The Guardian

'Deal with the disaster': the girl from Bougainville who grew up to take on a mining giant

Panguna mine is often cast as the economic key to Bougainville’s potential independence, but young MP Theonila Matbob says her people, and their land, must come first
Theonila Roka Matbob, a Bougainville MP, in the pit of the disused, polluting Panguna mine. She has led a fight to force Rio Tinto to clean up the site. Photograph: HRLC

For all of Theonila Roka Matbob’s three decades, the scar on her land that was once the world’s largest copper mine has cast a pall.

The Panguna mine in Bougainville, eastern Papua New Guinea, has not yielded a single ounce in her lifetime – forced shut the year before Matbob was born - but she grew up in the shadow of the violent civil war it provoked.

When she was just three years old, her father, John Roka, was murdered by the secessionist soldiers who had forced the mine to close. Spending years in a “care centre” run by the PNG defence force, she remembers a childhood dominated by an all-pervasive fear, where the sound of gunshots regularly rang out across the valley, where neighbours disappeared from their homes, their bodies later found slaughtered.

Theonila Roka Matbob stands in front of the Pangua mine in Konawiru, Bougainville.
Theonila Roka Matbob stands in front of the Pangua mine in Konawiru, Bougainville. Photograph: Human Rights Law Centre/Reuters

There is peace

Stai leggendo un'anteprima, registrati per continuare a leggere.

Altro da The Guardian

The Guardian6 min letti
'My Mother Was Like A Steel Fist In A Velvet Glove': The Real Audrey Hepburn
Her delicate beauty and starring roles made her seem fragile. But having endured an unloving mother and a perilous childhood under Nazi occupation, such an impression belied Hepburn’s remarkable strength, compassion and resolve
The Guardian4 min letti
Coronavirus: Tips For A Safer Christmas
Well-ventilated homes, guest cutlery, picnics and deferral until midsummer among advice for tweaking the traditional festival Coronavirus – latest
The Guardian14 min letti
Michael J Fox: ‘Every Step Now Is A Frigging Math Problem, So I Take It Slow’
After living with Parkinson’s for 30 years, the actor still counts himself a lucky man. He reflects on what his diagnosis has taught him about hope, acting, family and medical breakthroughs