visitors since April 2008

The "Lasslett Dispute"

- the discussion.



The "Lasslett Dispute" has caused a lively discussion on some threads. Find out more hera about the arguments of some readers who posted until May 3rd, 2012:




Comments copied from PNG Attitude:

For all those who are not familiar with academic work....

Scientific work means in-depth investigation on a subject. It tries to discover and collect all facts and evidence relating to the relevant matter. 

This means all historical, political, economical, cultural, legal and social aspects have to be investigated, described and reviewed in a completely neutral and impartial manner. 

A university man shall neither select nor highlight or hold back relevant evidence. All evidence has to be quoted correctly. 

A scientist has to be modest and he/she has to report the truth only. Any allegations or quotations have to be marked as such. 

Such an academic work can be followed by an analyses and a summary that contains the author’s conclusions and recommendations.

 Posted by: Axel G. Sturm | 30 April 2012 at 12:23 AM


It is encouraging to see that there is general agreement that BCL was a good community and corporate citizen for the first 20 or so years of its existence, but I find it equally disappointing that, citing evidence consisting of some out of context quotes, some take the view that BCL then morphed into an indiscriminate murderer of Bougainvilleans, revolutionaries and ordinary folk alike. 

To demand that resources be devoted to investigating this proposition before normal life can return to Bougainville seems designed to halt any type of reconciliation in its tracks, but then I imagine that the action being taken against BCL in a foreign jurisdiction is likely already scuppering that possibility.

As others have pointed out, our energies need to be directed to progressing development today rather than seeking to find a scapegoat for the disaster. 

Delaying things till the many issues are sorted out will solve nothing and what's more, there is unlikely to be a consensus about much of the narrative surrounding the events for some time to come. 

Our energies would be better spent in progressing a renegotiation of the Bougainville Mining Agreement into a form more suited to today's realities.

 Regarding the accusations, it must be kept in mind that BCL is a mining company, it is not in the business of countering civil insurrections. 

External security matters were always the responsibility of, and under the control of, the civil administration. I have my own ideas about the efficacy of some of the policies adopted by the authorities in countering the insurrection but I am not going to second guess those faced with quelling the violence at the time. 

On a more general note, I think that the Bougainville disaster had its genesis in more than the development of a copper mine, in fact I would venture to suggest that the mine was more of a catalyst and a convenient target rather than the main driver of the violence. 

The mine became a focal point point for other longstanding grievances. It just so happened that forcing the shutdown of the mine was the most effective way to cut off 30% of the central government's revenue. 

The roots of the insurrection were more visceral. In a broad sense you could argue that they were based on identity politics. Those identity related issues include the Hahalis type secessionist sentiment, general disdain of "redskins" and the central government's garnering the majority of the PNG/Bougainville income distribution and using that revenue to support the work of government in PNG as a whole.

Finally one cannot discount the idea the these identity issues were further inflamed by others who felt that conflict would advance their own separate agendas. 

Posted by: Michael Lorenz | 29 April 2012 at 03:42 PM


Mr Sturm - Suggest you obtain a copy of "Discovery and Development of the Bougainville Copper Deposit" by Haddon F King published 1978 for the directors of CRA.

Once you have read that document you might have a clearer understanding of the issues on which you comment.

No I don't have a copy but have read that document.

I am sure if you troll through CRA's archives a copy might come to light.

 Posted by: Harry Topham | 29 April 2012 at 02:17 PM


I'd like to see Alex Sturm take off his coat and tie and go to Bougainville and live in a Bougainville village for a year. 

Then he can see how the local people live and have lived for many generations. He has to realize that this is not going to change quickly, mine or no mine. 

He also needs to talk to many of the educated Bougainvilleans and hear their views about whether the people of Bougainville want the mine opened again or not. 

Posted by: Mrs Barbara Short | 29 April 2012 at 01:45 PM


Dear Tavurvur - Thanks for your time to write your comments. 

May I ask you some questions?

1. Don’t you believe that it’s normal when a big mining company like BCL that invested billions of Kina into one of the world’s biggest copper mines asks for government’s help when it faces violent terrorist threat, bombings, even killings and arson?

2. During the time when the Panguna mine was operational, the national government received a huge amount of taxes and dividends from Bougainville Copper. Some say it were even 40 percent of the national budget! Don’t you think that under this aspect it‘s the government’s duty and obligation to provide security to foreign investment on its ground? 

3. Don’t you think that it’s quite normal of the attacked company that it provides logistic support to soldiers of the PNGDF if needed? Do you refuse water if there is a fire in your neighbour’s home?

I wrote my open letter to Kris Lasslett because his arguments are completely one-sided. Further he hides his giant lack of research behind a huge wall of academic hypocrisy. 

That makes me believe that he’s part of an international conspiracy of anti-mining activists. We saw people like him in the past. Most of them are now exposed on the ESBC’s homepage, such as ‘mines & communities’, Clive Porabou, Vikki John etc.. 

Some of these people don’t even want to allow the people from emerging countries to earn money or even to play a small role in international economy. Sometimes it’s my impression that these guys try to keep these regions as some kind of “Jurassic Park” for next generations.

I learnt that most of Bougainvilleans don't want to live in sthe stone age because they are keen to enjoy so called western standards of living.

If Bougainvilleans want to be totally recognised by the international community, they have to adopt international rules and they have to change their habits also. 

E.g, If somebody is killed, the killer has to be brought to justice! A compensation by pigs, cars or money followed by reconciliation is not justice alone! This is a thing that goes apart.

 Lassett who pretends to be well educated did not mention any legal responsibility for criminal acts committed by the rebels. But he cheerfully speculates about BCL having violated human rights. 

That’s ridiculous. Therefore he is absolutely not reliable - I simply consider him as a nerd. You may call me immature Tavurvur, but do you really think I’m wrong?

That’s why i call Lassett’s text as an example of typical political agitation! It has nothing to do with scientific work! I told him to investigate on corruption committed by the Somare clan, he can even do research on Joseph Kabui who tried to sell off Bougainville’s wealth for peanuts to a notorious doubtful businessman called Lindsay Semple who just recently reappeared on stage under the Morumbi label.

All those who read this blog should work hard on bringing Bougainville forward as I do. Our company is ready to resume mining as soon as possible. By the way: Already the announcement of resumption of mining will bring a giant amount of money to the island! 

To all: Do stop toktok and digging out “dead people”, face the future hand in hand with Bougainville Copper Limited. It will be a brilliant one for you and your children!

Bougainville Copper's future is Bougainville and Bougainville's future is Bougainville Copper! With or without European shareholders!

 Posted by: Axel G Sturm | 29 April 2012 at 10:45 AM


Thanks Tavurvur, well said. 

Axel Sturm seems to have a "one track mind" with no genuine concern for the people of Bougainville. 

I suggest he sells his shares in BCL and invests in his own country!

 Posted by: Mrs Barbara Short | 29 April 2012 at 07:54 AM


I would suggest that PNG Attitude readers of this thread follow the link provided by Axel Sturm and read the correspondence between Sturm and Lasslett.

Also read Lasslett's final response to Sturm - this is important in the context of this scuffle.

After reading those pieces, it is clear to me that Sturm's reaction to Lasslett's claims is, to put it bluntly, immature.

The tone and nature of Sturms' response begs the question as to whether or not Sturm actually read and understood what Lasslett was trying to say in his original article.

As Lasslett points out, his claims are focused on a specific two year period of BCL operations, 1988 - 1990, where there is evidence that BCL was involved in questionable activities in helping the PNG government repress Bougainville via a number of fronts during the crisis - with the goal of securing control and stability over BCL investments on the ground.

What is hard to believe about that claim Sturm?

Quite frankly, if I was a shareholder then, I would be appalled if BCL didn't try their hardest to achieve this goal. It's a logical step that any corporate management team would take.

However, I'm not a shareholder, and even if I was, BCL's actions (some of which Lasslett briefly describes) don't make what happened then right or even acceptable - and as some have inferred, those actions may even be classed as possibly criminal then and today if proven true.

This is the key issue readers need to keep in mind when following this debate.

There is enough evidence - and, if it makes you more comfortable Sturm, I would argue even more than enough speculation and innuendo, for the following question to be at least asked and investigated: Should BCL be investigated for possible human rights abuses during the Bougainville crisis?

If BCL has nothing to fear - then why doesn't BCL and ESBC proactively support such a call for an investigation?

Why - if you're so confident that Lasslett's views are nothing more than a "disgraceful lampoon", then the best way to immunize Lasslett is to fund an independent investigation to prove once and for all that the speculation and innuendo, and any possible evidence, are indeed all false.

It seemed to me that Lasslett was actually trying to help BCL by suggesting, in his opinion, a possible course of action which would help the company and the people of Bougainville move on from the past.

But Sturm seems to have missed that point altogether!

In stating this, Sturm is right to point out that the BRA itself was involved in questionable activities too - e.g. murder and robbery. I agree.

Similarly, I agree that Bougainvilleans became poorer as a result of the rebellion.

And again, I agree, that Panguna and BCL provided immense wealth and positive change (for most of its operation) to the people of Bougainville and to PNG.

But Sturm - nobody is denying that this happened. Nobody is also denying yours or your organisations' right to provide an opinion.

These issues have nothing to do with the allegation that BCL acted in a questionable manner during the crisis. 

If anything, they're just more examples of the complex number of issues that need to be sorted out or concluded to an agreeable end by all relevant stakeholders prior to the reopening of Panguna.

Sturm's immature response has actually made what could have been a golden PR opportunity for BCL and ESBC to take advantage of, into just another episode tarnishing both operator and shareholder.

And Lasslett - if you do read this, I wouldn't even class Sturm's responses as being personal attacks. It would be more accurately described as more like trying to fart into the wind.

A wind that has blown the farts straight back into the face of Mr Sturm.

 Posted by: Tavurvur | 28 April 2012 at 03:02 PM


To all who contributed to the discussion:

Please find here to complete documentation of the Lassett vs. Sturm dispute:

If you scroll down to the end, you will find four interesting videos and an interesting timetable of the rebellion. These are forceful documents of a very sad chapter in Bougainville's history!

Please be honest: What has been changed by the rebellion? Bougainvilleans became poorer and many paid with their life.

With nearly 700 pages the ESBC homepage is the biggest in-depth source for information on Bougainville worldwide. I truly believe that most of different aspects of Bougainville's history are mentioned and many different opinions are respected and published. But, we also express our opinion!

Nevertheless: The shareholders of Bougainville Copper do want to reopen the Panguna mine as soon as possible. For the best of all, Bougainvilleans and foreign investors! One thing is for sure: we do not want to loose money in our investment. Don't forget: it's not our fault that money that was meant to be given to the Bougainvilleans had been misappropriated at the time by a corrupt system in PNG. So please, prosecute your fellow citizens who stole your money first before you're attacking our company and its shareholders!

 Posted by: Axel G. Sturm | 27 April 2012 at 02:58 PM


Michael - You misunderstand. Mr Sturm is free to have views on BCL, I don't criticise anyone for having a view on anything. 

I was simply criticising his ill informed, inaccurate commentary on the situation relating to BCL's activities in the early stage of the conflict on Bougainville prior to BCL's departure and his ensuing personal attack on Dr Lasslett. 

Sturm does not understand the context of the conflict or the culture of Bougainville, is insensitive to the damage and suffering and has a poor understanding of the conflict's history and roots.

Please read Lasslett's initial article and response to Sturm's open letter outburst for context. 

This present argument between Sturm and Laslett is not about whether the mine should reopen but about BCL's honesty and culpability for its actions.

Reopening the mine is a sensitive issue and is a matter for the Panguna landowners, Bougainvillians and the autonomous government. It may or may not involve BCL and its shareholders. 

I don't necessarily oppose the mine reopening as long as it is fair and equitable to the stakeholders on Bougainville and enjoys broad support. 

Posted by: Matate Morola | 27 April 2012 at 01:36 AM


Matate - I don't see how not being from Bougainville disqualifies Mr Sturm from having a view on the BCL business. 

Large amounts of capital were and will be required to get the mine operating. Do the investors get no say in the matter?

A lot of people, Bougainvilleans and others, benefited from the Panguna project. Yes, there were negative impacts on some, but on balance many saw the project as a positive development with increased employment/business opportunities and improved services and infrastructure.

And even today there are many on Bougainville who support the reopening of the mine.

Keep talking, Mr Sturm.

 Posted by: Michael Lorenz | 26 April 2012 at 05:48 PM


There is nothing powerful about any of Axel Sturm's commentary. 

He is not from Bougainville, has never lived there and may never have been closer than an AGM of BCL in Port Moresby. His information is all second or thirdhand. 

All he is is a foreign shareholder/sharetrader in a company that owns a long closed mine with expired leases subject to renegotiation, and potentially worth nothing, and an investment portfolio of shares. 

While he may have handed out a few mobile phones to landowners and made a few small donations on Bougainville in order to gain favour and publicity for his cause, and he may have some genuine concern for Bougainville, his primary motivation as a shareholder is growing his personal wealth through increasing the value of his shareholding. 

The value placed by the market on BCL ignores any potential liability for environmental, social and economic damage. This is a result of misinformation, speculation and a lack of information in the market. 

The company is subject to litigation by Bougainvilleans in the US and potentially elsewhere including PNG and eventually on Bougainville. 

Sturm insults Bougainvillians such as the distinguished Dr Sir Alexis Sarei, a litigant and AROB MP, former Premier and former High Commissioner. 

He also insults the memory of many innocent Bougainvilleans killed, maimed or tortured by ill disciplined military and police elements that were out of control. 

Sturm conveniently mixes his facts. Laslett (and the SBS program in 2011) refers in this current debate to events prior to BCL's withdrawal from Bougainville in 1990 and I believe prior to Sturm owning any BCL shares. 

Sturm's comments refer to the time after BCL withdrew. 

These are two distinct phases of the conflict. 

Laslett has evidence, thousands of inhabitants of Arawa and Bougainville: local, Papua New Guinean and foreign can back up some of the claims, victims and eyewitnesses can back up others. 

An example is militarily use of company vehicles and assets. Current Australian and international law could, if applied retrospectively, make some BCL activity in the past illegal. 

Sturm has criticised short selling of BCL shares on the share market - a legitimate market making activity of those who believe a share is overpriced yet keeps quiet about his own trading activity. 

I challenge Sturm to disclose all his and his group's share holding details as well as details of all their BCL share trading activity to demonstrate and prove they have never engaged in illegitimate market manipulation such as share price "ramping" and "front running" when making their assorted pronouncements. 

This would show they are genuine even if their views are at times questionable. 

The Bougainville situation is highly complex and does not need the self serving intervention of activist shareholders. I would much rather hear the genuine voices of Bougainvillian shareholders of BCL and landowners. 

Posted by: Matate Morola | 26 April 2012 at 12:32 PM


For anyone who missed it - Dr Lasslett's response to Axel Sturm is below:

 Posted by: Dylan Brown | 26 April 2012 at 11:24 AM





The European Shareholders of Bougainville Copper (ESBC)