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16 September 2011

Carmen Letton emailed:

Hi there,

I was trying to look up someone from PNG to see if there is any internet news of them and accidentally came across your website. It was great to read some of the stories and to look at the photos.

I lived and worked at the Lihir Gold Mine for six years (2000-2005 inc.) where I was the Chief Engineer in the Mine. During my time in PNG I worked with many people who had spent time at Bouganville, all having wonderful memories of the time and the place. Many of the Papua New Guineans that I worked with in the mine were trained and gained their experience with/at BCL and they were an amazing team of workers with diverse and very high levels of skills/competence.

Some of the people that I knew and worked with are Ian and Jenny White, Colin Vale, Thomas Tomputu, Steve Beno (Tom and Steve worked in the mine as operator Supervisors and they are the best that there were) and there are many others who tell stories of the wonderful place it was but equally they tell of the horror of the uprising and the emergency evacuation from Bouganville when “the crisis” hit.

Thomas Tomputu brought me some photos of the mine as it is today, in about 2004, and I was amazed to see that the haul roads are still in near-perfect condition and the pit still looks great (no collapse or failures anywhere to be seen). All of the facilities and equipment are burnt, salvaged or just “gone into the ground” but there is still evidence of the magnificent place it once was. Thomas lives in a village at the top of where the pit is, so I asked him if I could go on field break with him and get him to take me to have a look. He said….”NO WAY, you are a mining engineer. They will shoot you”. The wounds are still raw. I would love to be part of a team that goes back in there to have another go at Bougainville. There are some wonderful examples of how to successfully integrate mining into a local traditional community in a sustainable fashion. (Lihir Gold Mine and the Anitua Story is one of those where local landowners, under the tutorship of Colin Vale (Ex-Bougainville), have made an enormous success of the opportunities afforded out of mining.)

Once again, lovely to read your stories. I too loved my time in PNG and would go back there to live permanently if I could but with kids in high school and plenty happening here at home in Brisbane, my place is here for the time being.

Bye for now.

Carmen Letton
T: + 61 7 32061496
M: +61 437 795 876