The muddied waters of mining in Papua New Guinea – by Scarlett Evans (Mining Technology – April 20, 2020)

Just north of Australia, the island split into Papua and Papua New Guinea is famously underexplored, though over the years inroads have been made and tantalising glimmers of hidden mineral wealth have been quickly followed by some of the world’s biggest miners. Scarlett Evans look at the state of mining in the area, and just what the future holds.

Papua New Guinea plays host to a wealth of mineral deposits – from copper, gold and nickel to liquid natural gas. Yet despite its vast mining potential, the country’s resources sector has a history dented by environmental and social turmoil.

Its largest mines, Ok Tedi and Porgera, were disrupted by a devastating earthquake in 2018, and mining tensions even led to a civil war between 1988 and 1998 – a conflict that saw the loss of 20,000 lives.

With a spate of new projects on the horizon, Papa New Guinea’s mining dark days are seemingly over, and a World Bank report forecasts new large scale resource operations will boost the country’s GDP to 5%. However, environmental and humanitarian concerns are beginning to plague upcoming projects, casting doubt on just how beneficial they will be for the region.

One such operation is the Frieda River project from Australia-based PanAust – a gold and copper mine that has faced widespread backlash for its potential environmental damages. Considering the country’s long standing grievances with the sector, tensions are high, and navigating the industry will be critical in avoiding exacerbating an already unstable situation.

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