Bougainville is a new country. Fact or fiction?

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There are 195 countries in the world today. A group of islands called Bougainville may become the newest country in the world.

Bougainville Island, is the largest and easternmost island of Papua New Guinea (PNG). It lies in the Solomon Sea, just above the Soloman Islands in southwestern Pacific

News: From November 23 to December 7, the 207,000 citizens of this island will head to the polls. They are voting for greater autonomy from Papua New Guinea or complete independence.

Why? A long unpleasant history has driven the country to this vote or referendum.

For many years, the islands were part of Australia. In 1975, PNG broke away from Australia to build its own country and Bougainville became part of it.

The island of Bougainville has rich resources.  It is home to the now-shuttered Panguna mine that is estimated to still hold more than five million tonnes of copper deposits and 19 million ounces of gold. It once made up 40 percent of PNG’s exports.  

The people in Bougainville felt that the parent nation was exploiting their resources and they didn’t benefit from it. They wondered if they would be better off on their own?

Tensions grew and this led to a brutal civil war that lasted for about 10 years. The struggle finally stopped in 1997 and leaders from either side signed the Bougainville Peace Agreement. The deal allowed Bougainville to form its own government, which took place in 2005. It also called for a vote on independence from PNG to happen within 10 to 15 years. Though Bougainville set up its own government it still depends on the national government for most of its income. 

People are now ready to vote. Still, no matter how many people choose freedom, the vote won’t be official. Leaders in PNG will have to approve or ratify the decision. So, will Earth get their 196th country? Stay tuned.

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