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26 March 2013

Condolences Ken Nelson

We advise the passing of Ken Nelson on Friday the 22nd of March 2013.

To Annie, Mary Ellen, Wes, Larne and Ashley go our heartfelt condolences.

Whenever our thoughts ponder around Ken it is just not possible for us to stay sad for too long. Some of our happiest days were spent in his company. When casting around for words to describe Ken we think of merriment, helping, goodwill, happiness, solutions and energy - all of them can be dominant, depending on the occasion.

Ken left Ireland as a teenager and joined his brother, Harold, at the Inkerman Sugar Mill in North Queensland. It was in the mid-60s that he answered a Townsville newspaper advertisement calling for a manager on a copra plantation on Bougainville.

From time to time, Ken would break loose and descend on the sleepy little town of Kieta. It was here that he befriended the colourful retinue of Rio Tinto drillers, legends like Graham Walpole, Noel Lueen (The Old Man) and Fongkee who were exploring for minerals in the wider region (including around Lihir) and undertaking a serious drilling program in the vicinity of Panguna, in Central Bougainville.

Ken significantly increased his revenue stream by joining Rio. A few years later his single days came to a close and Mary Ellen joined him. In early 1970 young Wes was just 12 months old. The Nelson house was next to Frank and Molly Gardner's, just opposite the little Panguna haus sik. Single expats were always most grateful to be invited for a home-cooked meal.

It was a close community lived in and around the much cherished Cricket Club. Many friends from those days have stayed connected to this day. There are just too many to mention but of interest to the Balikpapan community they included names like Clarke, Gomersall, Widt, Fraser Byass, Rochfort, Seebeck and some who have left us, Maurie Collis, Ian Forrester, etc.

Ken enjoyed good promotion in the Stores Dept and in the mid-70s transferred to BCL`s Sydney office. Many would visit him when on leave or there on company business. When in strife or needing a helping hand, Ken was always there. Ken at times "imposed" some long lunches upon on his visitor but then how else was he to keep track of what was happening at site. Eventually the Shipping Dept was transferred from Sydney to Brisbane and it was from here that the opportunity came for Ken to transfer within Rio to the Kaltim Prima Coal Project. From here he went to Kelian Gold and his life since then has been located around his base in Balikpapan. During this time he worked at several different mining projects.

Ken will be missed by all.

[Note from Webmaster: Ken Nelson last wrote in 2010 - see here.

25 March 2013

Mike Edwards emailed from Morangup W.A.:

G'day Peter

My name is Mike Edwards, I spent a little over two years on the island working for Morgan Equipment ( I have always regretted not staying longer). Initially I was in Panguna, then Loloho, Toniva and finally with 2 other mates in a house in Arawa.

I can relate to the mud and dust especially before the Panguna road was sealed. I remember with not a little nostalgia Saturday nights at the Davara Motel or Sundays on Arovo Island. I can also recall when the Jaba River was a beautiful crystal clear, icy cold fast flowing river.

A lot of great memories come creeping back as I tap this out. I really can't think of any bad ones (except the first arrival at Toniva International and the first sights, rain, mud, grey sky, rain , mud) But that quickly faded when waking up to a magic morning the next day. Stayed with friends right on the beach on the road past Kieta on the way to the yacht club.

It doesn't seem like forty plus years ago.

Now retired and living in WA, up in the hills about 65 kms from Perth, place called Morangup.

Bougainville was my first overseas work experience and I still look back on it with nostalgia. Lots of stories, just recently started to write down all I can remember before the brain turns completely to mush. Had a lot of photos but unfortunately very few seem to have survived. Would dearly like to know what happened to them.

Made a lot of friends and many more acquaintances while on the Island. Unfortunately have lost contact with all of them. I have found a few sites that show the Island as it is now, break your bloody heart to see what happened there.

Some years back I had a very strange, informal approach as to my interest in going back, I think it was very much unofficial lots of dollars were vaguely mentioned but nothing ever came of it. Don't know who or where it came from (probably a load of BS)

Great to hear from another Islander and that stuff they supposedly put in the water? It didn't work too well then but it sure as hell is kicking in now.

I'll end this now before I get too carried away.

Best regards
Mike Edwards
email wombat45[AT]

24 March 2013

Lynda Lapham emailed from Toowoomba, QLD:

Hi Peter,

I came across some more pictures from Bougainville. I don't know if you want to put them up on your website - I think they may be of interest to some (otherwise I obviously would not be even writing this! LOL)

I think the way they are named tells you all I know about the pictures and the people in them! There are a couple of pics where I cannot recall a few of the blokes names - it'd be GREAT if some peeps could ID them and fill in the blanks for me! For example, the chap with Merle Lovell on pic attachment number 4 ... I am sure his name was " Ib" and he was Danish, or somewhere close by there.I don't remember his full name - but that poor guy had something so horrible done to him whilst he was passed out cold - drunk, by a bunch of other drunk blokes, that he actually never drank again whilst he was there ... and if it had been me, I would have done exactly what he did. What happened to him was supposed to be funny - and it certainly was NOT (these so called grown men stuck a piece of kabana in his bum). Anyway, Ib was a really lovely bloke ... have always wondered where in the world he ended up.

I've resized the photo's, so that they don't take up a humungus amount of space. I just hope the quality does not suffer overly much.

Let me know if you want to use them?



[Note from Webmaster: Lynda's previous comments are here.]


Merle and Graham playing tennis BOUGAINVILLE

Cant recall his name - at Davara Pool

MAYRON who is Ringas wife, Bougainville

Merle Lovell and Maureen Lapham shopping at ARAWA, Bougainville

Mr Watt the SCOTSMAN under our duplex, ARAWA BOUGAINVILLE

Mr Chips, our dog, on DUPLEX verandah in ARAWA on Bougainville

Roger on left, Ringa on right at Barclay Darts night in SMQ, Arawa

The morning after at DAVARA Hotel Bougs

Under BARCLAY house ARAWA at a party

Snake Water Feature at DAVARA Hotel

Yachts at KIETA Bougainville

Diving into Panguna pool and YES I was clothed!

From LEFT - Craig Lapham, Andrew Watt, Graham Watt and Toni Carter

rom LEFT - Melissa Lapham (sister) John Lapham (Dad) Maureen Lapham (Mum)

From LEFT- Mrs Bingham and Maureen Lapham (my Mum)

Tony Mayne, a wee bit too much hydration methinks

LEFT - Paulline Mayne, walking away and a bunch of kids at LOLOHO

House on fire across road from butterboxes at Toniva

IB and Merle Lovelle at Barclays Single Mens Quarters in Arawa

MRS MAYNE at her house BIREMPA

JOE MAYNE at his house BIREMPA

Kids playing on LOLOHO beach BOUGAINVILLE

LYNDA, Silly young and drinking on beach BOUGAINVILLE

Merle and BILL

Mark Bingham at front Craig (my brother) behind him at Arawa duplex

Rhonda MacCauley at our house in BIREMPA Craig my bro in background

Arthur Geisler emailed from Auckland:


I was in Bougainville from 1969 - 1970 for about 12 months. I went there with Gerhardt Korn who was there for about 6 months, we were both from Germany and had met in Syndey in the 60s. I believe that he has a holiday place in Batemans Bay.

I returned to Sydney in 1970 and then met and married a New Zealander. We have been resident in Auckland, New Zealand for some years now.

Regards, Arthur Geisler

18 March 2013

Happy Easter to you all!



from your blogmaster/webmaster/bored-in-his-retirement ex-Bechtel Bougainville employee Peter Goerman

P.S. I am still waiting for a contribution to this blog, some stories and some happy snaps, from YOU - yes, YOU !!!

Email me on

16 March 2013

Nathan Travis Claypole emailed:

gday Peter, my name is Nathan and I'm currently working with RAMSI, on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands (but of course, you probably know where Guadalcanal is!) I consider myself something of a young writer, and I'm working with a group of PNG soldiers, many of whom were present and active during the Bougainville crisis in the early '90s. The story really interests me, and as I have their first-hand recounts at hand, I've been doing a bit of research and also some interviews with these guys, and am interested in working on a book in the direction of the Bougainville Crisis.

In my research your site came up, and it interests me a lot to get some background on the Copper Mine. I was wondering if you had any knowledge that could assist me - being it pointing me in the direction of books, of others with interesting stories or anecdotes, or perhaps even doing a short interview with each other, to get another story about Bougainville, that is, the history leading up to the crisis? I am based in Sydney and my grandparents are living in Taree, so it wouldn't be out of my way to visit. In fact, my grandfather worked for a time in PNG on towing boats, and I know he docked in Buka and on Bougainville from time to time. Another thing, I noticed you have more recent pictures of the modern decay in Arawa, did you take these yourself? I am interested in travelling to Bougainville for research, so any tips on getting there on advice on places to snoop would be appreciated too haha. Anyway! Thank you for your assistance, I hope to hear from you!

Nathan Claypole

13 March 2013

A brief history of the Bougainville Crisis

In late November and early December of 1988 part of the operations of Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) came under attack resulting in damage to some facilities. Explosives were stolen from the mine magazine by armed men, two buildings were burnt down and a number of other buildings and items of equipment were damaged. On two occasions, transmission pylons carrying power from the coastal power station to the mine were felled using explosives. Although the power supply was rapidly restored on both occasions, in order to minimise further loss and interruption to business, production could not be resumed after the second incident until steps were taken by the National Government to secure BCL’s employees and assets.

Click here to read more.


Bougainville Copper Press Release

Click here to open Press Release in separate window

For more information, go to

11 March 2013

The Bougainville Aftermath

Andrew Liversidge sent me photos taken on a recent trip to Bougainville by Michael Cowan, who now works on Lihir Island for Newcrest Mining.

They should bring back many memories and may shock some of you. They will certainly make you sad when you see what has become of what had been a vibrant community and a very profitable copper mine.

Click here to continue

9 March 2013

John Heads emailed from West Leichhardt River in NW Queensland:

Hello Peter,

I have seen the ex-BCL site on a number of occasions now, great effort and well done. I was one of the later arrivals, though the memories and affection for the place & people are similar to all who had the good fortune to experience time on Bougainville Island.

Lost everything that I owned at the time on the Island, left late March 1990 for a supposed 2 weeks to get a new work visa and come back as a part of care & maintenance, but that never happened.

Probably like a lot of folk, my life really has never been the same since leaving. I have a genuine respect for the local people and the Island itself, not too sure how I’m going to accomplish this next task but I would like to go back and be a part of Bougainville tourism somehow, surfing, fishing and scuba diving would keep me busy I reckon, along with re-establishing Rugby League if possible. Would you know of any ex-BCL or other people interested in my above mentioned interests ? If so, could you please put me in touch with them.

Thank you and regards,

John Heads
email john.heads[AT]

Note by blogmaster: John lives 11 km away from Kajabbi, a seriously remote location in NW Queensland where he is part of the care and maintenance crew at the old Mt. Cuthbert Copper Mine which was owned & operated by a WA company called Matrix Metals that went belly-up circa 2008 as part of the global financial crisis.

6 March 2013

Condolences Peter Trattner

Last Monday, 25th February 2013, long-time Bougainville and Buka resident Peter Trattner passed away.

Peter was born in Austria. He came to Australia in the 1960s, moved to Port Moresby (or was it Rabaul?) and finally to Bougainville in the late 1960s to work for PMAR construction managers, Morris Knudsen Fluor, based at Birempa (or Camp 5 as it was then called). Peter was one of the early appointments to the Arawa Town Council, later renamed the Arawa Town Authority. In 1985 he moved to Small Buka where he remained (self employed) right throughout the crisis and the intervening period. An ace tradesman and technician, Peter could turn his hand to any of the building and maintenance trades. Over a friendly chat, a cigarette and a brown bottle (or was it a greenie?), he could fix (almost) anything.

Remember when Peter arrived home from work one day with a huge mound of tin cans on the back of his old Toyota? He'd been down to the Loloho dump and found that SHRM had dumped 75 x 5kg cans of plums because one of the cans was damaged. Peter unloaded the cans then went back to the dump, returning with a small copper hot-water system and a length of copper tube. And, as they say, the rest is history. "You could always tell when Peter had a good brew underway because there was no parking space in either his yard or ours."

He will be sorely missed by those who had the pleasure of meeting him. Some people close to him include Urs & Assumpta Christen, "Buka" Mick & Bertha Michoff, Horst & Nicole Allmann, Reiner & Jill Georgi, Nick & Corinne Crawley, Rudi & Nola Weiss, Freddie Kastner and Fred & Elizabeth Boschart. However, there were many more, both expats and Bougainvilleans, who will remember Peter. Those were good days.

Condolences go to his wife Joanne, son David, daughter Jennifer, and sister Josephine, back in Austria.

RIP, old mate. You will be missed.

3 March 2013

Gray Chandler emailed these photos:

This i believe is the original Adit the geologists used to ascertain the viability of the ore body. It was uncovered during the Pit expansion. Maybe someone from Geology Or Engineering can give us more detail. Was this the only Adit ?????.

cheers,gray chandler


And here's a photo of the man himself at the old CAT Shop in 1973 with his right-hand man PUNDI. Al Medwin was Supervisor. Rest of the crew were John Standen, Barney Rogers, Milan Drajic, Peter Moyle, Joe ''BULLSHIT''Jarzinka.

The next one was taken at Loloho. Gray Chandler in lower left-hand corner. The individual in top right with leg in the air is Lawrence "ROCKY" Roe. He was a Fitter on the shiploader. He went on to start "Rocky Roe Photographics" based in Port Moresby. Still there today and doing very well. He did the photographs for a couple of BCL books.

And here are some shots from the 'big riot':

2 March 2013

A message from your blogmaster:



We've been planning to relocate to Bali for some time but expect to be "stuck" here at "Riverbend" for a few more years yet as there aren't enough buyers with sufficient cash around.

Our last visitors to "Riverbend" were as enamoured with Bali as we are which made us think: why not buy a property in Bali and share it with four like-minded people (or couples)?

Is $100,000 too much to pay for a second home in Bali in which to spend three months of every year? Three months are just about the right length of time to really enjoy Bali and three-month visas are readily available on arrival.

$100,000 for a quarter-share in a property as exquisite as the one shown here is cheap: a large 130 square-metre main building, a smaller 40 square-metre guesthouse, a 90 square-metre 2-metre deep pool, a jacuzzi and several pavillons, and the whole lot set on a landscaped block of 4,430 square-metres which is large by Australian standards and huge in Bali.

And the property is in the north of Bali, away from the tourists, where Bali still is as Bali used to be. And it is in the hills at an elevation of more than a 100 metres where it is cooler and where there are no mosquitoes. And the views out to sea and neighbouring Java Island are something to die for! There is just one problem: three months a year may not be long enough!

Of course, everything would be legally drawn up. You might lose your pale complexion but not your shirt.

Interested? Email me!


P.S. This is just a thought bubble. I could afford to go it alone but the thought of such a beautiful property standing empty for three-quarters of the year offends me. It's the sort place that ought to be shared amongst like-minded people.