Decade-long, bloody strife on Papua New Guinea's island of Bougainville, in the southwest Pacific Ocean, killed almost 20,000 people, rendered 40,000 people homeless, and virtually destroyed the country's economy. It began as a fight over compensation between Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL), an Australian-owned mining company, and the hundreds of indigenous landowners it displaced in Panguna. The company destroyed over 220 hectares of forests, dumped toxic pollutants in the rivers, left 1,400 natives without fishing rights, and imported workers from elsewhere in Papua New Guinea, which upset the Bougainvillians who are racially and ethnically distinct from other Papua New Guineans. The landowners protested and tried for years to negotiate a fair settlement with BCL and the government. Finally, late in 1988, they were forced to close the copper mine. In March 1989, the government sent in the police and military (financed, trained, and equipped by Australia), in what became the brutal and prolonged Operation Tampara. They isolated Bougainville through an air and sea blockade imposed in May 1990, hoping to force the natives into a settlement by denying them basic humanitarian aid and trying to turn them against the secessionist Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA), which had proclaimed independence. Two New- Zealand-brockered agreements -- the Endeavour Accord and the Burnham declaration -- were short-lived, as was the Honiara Agreement of September 1994. Early in 1997, Papau New Guinea's government hired mercenaries (the Sandline affair) to root out the BRA. Instead, the resulting controversy forced the resignation of Prime Minister Julius Chan (1939-). In July 1997, New Zealand again hosted peace talks. On April 30, 1998 -- amidst much jubilation -- the two opposing parties signed a permanent ceasefire; the government would withdraw its troops and assure freedom of movement on the island, which would be patrolled by a multinational peacekeeping force.