Panguna Copper Mine 1982

MV Ivybank Bougainville Island 1984

Earnie Hewitte & Peter Hallmann, Bougainville 1980s

Please checkout my website I have many pictures from Bougainville from those good old days!! :-)

kind regards
Mark L Frankling
email mlfrankling[AT]

P.S. see also here.


July 25, 2015

John Clark emailed:

I was working in Bougainville in 79. My wife and I were living in Arawa with our 2 year old son (Michael). I was programming on the BCL minesite at Panguna with Des Smith, Dennis Smith, Andrew Liversidge (we called him LIVERSAUSAGE), Andrew Cowan, and others I cannot quite remember. it was a marvellous experience. I actually played cricket, walked through the jungle, from Panguna to Arawa, swam off Loloho, helicoptered around the island, and had many experiences there. I will have to see if I can find some photos. I also have a copy, in good condition, of the first newspaper they printed in Bougainville.

I remember when Dennis Smith cracked a raw egg over Des Smith's head one day. Some days later, Dennis arrived at the office and his bottom draw made a very strange sound when he sat down. He jumped up and moved away from the drawer. Eventually he gently opened it, and there was a baby piglet, with a ribbon tied to it and a note saying, "Here is some bacon for your eggs".

I was asked if I would like to fly around in a helicopter the examine the Bagana volcano and the Kupeii River.
Well, off we went, with Robyn Taylor, myself and a native in the back of the copter. Robyn was the pilot and his wife, Valerie, was a blond girl and she was pregnant with her first child. She used to drop into my office and chat about the mine and programs. This was how I managed to get a flight with Robyn. We flew near the gentle active volcano, looking down the slopes of the volcano and flew across a drop area near the volcano where the ground had dropped about 200 feet because of the volcano and the rain. It was a jungle beneath the jungle. We then flew down the river. Apparently there had been a mercury/cyanide spill from the mine and all the fish and birds had died in the area and then the locals ate them, which had a rather bad outcome for them. We went down to the Empress Augusta bay area where the river reached the sea, and Robyn was “dabbing down” the helicopter to see if we could land near one of the native villages. The native were out in their grass skirts and shields and spears, waving at us as we tried to land. Robyn decided that the copter was too heavy so we left to go back to the mine. We had in the back one of the natives from the mine and he was moving about, touching us on the shoulder and rather excited. When we landed at Panguna, we asked why he was doing that and he informed us that they still practice the “cargo cult” where they ate those that landed, but he said that they did not like the taste of white people.

John Clark
email clarkkent[AT]


July 16, 2015

Sonya Organ emailed with a question: "I am hoping someone will recognise the men in the photo and help me solve the mystery of the origins of the photo."


Hi Peter,

I found this photo amongst my father's belongings. My father was a miner in Broken Hill but he had written on the back of the photo 'Bougainville 1970s'. As far as I know my father never went to Bougainville. I am hoping someone will recognise the men in the photo and help me solve the mystery of the origins of the photo.



to which I replied:


Sonya, thanks for the photo but I doubt it was taken on Bougainville. For one thing, the people in it look far too dressed and well-dressed and the company is far too mixed (too many females) to make me think it's from Bougainville. As far as drinking Coca-Cola is concerned, in all my years on Bougainville I never saw any self-respecting construction worker or miner drink that stuff ☺ Anyway, let's see if somebody else can shed some light on it.

Peter Goerman


July 9, 2015

Arovo Island today

Arovo Island is just off the coast of Kieta. It was a famous resort before the Bougainville crisis. Now an old jetty and seawalls are all that remains. But it is still beautiful, with white, sandy beaches, jungle, and lots of birds.


July 1, 2015

Brian Mc Nicholas emailed from the Gold Coast:


Don't know where to start as it was so long ago. I am living on the Gold Coast Qld and have been looking for my old mate from Bougainville who moved to Sydney. Enclosed are one of the first ID cards issued in the 70s. If you print this he just might see it.

Many thanks.
email pbmcnicholas42[AT]


May 21, 2015

This year's Reunion in Brisbane


May 6, 2015

Brian Rear emailed from Perth:

Hello Peter

Just discovered your web-site, great to see it.

I worked with BCL from January 1970 to September 1973 as a metallurgical Engineer. Such a great experience for a graduate from final design, construction, commissioning and the early operating period. I clearly remember we received the first ore from the pit to the primary crusher on Christmas day. I was lucky getting experience from the primary crusher right through to the concentrator, my last position was Assistant Mill Superintendent, worked for the late George Gauci, and of course Bill Davis and John Trezise. My wife Martina worked for Bechtel-WKE in the beginning and then with Maurie Pears and Bob Duffy in BCL training.

After Bougainville went to the Royal School of Mines in London to further my qualifications. Ken Woods and Ray Cantrell also left at that time and we all did the MSc course in Mineral Process Design. Theo Macrides went to Oxford to do his PHD in chemistry at the same time as well. After London we decided to see Africa and after 14 years working for AngloVaal returned to Australia in 1989 with our twins who were born in Kimberley.
Now living in Perth WA.

Keep up the good work.
Brian Rear
email bushboy47[AT]