Dialectical Anthropology

, Volume 36, Issue 3, pp 317–341

The trans-national gold curse of Papua New Guinea


DOI: 10.1007/s10624-012-9280-z

Cite this article as:
Jell-Bahlsen, S. & Jell, G. Dialect Anthropol (2012) 36: 317. doi:10.1007/s10624-012-9280-z


This paper reviews gold and copper mining in Papua New Guinea (PNG) along the “triad stakeholder model” (Ballard and Banks 2003) proposing a triad relationship between (1) trans-national mining corporations, (2) the nation-state of Papua New Guinea, and (3) indigenous local communities, their socio-ecological environment and claims. Gold mining could be a huge asset, but turns out to be a curse to the independent part of the world’s second largest island known as “a mountain of gold in a sea of oil.” Our paper is based on research that began during our year-long residency at the country’s only Technical University in Lae. We are discussing several issues related to the nation’s gold resources and their exploitation: varied mining technologies and locations, the environmental impact, economics, human cost and gender issues, indigenous culture versus international corporate culture, state interferences, and urban development. One example is the industrial port city of Lae, founded during the gold rush of the 1920s that inaugurated rapid urban development. Once gloriously known as the “Pearl of the Pacific,” the town experienced administrative expansion and suffered from the subsequent exhaustion of nearby gold mines entailing a reverse development.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ogbuide FilmsBrooklynUSA
  2. 2.New Jersey Institute of TechnologyNewarkUSA