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Government decision-making and environmental degradation: a study relating to mining activities in Papua New Guinea

Carr, Frank (2007) Government decision-making and environmental degradation: a study relating to mining activities in Papua New Guinea. Masters by Research thesis, Murdoch University.

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Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a country possessing abundant resources of gold, oil, copper, timber, and fish stocks. It is hampered in its development and management of these resources, however, by serious problems of governance and corruption. These problems are evident throughout the economy and also in the management of the environment. The level of environmental damage caused by the mining industry in PNG is now such that it will require extensive rehabilitation, if the areas affected can, indeed, ever be fully rehabilitated. The mining companies which precipitated this damage were licensed and encouraged by the PNG Government in the initiation and exercise of the mining operations. The resulting environmental impact has affected the lives of thousands of New Guineans to their detriment. The degradation caused remains

Compounding the problem, there is a growing reliance by Papua New Guinea on mineral exploitation for foreign direct investment, government revenues, and foreign exchange. Gold exports accounted for the biggest share of export revenues in 2002 representing 37.5% of the total. In light of this growing dependency on mining activities, there is a correspondingly urgent requirement to address the deficiencies in the administrative, monitoring, and policing aspects of the protection of its environment.

Despite the public evidence of the damage to the environment and the ensuing affect on the people of Papua New Guinea by mining activities; and despite universal condemnation of these activities and the companies responsible; the companies continue to conduct these activities without official hindrance and with little apparent concern for the long-term ramifications of their actions.

This thesis will examine the degradation resulting from the mining activities of companies in Papua New Guinea over the last three decades - particularly those of Placer Dome's Porgera gold mine, BHP's Ok Tedi gold and copper mine (the waste from both of which is dumped into the Ok Tedi and Strickland rivers which are tributaries of the Fly River and form part of the Fly River system) and Lihir Gold Limited's gold mine on Lihir Island. It will examine the extent to which the Government of Papua New Guinea may have wittingly (in the sense of a prescience as to the possible or probable likelihood of deleterious impact) or unwittingly contributed to that degradation as a result of its actions or omissions.

Studies of available literature suggest that there has been little attention paid to the subject of culpability on the part of successive PNG governments in matters of environmental damage. This research will contribute to reducing this gap in the literature by focusing on possible motives of the PNG government and its actors which precipitated those decisions and which resulted in environmental degradation. The discussion will examine the likely motivation of the PNG government in its deliberations and decisions and the extent to which corruption and incompetence may have played a role.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters by Research)
Murdoch Affiliation: Murdoch Business School
Supervisor(s): Sathiendrakumar, Kumar
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