Reconciliation – Improving the road to development?
March 24, 2016
Earlier this month I had a chance to take a short break from thesis writing and attend a workshop that explored some of the varying parameters of Corporate Community Development (CCD) within the mining sector, to return to PNG and discuss my research findings with Newcrest’s community relations staff working on the ground on Lihir Island, and to revisit the community where I lived for two months whilst undertaking my PhD research fieldwork… And all within 8 days!
It began on the 1st March 2016 in Brisbane, with both Glenn and I being fortunate to have the opportunity to be involved in a CCD seminar hosted by the Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining (CSRM) and the University of Queensland in Brisbane. The substantive component of the workshop included presentations by Glenn, one outlining the conceptual framework to the Marsden CCD research project, and another that sketched some initial overall outcomes, which I then followed-on by presenting some of my PhD research findings. A number of other presenters also reported on interesting mining related CCD case studies from across the globe, including:
– Rebekah Ramsay, PhD Candidate (Sustainable Minerals Institute, University of Queensland) on ‘Community development in the project cycle’ in Peru.
– Dr. John Owen (Senior Research Fellow, CSRM) on ‘Operational intent and development impact’ in South East Asia.
– Dr. Jo-Anne Everingham, (Senior Research Fellow, CSRM) on ‘Native Title Agreements and development outcomes’ in Australia.
– Lynda Lawson (Research Manager, CSRM) on ‘Artisanal mining, women and climate change’ in Madagascar.
Given the mix of seminar attendees, including mining company representatives, extractive sector consultants and researchers, the concept of fusing extractive sector or corporate activities with social development functions, which is a central theme within the Massey University research project, certainly made for some interesting group discussion!
The day after the seminar, Glenn and I headed over to PNG and back to Lihir Island, the home of the Lihir Gold mine. Our visit was timely in that the weekend of our visit a community event was being held to acknowledge the social reconciliation between Local Level Government and the Lihir Mining Area Landowners Association. This event was intended to signal the end of 6 years of tension between these two groups, a tension which was caused and exacerbated by disagreements over the appropriate allocation, expenditure and the alleged mis-appropriation of mining company community level funding. This corporate funding was intended to support the Lihir Island community in line with the Company’s obligations established with varying aspects of the community and commitment between the community and the State. While there isn’t the space here to go into any detail about the nature and scope of these tensions inadvertently fuelled by the governance of CCD on Lihir, needless to say that governance, and practice, of mining company development intervention has emerged as a critical theme within my PhD research.
The highlight of my trip however, was returning to the village which I called home for two months. Even though it was a flying visit, I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to visit my friends again, to meet a new-born addition to the community and to update people on the progress of my research, which they appear to be eagerly awaiting! I must admit, I was somewhat taken back by the interest in the progress of my research within the village. As I reflect on this now, this level of interest is likely partly explained by the lack of any obvious signs of change within the community over the past 18 months (except for the deteriorating roading conditions), with people here remaining still largely excluded from the benefits of mining. With this in mind, and recent events fresh in my memory, it’s time now to put my head down again and finish this thesis!