The Value of a River: Mining Projects and Cross-cultural Environmentalism in Papua New Guinea

Dr Emilka Skrzypek

Department of Social Anthropology

My research explores the role of Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) review process in identifying and evaluating the impacts of the proposed mine at Frieda River in Papua New Guinea. The proposed mine is located in the tributary of the Sepik River – a globally important ecosystem and home to around 300 language groups. In theory, the EIS should address the imbalance that leads to some voices being heard much more easily than others when it comes to proposals for large-scale resource extraction. Does that theory hold true in practice?

The photograph was taken during Dr Emilka Skrzypek’s fieldwork in the Frieda River area of Papua New Guinea – home to a proposed large-scale gold and copper mine. It portrays children in a dugout canoe during a fishing trip on one of Frieda’s numerous creeks. If the mine gets a go ahead under the current design, this area will be flooded to enable construction of an integrated storage facility – where toxic mine tailings and waste rock materials generated by mine operations will be stored, under water, behind a large dam. Should the dam ever collapse, Frieda as well as the Sepik River area will face catastrophic environmental contamination.

Photographer: Emilka Skrzypek