Research scoping in PNG
November 24, 2013
Emma Richardson (PhD Candidate)
Our recent visit to PNG was essentially a PhD research fieldwork scoping exercise. The purpose of this visit was to engage with a community affected by the mining sector and to seek support for a future community based research project. The primary research question being: ‘Can the mining sector to contribute to locally meaningful development’? Accompanied by my PhD supervisor Glenn Banks, and CCD project Post-Doctoral researcher Sharon McLennan, we visited the island of Lihir in the New Ireland Province, which is located approximately 700km north east of Port Moresby.
Gold mining operations commenced onLihir in 1997. It is estimated that since the commencement of mining operations the island’s population has increased from 6,000 to 22,000 people. To date little is currently known in Lihir and more generally in PNG, about the intersection of mining operations and local community ‘development’. It is apparent however, that issues of community-company dependency exist, and that these can be conceived as a challenge for mining sector development efforts.
During this trip to Lihir, we were fortunate enough to discover one community that seems to be confronting the challenge of industry dependence, and who are instead mobilising in support of community wellbeing through community based health initiatives. More on this in my next update!
As a general reflection I would have to say that I found this research scoping visit invaluable. Not only did it highlight that while ‘in the field’ it is extremely important not to confuse your insect repellent with deodorant (as the latter actually produces a fragrant scent that attracts mosquitos). But (perhaps) more importantly this visit to Lihir illustrated the complexity of company – community – development dynamics, and reinforced the importance of communities and mining industry working to peacefully navigate these development challenges in support of community wellbeing.