University of Cambridge > > Department of Geography - other talks > Pigs, Politics and Petroleum: Development, disruptive politics and disjunctures in Papua New Guinea's extractive sector

Pigs, Politics and Petroleum: Development, disruptive politics and disjunctures in Papua New Guinea's extractive sector

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr. Emma Mawdsley.

Debates around the development contribution of extractive industries simply won’t go away. Over three decades of research and experience with ’resource curses’, governance and institutional effects, and highly divergent local outcomes have produced little consensus except that the effects of resource extraction are complex and highly contingent. Increasingly there is a focus on the forms of politics and governance that are needed to drive the extractive sector to meet the new imperatives of climate change, rights-based development with dignity, and resource conservation (in particular water and biodiversity resources). Are there forms of reformist politics and governance options that can offer prospects of more ‘dignified’ kinds of resource extraction that resonate with the politics of practical policy as well as with key theoretical debates on the politics of development? Or are we consigned to the sorts of politics that continue to lead to the most socially, economically and environmentally impoverishing forms of extraction?

This presentation will use the example of Papua New Guinea to explore these issues. Three years into PNG ’s fourth ‘resources boom’, built on the US$20bn Exxon-led PNG  LNG project, the ground has shifted, both metaphorically and literally. The magnitude 6.7 earthquake in early 2018 and its effects on the gas project and other resource projects in the PNG highlands has amplified public discourse and debate around the extractives sector, and specifically its returns to and development implications for the state and local communities. Three disconcerting trends are discernible: a huge growth in the value of mineral exports, but limited – miniscule is generous – returns to the PNG state from these; limited and contested developmental benefits for affected communities; and, tied to both of the above, increasing conflict in both the ideological and literal sense, centred around political contestation at national and local levels. The apparent political capture of the state by its interests in the sector, weak institutional governance capacity and increasing dissent among the populous cloud a clear vision for the role of the sector in PNG ’s development. But it is also within this fog of disputation that the outline of a new form of resource politics can be observed.

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