Ancestral Rain Forests and the Mountain of Gold: Indigenous Peoples and Mining in New Guinea

Ancestral Rain Forests and the Mountain of Gold: Indigenous Peoples and Mining in New Guinea

Ancestral Rain Forests and the Mountain of Gold: Indigenous Peoples and Mining in New Guinea

Ancestral Rain Forests and the Mountain of Gold: Indigenous Peoples and Mining in New Guinea

Synopsis

"The ancestral rain forests for the Wopkaimin people have long been a sacred geography, a place that has allowed them to act out the obligations of the male cult system and social relations of production based on kinship. Today the people and their place are suffering disastrous consequences from the sudden imposition of one of the world's largest mining projects, which has brought about severe social and ecological disruptions. Based on fieldwork spanning more than a decade, David Hyndman's book traces the extra-ordinary socioecological transformation of a traditional society confronting modern technological risk. Across the island of New Guinea, the clash between the simple reproduction and subsistence production system of indigenous peoples and the expanded production and private accumulation system of mining has resulted in environmental degradation. Mining extracts a surplus to link the State with the international market, and therefore the State has not been an objective arbiter of conflicting claims. Faced with a debt crisis, the State has favored mining investors, condoning the plunder of the island's natural resources for gold and copper. The hegemony of this dominant ideology of private accumulation has cast indigenous peoples in the role of subversives. Indigenous landowners have had to struggle for social justice and equity, at times even taking up arms against mining projects to protect their culture and their ancestral homeland." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt


The Wopkaimin: A Fourth World at the Crossroads

Ecologically Rich/Economically Poor

Resource expropriation by the industrial world spins in ever -- widening circles to locate materials to exploit. Increasingly, these invasions focus on the remote areas of the tropics where indigenous peoples of the Fourth World have endured through isolation. The Wopkaimin homeland in the mountains of westernmost Papua New Guinea (PNG) was occupied in 1981 by the Ok Tedi gold and copper mining project. Since then they have been swept into the tragic scenario of yet another ecologically affluent, but economically poor, Melanesian people undergoing massive cultural and ecological change (Nietschmann 1984).

Resource exploitation imposed from outside raises the question as to who should own and use resources (Stretton 1976:5). In the Wopkaimin case, the state declared itself to be resource owner, and the Wopkaimin were recognized only as landowners. The mining transnational as resource developer arrived in the Wopkaimin ancestral rain forests in the late 1960s, bringing a threat to the cultural, spatial and resource autonomy of the Wopkaimin. They can no longer rely on the continuity of their cultural management of resources which has long permitted sustainable utilization of a unique ecosystem with negligible impact on resources. Now many of the wild animals and plants of the region are no longer exclusively for internal production and circulation because they have become commodities to be sold in newly created markets. Moreover, local impact on land, air and water from the Wopkaimin kinship mode of . . .

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