The Contemporary Pacific, vol. 18, no. 2 (2006): Melanesian Mining

SPECIAL ISSUE: Melanesian Mining Modernities: Past, Present, and Future
Guest Editors: Paige West and Martha Macintyre

TCP 18.2 cover imageAbout the Artist: Larry Santana, p. ix


Grass Roots and Deep Holes: Community Responses to Mining in Melanesia, p. 215
Colin Filer and Martha Macintyre

This introduction contextualizes the discussion of community responses to mining in Melanesia by looking first at the policies of minerals extraction and the shift of academic interest from economic development to the social effects of mining. As this collection concentrates on Papua New Guinea, an analysis of the sector and its problems in that country is briefly contrasted with the situation in other Pacific Island nations, canvassing the idea that the economic “resource curse” might have a social dimension. The varying interpretations of local impact and anthropological studies have challenged notions of unified interest or consensus at the local level, revealing ambivalence and contradictions. An overview of the contributions made in this special issue to current debates about stakeholder interests and economic sustainability is presented, showing that understandings of mining and its social consequences at each stage of the process are always inflected by the cultural conceptions of change, wealth, and resources that obtain in a community.
Keywords: mining, Melanesia, Papua New Guinea, minerals policy, social change

Hinterland History: The Ok Tedi Mine and Its Cultural Consequences in Telefolmin, p. 233
Dan Jorgensen

Much of the literature on mining in Papua New Guinea is concerned with the politics of landowner compensation. In the case of the Ok Tedi mine, attention has focused largely on claims for downstream ecological damage and the ensuing settlement on behalf of people living along the Lower Ok Tedi. Like all major mines, however, Ok Tedi has produced a series of large-scale ripple effects throughout the surrounding region, both downstream and upstream. In this article I explore two decades of mine-related transformations among Telefolmin, one of several groups of Min people who are a major source of labor for the Ok Tedi mine. I argue that Ok Tedi provides Telefolmin with the ability to realize a particular form of modernity. For Telefolmin, however, this modernity is rendered insecure by their hinterland status and the prospect of mine closure, sharpening fears that the Telefol experience of modernity may be a fleeting one.
Keywords: mining, Ok Tedi, Papua New Guinea, regional history, Telefolmin, mine closure

Who Is the “Original Affluent Society”? Ipili “Predatory Expansion” and the Porgera Gold Mine, Papua New Guinea, p. 265
Alex Golub

The idea of the “ecologically noble savage” once linked environmental activists and indigenous people. Today the concept is increasingly seen as problematic. In the Porgera district of Enga Province, Papua New Guinea, Ipili people confront massive social change brought about by the presence of a large gold mine. This paper explores how Ipili people find some aspects of global consumer culture to offer utopian possibilities for change, while others present dystopic inversions of their own culture. In doing so, it compares Western attempts to understand Ipili as noble or ignoble savages with Ipili attempts to make sense of the material culture and mores of outsiders. It concludes that both Ipili and westerners have unsettling insights into each other’s culture.
Keywords: Porgera, Enga, Papua New Guinea, mining, affluent society, consumerism, utopia

Environmental Conservation and Mining: Between Experience and Expectation in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea, p. 295
Paige West

Since the 1970s the residents of Maimafu village, a rural settlement in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea, have been affected by both an environmental conservation project and a series of gold mining explorations on their lands. The paper examines this history of conservation and mining and shows how residents of Maimafu have struggled to interpret the promises made by ecologists and miners. Using stories about a mining study tour some residents took to the Porgera mine, the paper also discusses how people come to imagine what their future might look like if mining begins taking place on their lands.
Keywords: Papua New Guinea, Porgera, Maimafu, mining, conservation, development, expectations

Local Laborers in Papua New Guinea Mining: Attracted or Compelled to Work?, p. 315
Benedict Y Imbun

This paper examines Papua New Guinean participation in mining from the perspective of furnishing labor. It throws light not just on current employment arrangements but also on the historical emergence of the local miner and wider canvas of age-old attitudes and traditions influencing workers’ perspectives on work. Analysis of a variety of data collected through interviews, document analysis, and direct observations of a number of events in Porgera and other mines indicate that Papua New Guinean mine workers are in a transitional phase of becoming full-fledged workers. Many of the current challenges stem from the recent introduction of capitalism into the previously predominantly subsistence sector. However, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that local mine workers are becoming more attached to paid work and this attitude is embraced by an increasing number of educated and skilled workers. This trend is set to continue as more mines become operational and as the country in general develops economically.
Keywords: Papua New Guinea, labor, mining, mine workers, industrial relations

Cannibalistic Imaginaries: Mining the Natural and Social Body in Papua New Guinea, p. 335
Jamon Halvaksz

The history of Wau township in Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea, is intimately linked with the development of gold mining throughout the region. The site of a series of gold rushes in the 1920s, Wau emerged as an early administrative outpost, a town complete with all the trappings of frontier Australian communities. In recent years, Wau has declined, and the Biangai communities reflect on this decline in ways that manipulate both the early colonial discourses and their own. Central to these discussions are images of cannibalism, as the consumption of both living flesh and ancestral landscapes. In this paper I examine the gold rush, how early prospectors conceptualized the colonial project, and what Wau’s subsequent decline has meant to the Biangai who now pursue new mining opportunities. I trace these events and perspectives through historical and present-day discourses. Throughout, a fascination with mountains, gold, and “cannibals” is prominent, with Wau emerging out of struggles to conquer these elements of the landscape. Cannibalism remains a pervasive theme in contemporary Biangai discourses as they now try to recreate an era of successful gold mining and community life in and around Wau by overcoming many of the same elements. However, the moral terrain between consuming flesh, consuming land, and consuming gold are differently deployed in order to explain success and failure, and to imagine the nation.
Keywords: gold mining, cannibalism, cosmology, colonialism, first contact, Papua New Guinea, Biangai

The Ecology and Economy of Indigenous Resistance: Divergent Perspectives on Mining in New Caledonia, p. 361
Saleem H Ali and Andrew Singh Grewal

Mineral development in remote parts of the world has become a major focus of environmental and social resistance movements. Despite the economic benefits that may accrue for local people, the impact of such projects is increasingly being questioned, particularly by indigenous communities. However, there are ways by which amicable and effective resolutions to development disagreements can be achieved despite cultural differences between the developer and the community. Using qualitative research methods, this article presents a comparative analysis of two mining projects on the Pacific island of New Caledonia where the indigenous Kanak community has shown differentiation in their response to the two projects. Our analysis shows that the project encountering less resistance has more effectively embraced principles of transparency, flexibility, and indigenous ownership. Our analysis suggests that mineral developers operating on indigenous lands should consider the power of process in reaching agreements rather than erroneously assuming that litigation or buyouts are inevitable. Such an approach is likely to reach more sustainable solutions to development in remote indigenous communities.
Keywords: New Caledonia, nickel mining, smelting, decolonization, Kanak, inco, Falconbridge


Melanesia in Review: Issues and Events, 2005, p. 395
David Chappell, Alumita L Durutalo, Alphonse Gelu, Anita Jowitt, Tarcisius Tara Kabutaulaka


The Manipulation of Custom: From Uprising to Intervention in the Solomon Islands, by Jon Fraenkel, and Happy Isles in Crisis: The Historical Causes for a Failing State in Solomon Islands, 1988–2004, by Clive Moore, p. 442
Reviewed by Rhys Richards

The Unseen City: Anthropological Perspectives on Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, by Michael Goddard, p. 444
Reviewed by Keith Barber

Sovereignty under Siege? Globalization and New Zealand, edited by Robert Patman and Chris Rudd, p. 447
Reviewed by Roderic Alley

Mining and Indigenous Lifeworlds in Australia and Papua New Guinea, edited by Alan Rumsey and James Weiner, p. 449
Reviewed by Alex Golub

Colonial Dis-Ease: US Navy Health Policies and the Chamorros of Guam, 1898–1941, by Anne Perez Hattori, p. 451
Reviewed by Laurel A Monnig

Life in the Republic of the Marshall Islands / Mour ilo Republic eo an Majol, written by Marshall Islanders and edited by Anono Lieom Loeak, Veronica C Kiluwe,and Linda Crowl, p. 453
Reviewed by Hilda Heine and Julianne Walsh Kroeker

Historiographie de la Nouvelle-Calédonie, by Frédéric Angleviel, p. 456
Reviewed by David Chappell

The Aborigines of Taiwan: The Puyuma; From Head-hunting to the Modern World, by Josiane Cauquelin, p. 459
Reviewed by Serge Dunis

Postcolonial Pacific Writing: Representations of the Body, by Michelle Keown, p. 461
Reviewed by Paul Lyons

Tu: A Novel, by Patricia Grace, p. 464
Reviewed by Elizabeth DeLoughrey

Voice Carried My Family, by Robert Sullivan, p. 466
Reviewed by Selina Tusitala Marsh

Sing-song, by Anne Kennedy, p. 469
Reviewed by Cynthia Franklin

Theatre and Political Process: Staging Identities in Tokelau and New Zealand, by Ingjerd Ho‘m, p. 471
Reviewed by Markus Wessendorf

Pacific Jewelry and Adornment, by Roger Neich and Fuli Pereira, p. 473
Reviewed by Donald H Rubinstein

American Memorial Park Visitor Center and WWII Exhibit Hall, National Park Service, p. 476
Reviewed by Tammy Duchesne

Adorning the World: Art of the Marquesas Islands [exhibit], p. 480
Reviewed by Haidy Geismar