Lihir Destiny: Cultural Responses to Mining in Melanesia

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The mine consists of two adjacent overlapping pits. With the current reserve, mining would take place for 13 years, during which the higher grade ore will be fed directly for processing and lower grade ore will be stockpiled. This will be processed during the following 17 years, giving a total projected life of 30 years. The principal asset of Lihir Gold Ltd, the mine was managed by a subsidiary of Rio Tinto until late , since when it has been operated directly by Lihir Gold. Lihir Gold announced in February that it would proceed with a major upgrade to the mine, lifting gold production by an average of ,oz per year over the life of the operation.

This equates to a lift in output over the period from this year to of 2. Merger talks were first made known in April last year, with an announcement by Newcrest Mining. The takeover received national court of Papua New Guinea approval on Aug 28 last year. Joining the chief secretary representing the national government were Vision senior officers Joseph Sukwianomb, Simon Cholai and Francis Kenehe.

Misren, an outspoken Lihir leader, did not mince his words when he told the chief secretary that the lessons the Lihirians have learnt was that the local people were always promised so many benefits, especially in cash. The Lihir case is a classical example and the development of the Lihir Destiny is to address this social cause. Elias agreed, and thanked Lihirians for seeing the problems associated with the development of the Lihir gold project. The people of the Lihir have long held visions of a prosperous new future, now referred to as the Lihir Destiny and documented as the Lihir Sustainable Development Plan.

The Lihir Destiny explores how Lihirian leaders devised future plans for a cultural revolution based upon the maximisation of mining activities and the influential philosophies of the personal viability movement. Approaches to the subject have varied greatly. The search for mineral wealth has long been associated with colonisation, economic exploitation and economic transformation. In contemporary Papua New Guinea, large-scale mining has become the most significant export industry, generating income for government and for the people whose lands are affected.

Extractive industry is now viewed as the main means of economic development. Controversies over the environmental degradation and social disruptions generated by mining operations have hardly dampened the enthusiasm for mining. Lihir has been no exception. My own association with Lihirians and the Lihir gold mine began just before the construction phase, in At that time the excitement was almost palpable, as people contemplated the wealth that they were sure would be generated by the project.

Over the following nine years I worked as a consultant, monitoring the social changes that occurred and recording the local responses to environmental change and degradation. As I observed many of the dramatic confrontations and the innovative strategies that Lihirians adopted in their dealings with the mining company, I often wished that I could find a graduate student who would be able to engage with these changes in the sort of concerted, day-today, ethnographic research that is characteristic of our discipline. Nick Bainton became that ethnographer.

This book is testament to its continued strength as a methodology, and to the ways that direct observation of events, conversations ix The Lihir Destiny with a variety of people, and reflection upon change over time enriches interpretative endeavours. The book is a revised version of a doctoral thesis. It incorporates archival and historical research, and engages with debates about the ways that contemporary Melanesians construct models of their identity and culture as they embrace modernity.

It also reveals the tensions generated, within the local community and between Lihirians and others, as they struggle to gain control over the processes of change and the wealth generated by the mine. The social and economic changes ushered in by the mining project on Lihir have been profound. They are readily observable. When I first arrived, I was struck by the relative poverty of people there. The airstrip was tiny and involved the rather tricky piloting manoeuvre of landing a small plane on an uphill slope. Now there is an airport that regularly ferries hundreds of workers to and from the island; children wear shorts and sneakers, or frilly dresses from the large Filipino-owned supermarket.

Where there was an overgrown and abandoned plantation there is now a township. But as Nick Bainton demonstrates in this study, the material changes have brought with them new distinctions, new inequalities, and conflicts that were previously absent. Custom, like everything else on Lihir, has been transformed. This book documents and analyses the complex interactions between local people, migrants, foreign workers and mine managers, and the ways that new values associated with a monetary economy are established. It stands as a fine contribution to the anthropology of mining communities.

New York: Columbia University Press. Taussig, M. The Devil and Commodity Fetishism. My Cocaine Museum. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. In the process of writing this book, from its original genesis through to its current form, I have been engaged with Lihirian lives and resource development in several different ways. As such the list of people who have helped me along the way is that much longer. This book originated as my doctoral thesis at the University of Melbourne. My first 18 months of research in Lihir was made possible through financial support from the School of Anthropology, Geography and Environmental Studies.

Throughout my candidature, Monica Minnegal, Peter Dwyer and Mary Patterson provided academic support, constantly challenging me to further develop my ideas and to ask more questions. I owe a great intellectual debt to Martha Macintyre who supervised my doctoral research. Her work in Lihir opened many opportunities for me and has strongly influenced my belief in the need for a genuinely engaged anthropology.

Over the years Martha has generously shared her ideas, and provided continuing encouragement and friendship. In many ways the process of revisiting, rethinking and rewriting my earlier research has followed a less than conventional route. I have shifted from village based anthropology to gradually working more closely with the mining company in Lihir.

The Lihir Destiny: Cultural Responses to Mining in -

At the same time this shifting engagement has created opportunities for closer involvement with many Lihirians. This position took me back to Lihir on a monthly basis as I worked with company personnel and community members on social impact studies and cultural heritage management. I am also thankful to the Sustainable Minerals Institute for financial assistance towards the completion of this book, and for a very generous Early Career Research Grant to commence research on the sacred geography of Lihir. Some of the early findings of this work have contributed towards the ethnographic descriptions presented here.

Thanks to the administration staff for organising my constant flights on and off the island, and the research staff in the social impact monitoring section for providing access to data. Luke Kabariu and Patrick Turuan who work in the LGL Cultural Information office have also provided great assistance, patiently answering my endless questions, introducing me to people and helping to facilitate research around the different islands. At various times, Elly Sawa and Walter Pondrelei have assisted with data collection. David Haigh from the LGL Media Resource Production and Training section provided excellent audio-visual support, especially for the recording of ceremonial events.

I am especially thankful to Chris Ballard and Kirsty Gillespie with whom I have worked for the past few years on the development of cultural heritage management strategies in Lihir. Both have widened my knowledge of Melanesia and cultivated new research interests in Lihir. Several sections of this book have been published elsewhere. I am particularly thankful to the editors of these journals for permission to use this material here. Mike Fabinyi and Deana Kemp read revised chapters and provided valuable comments and appraisal.

Dan Jorgensen read the original thesis and his excellent critical commentary has helped shape the current work. I am thankful for the astute comments and suggestions provided by the two anonymous reviewers of this manuscript and for the excellent editorial work by Mary Walta.

Colin Filer also read the original thesis and has been instrumental in the process of writing this book. I have benefited tremendously from his unparalleled insights and knowledge of resource development in Melanesia. My greatest debts are to the many Lihirians who have provided hospitality, shared their stories and histories, excused my mistakes, and helped me to understand their lives. Yel apet siwa. Finally, my deepest thanks go to my parents for their encouragement, and to Veronica who inspires me and continually spurs me on.

When a large gold mine was constructed on the main island of the Lihir group in , Lihirians began to envision that the sort of life they had long dreamed of was closer to being in their grasp. For the past century, Lihirians have been beguiled by the sort of development that would genuinely enhance their lives. Unlike so many of their Melanesian compatriots, Lihirians were going to witness the realisation of past prophesies for material and social change that arose during previous social movements — albeit in decidedly unexpected ways.

This large-scale resource development project has precipitated tremendous economic change and social upheaval: literally in a matter of years, Lihirians were propelled from a subsistence existence supported by sporadic copra sales into an industrialised economy. They shifted from moving on the periphery of the capitalist system to embracing one of its core activities.

Yet for some time, Lihirians have been lining up ready to climb aboard and ride in the direction of the nearest trade store, car dealer, or market place. Lihirians have never eschewed the accoutrements of modernity, but have embraced different means for their acquisition to develop their lives and their culture on their own terms.

When I first began fieldwork in Kinami village on the main island of the Lihir group in mid, I found myself quickly absorbed in the politics of development and cultural change. Men and women talked to me about what was occurring, which was frequently contrasted with what they thought ought to occur. People were deeply engaged in a conspicuous commentary on the state of change.

I asked the students from Grades Four, Five and Six to either draw a portrait of themselves in the future, how they imagined they might look or what they might be doing, or to write a short story on what they thought the future of Lihir would be like. I have presented these stories in their original English; some of the other stories were written in a mixture of Tok Pisin and English. No stories were written in Lihirian.

This group was interested in talking about Lihir Island. They said that in the future Lihir Island is going to develop. And they said, this thing like cutting copra, cocoa and so on is going to stop. People of Lihir Island will not be sweating when searching for money. They will just sit and have free money coming in. They also said that Lihir Island is going to be like a city. To conclude, now you can see that Lihir Island is changing and all things that they said is now coming true.

Story 2: I think people in Lihir will not be able to do customs anymore, because now when people make custom they need one thing and that is money. In the future when mining ends, I think there will be no money or many kinds of good things. Where will the people in Lihir get their money from when they want to make custom? People will not be able to travel to other places to look for pigs to make custom. Story 3: I think in the future Lihir Island will not be the same as today. There is going to be changes on our Island. In the future Lihir is going to be an enormous city. Lihirians will be living in high quality permanent buildings with facilities like stoves, TV set, video and fridges.

The whole island will be using electricity instead of firewood and lamps. Their ways of earning money will change from what is today. They will no longer use things like fire wood or traditional ways of cooking. Ways of transporting goods and people from place to place will be much easier. Each family will have a car of its own. Lihir is going to be full of raskols [petty criminals]. They will find life easier and forget their traditional ways of life. Ways of education will be much different from Although Papua New Guinean students are educated for the first three years in the vernacular, English is the official language used for the remainder of their education.

In many cases, the national lingua franca Tok Pisin is more commonly used and more readily grasped. Tok Pisin and Lihirian terms are italicised and listed in separate glossaries. Children will be learning and using computers and using modern technology. These stories capture the central themes in this book, particularly Lihirian aspirations for development and the dependency of customary practices upon the capitalist economy.

They remarkably delineate those aspects of Lihirian history, desire, and entanglement with global processes, which consume the thoughts, energies and concerns of so many Lihirians that I have come to know. Plate Lihirian children on the shores of change. Photograph courtesy Rudolph Kiakpe. Lihirian children have been exposed to the material world of modernity since their early years, and this has profoundly shaped their aspirations, dreams, fantasies, and sense of what is possible.

Many of their stories and portraits depicted futures characterised by technological ease and the ability to consume and use mod-cons of the latest type, in a life typified by the trappings of modernity.

Lihir destiny maps path for Vision 2050

They imagined themselves living in a world of choice, where the future held infinite possibilities. More importantly, they saw themselves as being different from their parents and ancestors. Some imagined themselves as rock stars, carpenters and accountants, or using computers, driving trucks in the mining pit, operating the massive shovel tractors, or owning modern homes. Girls drew themselves as air hostesses travelling regularly to Australia or as 3 The Lihir Destiny Miss PNG in a beauty pageant, while boys pictured themselves in the army or as police officers chasing ol raskol through town.

Like their older relatives, they imagined that the mine would provide the means for achieving an imagined future: it would be new lives for old. However, their stories also reveal that the transformations taking place in Lihir are complex, and are not simply an exchange of the past for the future.

In some cases, the future was less favourably described through tales of modern dystopia, with images of environmental change, social disintegration, abandoned traditions and familial breakdown. These symptoms of modern life also included famine, disease, chaos, moral bankruptcy, migration, sad memories of relocation, and the possibility that, when the mine closes, life might not actually be any better. Here the past was compared with the present, and was conspicuously apparent in an anticipated future characterised by a regression towards backwardness and traditional daily toil.

Talk about the future is not just a current phenomenon; Lihirians were discussing it well before mining began. Different social movements, such as the Nimamar Association described by Antonia Zanates, which had its roots in the colonial period, looked to a new utopian world order. Not everyone has been convinced that mining is the fulfilment of these prophesies, nor is there agreement about future prospects. The changes and inequalities experienced through mining have only strengthened local resolve to achieve these earlier dreams. However, Lihirians have been presented with different, complex and competing roads to their ideal land of modernisation.

As these stories reveal, not only is there difference of opinion on how to reach this desired state, but there is a range of expectations and fears about what this new life will entail. Her Masters thesis was written in German in , and she has published one article in English in where she makes reference to these stories. The occupational desires are generally similar to those listed in the stories I collected.

However, as a result of contemporary influences, the students I spoke with listed a greater range of occupations.

Chapter 5. Instant Wealth: Visions of the Future on Lihir, New Ireland, Papua New Guinea

While she notes that boys were generally more interested than girls in obtaining technical occupations off the island, I found a more even spread between the sexes, with both girls and boys generally wanting to pursue a lifestyle outside of the village. However, the most noticeable shift was the number of students seeking a subsistence existence.

Awart notes that out of students, 22 per cent of the girls and 16 per cent of the boys wanted to become gardeners, whereas I found only three out of students indicated any desire for this type of lifestyle. I found that the students were more concerned to escape this type of existence, or else they tended to think that mine closure would signal a return to subsistence living, which was not viewed positively.

This book seeks to understand what historically and culturally located Melanesians desire and seek. This is the story — indeed, the history — of what happens when the cargo actually arrives. Understanding Local Responses to Global Processes There is now enough evidence to see that different communities or cultural groups have responded to large-scale industrial development in rather different ways.

This is not to suggest that there are no similarities to be found. Broadly speaking, host communities tend to undergo dramatic social, economic, political and cultural change, which includes the transformation of the landscape, new ways of understanding land and resources, social stratification as a result of the unequal distribution of mine-derived wealth, new political hierarchies and struggles, the loss or transformation of local practices, knowledge and institutions, challenges to traditional social relations, gendered impacts and new forms of economic dependency.

When we drill down to the local level, we find that these processes unfold in entirely unique ways. Local contexts, cultural complexities and histories decisively shape the nature of mining operations and the ways in which communities respond to change, but these factors can also determine the types of impacts and changes that might be experienced. Nevertheless, it still appears that the ways in which Lihirians have responded to the social and economic changes and impacts brought by mining are quite unusual when compared to other mining communities throughout PNG.

Lihir gold mine

I propose that a more specific — or a more cultural — explanation of the ways that Lihirians have dealt with the corporate mining economy can be found in their peculiar history of social movements. These activities, which peaked with the Nimamar Association in the early s, provide a key insight into the diverse and diffuse ways that Lihirians have responded to mining. At the heart of these movements is a concern with social unity, morality and the attainment of a prosperous future.

While these aspirations have endured throughout the colonial period and the more recent mining era, Lihirians have not always agreed on how they will be achieved. Lihirians commonly gloss these as ol rot roads — a Tok Pisin metaphorical concept which refers to something between a cult and an ideology Filer These roads sometimes appear to be mutually exclusive, but sometimes as interdependent.

Throughout the period from to , these leaders were responsible for renegotiating the benefits package for Lihirian landowners and the wider community that was to be delivered by the mining company. This process provided them with the opportunity to develop the vision which is laid out in the Lihir Sustainable Development Plan LSDP — the latest benefit-sharing agreement between the company and the Lihirian community. However, their plans embody an inherent contradiction between the values of competition and cooperation: they want to create a wealthy egalitarian Lihirian society, sustained by entrepreneurial activities, that is free from the adverse effects of economic competition and the more general social malaise created by the mine.

The Destiny Plan is largely structured around an ideology of smallholder economics, which Lihirians commonly gloss in Tok Pisin as bisnis business , or what Marx once called the petty commodity mode of production, or what the World Bank calls small-scale enterprise. The counterpart to this ideology is the reification of traditional custom — or kastom as it is glossed in Lihir — which is seen as a particular road for social unity, the distribution of wealth, male authority and Lihirian identity in much the same way that the Destiny Plan is an alternative road for development and a reformed society.

When Lihirians talk about kastom, they are usually referring to the performance of mortuary rituals that involve large-scale ceremonial feasting and exchange. In recent years, Lihirian kastom has grown significantly, partly reflecting the capacity of the ceremonial economy to absorb new objects and forms of wealth, while resisting the absorption of values and practices associated with them in the global capitalist economy. But this efflorescence is also due to a mass appeal to kastom for social stability which, like the earlier 6 Introduction Nimamar movement, can be understood as a direct response to extreme change in a compressed historical period.

This process also raises some important questions about the nature of economic and cultural continuity. Lihirian culture has been vitalised by rapid industrialisation in a context where it might ordinarily be expected that the global forces of capitalism will have their most destructive impact. This recalls the classic work by Richard Salisbury , who documented the efflorescence of traditional ceremonial exchange systems in the central highlands of New Guinea following the introduction of the steel axe.

These twin processes and their associated transformations, which are highlighted through the performance of kastom, lead to a further question about how mortuary rituals retain their significance in such an altered context. It is this belief which lies at the heart of Lihirian expectations for development and their dependency upon the mining company to fulfil these desires.

At one level, the Destiny Plan fundamentally seeks to deal with this relationship, but at the same time, we find that the creative ways in which Lihirians use mining benefits in the performance of kastom actually assists them to carry their culture forward in times of change. Yet these are not simple processes or strategies; they are often highly contested, and have produced entirely unanticipated results. If these different roads sometimes appear to be leading to different places, it is also true that they sometimes converge and cross over one another.

My purpose in this book is to explore the ways in which Lihirians negotiate their way along these roads, and to understand the intersections or the hybrid space or the creative synthesis that is formed in the process. The more recent ideology of kastom is underpinned by such concerns, often expressed in phrases like pasin bilong Lihir the ways of Lihir. These concerns, which are made visible through local discourses on kastom and development, are arguably a particular manifestation of modernity.

From this perspective, Lihirians have been decidedly modern for some time. The changes brought through early interaction with the colonial labour trade, mission endeavour, sporadic engagement with the cash economy, the gradual disenchantment of their world, and the increasing discontent that arose from realisation of their marginal position on a national and global scale, are emblematic of this modernity. Aspirations for unity and morality dramatically increased as Lihirians grappled with the changes brought through colonial rule, Independence and later through mining activities.

Social transformations challenged received cultural values and institutions; the desire for a reformed society emerged as Lihirians imagined a break with the past and looked to a new future. World systems theory has found new life in grander theories of globalisation which assert that the global envelops the local, creating similarity in the place of alterity. The significant issue in this book is the construction of particularity in the face of apparently homogenising and universalising forces.

The discourse of globalisation is often uninformative because of an over-emphasis on global homogeneity. Too often it is assumed that the globalising capitalist economy obliterates local economies, only to remake them in its own reflection. Quite simply, villagers do not have access to the same technology and forms of communication that are taken for granted in urban areas. Although more information is available through new media resources, many Lihirians still lack the educational and experiential background required to make sense of these novel influences.

In a place like Lihir, where Western capitalism apparently stands in opposition to traditional culture, it would be easy to revert to a dualistic approach. Many Lihirians do so themselves. In a Manichean showdown between the local and the global, it is only a matter of time before mining delivers the fatal blow that ensures Lihirians can do nothing more than recreate themselves according to an imposed image of civilisation.

However, although the mining project epitomises modern technology, is the distilled essence of capitalism, and brings the differences between the local and the global into stark relief, we cannot simply equate this moment of neo-colonial capitalist expansion with Lihirian history as a whole. The Inevitability of Continuity and Particularity? This viewpoint allows us to recognise the ways in which Lihirians have maintained their cultural integrity throughout a tumultuous period of change. Cultural categories shape moments in history and often endure in spite of change, even in those cases where the other player represents the dominant forces of the global capitalist system — whether it be the colonial administration or a multinational mining company.

What emerges is an image of particularity that results from the interaction of internal social and cultural structures with the external influences that effect change. That is how we begin to understand Lihirian syncretism, for the use of introduced wealth and institutions has long been the systematic condition of their own culturalism — their authenticity and autonomy. Developman is intended to capture that particular moment when indigenous peoples use Western goods and institutions like those of 10 Introduction capitalism and Christianity to enhance their own ideas about life.

He argues that the first commercial impulse of indigenous people is not to become just like Westerners, but more like themselves: to build their own culture on a bigger and better scale than ever before ibid. It is precisely development from the perspective of the people concerned. Developman is easily recognised in many Melanesian societies: with the introduction of capitalism, there have been more pigs and shells exchanged than ever before, while new goods have made their way into the sphere of ceremonial exchange.

Lihirian mortuary rituals are not insulated from the cash economy; instead, these practices are invigorated by access to new goods and forms of wealth. As a follow-up to the bulk of his work on cultural continuity-in-change, Sahlins asks how this process might be ruptured. What is required to break this cycle, so that people will embrace Western values, make the achievement of development the definitive goal, and thus become truly modern subjects?

He suggests that the answer lies in cultural humiliation: people will not stop interpreting the world through their received cultural categories, and bending things to fit their values and categories, until they come to see their culture as something worthless. This is a critical observation. Lihirians have never or not yet passed through a phase of genuine cultural iconoclasm. Lihirians have long imagined a new future, the Destiny Plan is the latest attempt to realise this dream, and in some ways it does seek to hasten the transition from developman to development. However, in each instance, different leaders have still imagined a grand, modern, or reformed Lihirian society.

At times, they have felt frustrated, denigrated and marginalised, but their desires and strategies to achieve new lives for old have never hinged upon a kind of Faustian all-or-nothing bargain. Their search for development is not imagined as an absolute transformation, but rather as a total realisation. If people must first make a break with the past in order to imagine a new future — a conceptual objectification — this does not necessarily imply that they will then abandon everything from their past.

Even though the concepts of developman and development are probably better understood as ideal types in the Weberian 11 The Lihir Destiny sense , they still provide a useful way to think through Lihirian experiences of modernity. As we look at the ways in which Lihirians simultaneously — or sometimes by turns — pursue developman and development along the various roads on offer, then we begin to understand that cultural change takes place in the hybrid and sometimes very uneasy space that is created as people forge a new existence for themselves.

The Chapters The chapters in the book are organised in such a way as to provide the reader with a background to the mining project, and then to trace the transformations that occurred from the colonial period through to the mining era. In Chapter 3, I consider the history of Lihirian engagement with the outside world, outlining social and political developments that provided the genesis of social movements which prophesised an inverted world order.

Chapter 5 is built around the specific forms of social stratification that have arisen since the start of the mine construction as a result of the unequal distribution of mining benefits. In Chapter 7, I return to the question of how mortuary feasts retain their status as the embodiments of tradition and kastom, and the contradictions between ideology and practice which reveal a deep-seated moral ambivalence about reciprocity, equality and exchange that threaten collective stability and expose the fantasy of virtuous sociality.

In the concluding chapter, I summarise the argument that Lihirian cultural continuity and change is best understood through an examination of the complex intercultural zone which is created through the interplay of the local and the global. The Presence of the Mine Papua New Guinea has a long and turbulent history of mining activities reaching back to the latter part of the s, when hundreds of Australians and Europeans came in search of gold on Misima, Sudest and Woodlark islands and on the Waria, Gira and Mambare Yodda rivers Demaitre ; Healy ; Newbury ; Nelson ; Gerritsen and Macintyre While the scale and the impacts of these activities might not be comparable to contemporary large-scale mining, in most cases Papua New Guineans have hardly benefited in the same ways as foreign miners from the resources being extracted from their land.

The development of the massive Panguna copper mine on Bougainville in foreshadowed the dawn of an independent PNG in The mining exploration boom of the mids fuelled high expectations for economic benefits that would reduce dependency upon foreign aid and help create a more diversified national economy. It was hoped that the Panguna mine and the Ok Tedi gold mine that opened in would be the stepping stones to a prosperous future.

However, the path to national deliverance via large-scale mining has been far rockier than anyone anticipated in the early s. The outbreak of civil unrest in Bougainville in and the forced closure of the Panguna mine in became a national crisis as well as a local tragedy May and Spriggs ; Denoon Meanwhile, international debates about the environmental impacts of the Ok Tedi mine grew louder, and an Australian court hosted litigation against Broken Hill Propriety Limited BHP as the mine operator Banks and Ballard In the shadow of this turmoil, the PNG Government was moving on the development of another three large-scale gold mining projects at Porgera, Misima and Lihir which it hoped would support the post-colonial economy.

Despite an abundance of resources, it has still proven exceedingly difficult to convert this natural wealth into wider economic growth, service provision and political stability. The exploration boom led many people to believe that their future share of development could be found in the various forms of compensation, services and infrastructure delivered by companies to the people who claim customary ownership over the resources being extracted.

This image of entitlement is then confronted by national laws which posit state ownership of all subsurface resources. Local and national reliance upon resource extraction is not unrewarding. In addition to the payment of taxes, royalties and compensation, mining companies also build local infrastructure and provide employment, services and business opportunities — the sort of development or modernity which the PNG Government has been unable to provide for most rural communities.

While there is a popular tendency to paint multinational mining companies as evil monoliths without regard for local communities or the natural environment, the reality is far more complex. Every project within PNG has been profoundly shaped by the dialects of articulation between stakeholders with different agendas and levels of capacity to achieve their goals. The balance of power between companies and local communities might be uneven, but the relationship has never been unidirectional.

As a result, the local impacts and responses, which are now well documented, are both varied and nuanced Connell and Howitt ; Howitt et al. At the Porgera gold mine in Enga Province, for example, relations between the company and the community are not only structured around competing expectations, but around the rapidly changing community dynamics that now threaten to destabilise both the project and the social viability of the Porgera Valley.

The original inhabitants of the valley numbered around before large-scale mining began. The intractable problems generated by mass migration largely stem from the complex history of Porgeran social relations, networks and alliances. The system is complicit in the influx of migrants who are eager to share in mine-related wealth and services, creating confusion about who are the rightful recipients of mining benefits, and anger amongst those who feel that they deserve exclusive — or at least priority — access to these benefits.

The strength of local customary exchange and feasting practices, and the enduring social ties between clan groups, meant that a significant amount of wealth was channelled back into these activities. While this brought certain socio-economic transformations and tensions, it also supported a broader level of social harmony Callister At the same time, while Misimans have a long history of engaging with mining activities, and were aware that mine closure would eventuate, local landowners were unable to form cohesive allegiances to represent Misiman interests.

Combined with a peculiar lack of company commitment to the social and economic consequences of mine closure, Misimans have been left with a divisive legacy as local leaders engage in expensive legal battles over the remaining trust accounts that were intended to provide for the future benefit of Misiman society.

The Development Forum process, which was devised by the national government during negotiations for the Porgera mine in , and subsequently applied to all other major mining and petroleum projects, has gone some way to ensure greater local participation in the planning process and the distribution of benefits Filer This might create more involvement but has certainly done little to address the issue of dependency. Unlike many other mining districts in PNG, Lihir does not have a history of alluvial gold mining.

Gold traces were initially discovered during a geological survey of PNG conducted by the Bureau of Mineral Resources between and The results fuelled great expectations for substantial gold reserves on Aniolam. The report identified hydrothermal alteration and thermal activity on Aniolam, suggesting the possibility of an environment favourable to epithermal gold mineralisation. In , prompted by these promising projections, Kennecott Explorations Australia and its joint venture partner Niugini Mining Limited employed geologists Peter Macnab and Ken Rehder to conduct sampling work on the islands which identified the potential for more extensive exploration.

Rock chips taken off the sacred Ailaya rock in Luise Harbour yielded samples which averaged 1. Based on these results, Kennecott lodged an application for an Exploration Licence which was granted in Drilling commenced in the coastal area in late , and continued into the adjacent Lienetz area through By the end of that year, the presence of a large gold resource had been confirmed. Between and , areas of anomalous soils in upper Ladolam Creek were sampled for gold, revealing the huge potential of the deposit.

Drilling intersected gold values averaging 6 grams per tonne at intervals down to metres below the surface. When the hole was deepened, a further 42 metres of gold mineralisation, averaging 3. This prospect was named the Minifie area and became the focus of diamond drilling throughout Further exploration defined several other adjacent and partly overlapping ore deposits, referred to as the Camp and Kapit areas. Kennecott engineers completed the first full feasibility study in , but this failed to prove the economic viability of the project.

While 16 The Presence of the Mine this would have posed significant logistical challenges, the more concerning scenario would have been the discovery of another orebody within Lihir, outside of the original licence area. While the Simberi operation eventually commenced in under the auspices of Allied Gold Limited, Lihirians have shown strong resistance towards further mining developments on their own islands. The Lihir Joint Venture conducted almost nine years of test drilling, as well as detailed metallurgical test work, along with geotechnical, geothermal, groundwater, environmental and engineering studies.

During this time, the Joint Venture devised strategies for mining in a geothermal area and removal of waste through deep sea tailings disposal. Following the submission of a final feasibility study to the PNG Government in , and extensive community consultation, including detailed social and economic impact and baseline studies, between and , the Joint Venture was issued with a Special Mining Lease SML on 17 March Four months later, on 9 October , the initial public offering of shares was made.

Construction began in , and by the processing plant at the Putput site was complete and the mine celebrated its first gold pour on 25 May at exactly 1. The project was initially operated by the Lihir Management Company LMC , a wholly owned subsidiary of Rio Tinto, but the management agreement was terminated in October when Rio Tinto sold their When the prospect of mining in Lihir emerged in the early s, there was a mixture of fear, ambivalence and enthusiasm.

The historical experience of isolation and limited engagement with outside institutions meant that the arrival of the company was considered a major event. Although the initial fervour of expectation soon spread across all of Lihir, somewhat assisted by the belief among the members of the Nimamar Association that the arrival of the company was the fulfilment of past prophesies, it was initially the village communities of Putput, Kapit and Londolovit that were regularly engaged with exploration teams and involved in early negotiations.

This was partly due to the location of the exploration camp at Ladolam on the shores of Luise Harbour Plate , and partly to constraints on travel to and from other parts of the island group. In the years preceding exploration, Lihirians were mainly settled in scattered coastal hamlets formed around local matrilineal descent groups. Most people relied on a form of shifting cultivation, combined with the partial domestication of a substantial pig population, and minimal amounts of fishing and hunting.

The unequal distribution of income across Lihir was already noticeable in the early s. Towards the end of the s this inequality was further entrenched as more Lihirians came to rely upon the mining company for access to cash incomes. It boasted a hospital, a primary school and a vocational school, while the mission boat, the MV Robert, provided access to the outside world.

A vehicle track cut during the colonial period ran from Putput down to the southern tip of Aniolam and back up the western side of the island to Wurtol village, passing the wharf at the Palie mission station on the way. This ensured that villagers along the southeastern coast of the island had some involvement in early exporation activities.

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The northern villages of Aniolam were more isolated, both from each other and the outside world. Although Kunaie village was linked to the Potzlaka Patrol Post by a track that passed through the Londolovit Plantation, which was later designated as the site for the mining town, villages on the northwestern coast were completely cut off.

Only a small number of dinghies and motorised canoes serviced Malie, Masahet and Mahur, which meant that their inhabitants were similarly isolated. By , the people of Aniolam voiced a clear desire for the company to construct a ring road around the island that would connect all of their villages together. At that point, the only flights that made their way to and from the islands were those of the helicopter chartered by the mining company for its own purposes. The airstrip near Kunaie village was no longer in use, and it would be some years before the company thought it was necessary to build a new one to service its own operations.

Plate Putput and Ladolam, circa Photograph courtesy of the LGL archives. There was a slight decline during the inter-war period, though not at the rate experienced in some of parts of New Ireland, such as the neighbouring island of Tabar. In the area that was to become the mining lease zone, there were an estimated residents. When divided into three broad zones — North and South Aniolam and Ihot — the bulk of the population was found in South Aniolam, in a broad arc from Putput to Sianus.

Kunaie and Londolovit were significant settlements in North Aniolam, with around and residents respectively, while the smaller islands supported a population of With the commencement of mining activities, many absentees returned to Lihir to seek new opportunities. The non-Lihirian population has similarly expanded from fewer than people in the late s to an estimated people in , in addition to approximately non-Lihirian employees residing in the camp and company housing.

This sharp population increase is largely due to the return of expatriate Lihirians and to declining mortality rates as a result of improved access to health services. As we shall see in Chapter 5, over the life of the mine there have been significant demographic and settlement shifts associated with changes to the economy and service provision, and a growing non-Lihirian population.

Local Formations and Resolutions By the time that exploration got underway in Lihir, mining companies operating in PNG were expected to commission detailed studies of the customary land rights relevant to their prospecting area. Negotiations for preliminary prospecting work had commenced on the basis of limited knowledge of Lihirian social structure and customary forms of land ownership. As early decisions and compensation payments were made, disputes soon emerged between the different landowning clans. Company and government representatives found themselves talking with individual clan leaders who either offered conflicting stories, or at least puzzling variations on the same story.

The information offered in the original sociological baseline study prepared by a former District Officer Smalley proved quite inadequate. By , Lihirians had established a land demarcation committee. However this group was not equipped to deal with the rising number of disputes emerging from the new monetary value of the land, the inherently flexible nature of Lihirian land rights, and the tensions between different generations.

This report Filer and Jackson was later fully revised and expanded Filer and Jackson They found that Lihirians were already concerned about the future distribution of royalty and compensation payments and the potential for greater social division. Lihirians were familiar with the notion of compensation, and no one seemed to quarrel with the idea that it is due to the individuals and lineages who claim rightful ownership of the resources for which it is paid. However, royalties were something of a mystery. This confusion was exacerbated by the problem of distribution.

At that stage, it was already evident that compensation payments were not being distributed throughout the entire clan. While it seemed logical that core landowners would prefer one of the first two options, there was widespread support for the third option, which was thought to be the least divisive, but was also based on some rather wild ideas about the amounts to be received.

The reason for noting these early views is largely to demonstrate the changes that have since occurred. While Lihirian leaders eventually accepted the second option, believing that the nominated clan leaders would distribute their new found wealth equally throughout their respective clans, this has proven not to be the case, and the unequal distribution of royalties remains the biggest point of contention across the islands.

In the early period of exploration, there was no unifying organisation representing the interests of Lihirian landowners. At one level, Lihirians were united through their Christian faith, but again divided between Catholics and Protestants.

The End of the Beginning? Mining, sacred geographies, memory and performance in Lihir

This group was not intended to replace the land demarcation committee; rather they would primarily deal with the land disputes arising in the villages of Putput, Kapit, Londolovit, and possibly Kunaie. A young man called Mark Soipang, who was spokesman for the Tinetalgo clan which claimed significant portions of the prospecting area, was elected as its Chairman. Soipang and the LMALA assumed a leading role in future negotiations over the mining project, and in the following chapters, we shall see how both have maintained considerable influence across the political landscape.

As the Lihir Joint Venture prepared its final feasibility study, negotiations got under way for the relocation of Putput and Kapit villages. In March , LMALA executives insisted that they should receive sitting fees and presented a list of eight demands to the company. The history of negotiations has followed a similar pattern combined with a sense of mutual suspicion. Soipang has frequently stated his mistrust of Whites and has employed a diffuse range of negotiation tactics, which may well be the result of some rather strident advice he received back in from Francis Ona and his band of rebellious Bougainvillean landowners during a visit to the Panguna mine Filer In an attempt to address the mounting land disputes, a genealogical database for the proposed mining lease area was established, and local leaders discussed the need to codify the rules of traditional land tenure.

The VPS database has been regularly updated over the life of the mine, and has proven to be an invaluable asset for monitoring social and demographic changes. The Lihir Development Forum On 1 November , Lihirian leaders and provincial and national government representatives met at the Port Moresby Travelodge for a series of tripartite discussions known as the Lihir Development Forum. This forum provided an opportunity to secure joint endorsement for the project, and to produce a set of agreements between these stakeholders that outlined the costs, benefits, rights and obligations arising from the project Filer Negotiations mainly revolved around the distribution of equity in the project, as Lihirians were pushing for an unprecedented 20 per cent stake.

At this stage, there were already serious concerns about the political conflicts unfolding on Bougainville. New Ireland provincial leaders were determined to avoid a similar situation, and insisted that Lihirians should maintain a meaningful role in the management of the operation. Soipang presented the Lihirian perspective on this matter in a position paper which captured the ambiguous and strained relationship between Lihirians, the State and the project: The developers are foreigners and the State is only a concept.

While the State may be an ideological fiction, and the developers are certainly outsiders, Lihirians have still spent a great deal of energy working out how to extract benefits from them whilst reducing the extent of their influence. The protracted length of the Development Forum seems to have also arisen from the degree to which Lihirians felt alienated from the State — demonstrating the extent to which they have come to believe in it.

By the end of , this difficulty was exacerbated by the fact that Lihir was located within the electorate of the new Prime Minister, Sir Julius Chan, who would ultimately sign off on the mining agreement, but who had lost face with some Lihirians through his membership in the previous national government elected in In Lihir itself, negotiations continued throughout on the issues of relocation, development of the plant site and town area, and the contents of the community benefits package.

The Lihir destiny : cultural responses to mining in Melanesia, Nicholas A. Bainton

A road was surveyed and cut from Kunaie to Sale, eventually reaching Kosmaiun. Lihirian landowners visited the Misima gold mine in February to speak with local landowners and gain a better 24 The Presence of the Mine understanding of the transformations that Lihir would be likely to undergo. On 16 August, it was agreed that a Londolovit Plantation Development Planning Committee would be formed so that the traditional owners would have future input into the planning of the town and the use of their land. On 27 February , the Development Forum was officially reconvened at the Malanggan Lodge in Kavieng, and most of the outstanding issues were resolved within two days.

On 8 March, the National Executive Council Cabinet authorised the Governor-General to execute the Mining Development Contract between the national government and the mining company, and authorised the Prime Minister to execute the forum agreements with the provincial government and local community representatives. The Integrated Benefits Package Agreement On Thursday 16 March , a delegation of nine Lihirian representatives flew to Port Moresby to meet with the Prime Minister and Mining and Petroleum Minister John Giheno and other government officers, in an attempt to finalise outstanding issues surrounding the IBP agreement, including the issue of project equity.

These promises were confirmed in a letter from the Prime Minister and were attached as an appendix to the Memorandum of Agreement between the national government and the LMALA. At 10 am on the following morning, the group attended the signing of the Special Mining Lease at Government House. Following the signing of the SML, arrangements were made in Lihir for the commencement of the Putput-Ladolam relocation. House blocks were pegged, and trees and resources counted. On Tuesday 4 April, a large feast was held at Putput to commemorate the move from the old hamlets to the new location along the coast.

Soipang captured the gravity of the moment in his speeches during the event: Today we meet at this big occasion to remember the great change that will be part of the life of the relocatees. This great sacrifice of vacating the ancestral traditional land and going through the process of relocation to new land was a major decision for the relocatees. The decision to relocate was not an easy hurdle. The decision they made was not merely for their good alone. The physical nature of this land will change to allow the construction of a wharf, plant and houses. After the present state of the land has been changed, we will not return it to its natural state.

At the last minute, the affair was delayed because Lihirian leaders 26 The Presence of the Mine had not been able to acquire the desired pigs for the event, and also because they were still unsatisfied with the content of the agreement. On 26 April, the event finally proceeded.

It poured down throughout the day and reportedly a young girl drowned in a rip-tide while adults were preoccupied with the proceedings. Many Lihirians might now find now themselves in agreement, but at the same time I would still be hard pressed to find people who want to completely turn back the clock. The broad sense in which Lihirian leaders approached the issue of compensation — particularly by comparison to those of other landowning communities — was largely explained by the Development Forum process and the belief that they could make the compensation package work for Lihirians.

During the ceremonial signing of the agreement, Soipang outlined the ways in which members of the local political elite were approaching this issue: There have been times set to sign the heads of agreement but we have long deferred the signing until we finally decided to sign today. We have to delay the signing because we would like to freely make the decision to commit life, land and our environment to the project. The landowners made a lot of compromises and for that reason we are ready to sign the agreement today.

Lihir Destiny: Cultural Responses to Mining in Melanesia Lihir Destiny: Cultural Responses to Mining in Melanesia
Lihir Destiny: Cultural Responses to Mining in Melanesia Lihir Destiny: Cultural Responses to Mining in Melanesia
Lihir Destiny: Cultural Responses to Mining in Melanesia Lihir Destiny: Cultural Responses to Mining in Melanesia
Lihir Destiny: Cultural Responses to Mining in Melanesia Lihir Destiny: Cultural Responses to Mining in Melanesia
Lihir Destiny: Cultural Responses to Mining in Melanesia Lihir Destiny: Cultural Responses to Mining in Melanesia

Related Lihir Destiny: Cultural Responses to Mining in Melanesia

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