Wafi-Golpu

Since 2012 we have been focusing our efforts in Papua New Guinea on the Morobe Province. First, we responded to sedimentation and other problems from the Hidden Valley mine, then we started working and researching with communities potentially impacted by the proposed Wafi-Golpu mine. Below are some reports and articles from MPI Board members and from the PhD of our Executive Director, Charles Roche, which has enhanced and continued MPI’s work in Morobe. More soon.


Human flourishing and extractive-led development: “The mine will give me whatever I like

Authors: Charles Roche, Nawasio Walim, Howard Sindana, Wafi and Watut Communities (2019)

Abstract: The gap between the rhetoric and reality of extractive-led development (ELD) looms large over the dominant but flawed discourse of mining for development. Seeking to better understand outcomes from ELD we apply a human flourishing perspective, exploring yet-to-be-experienced impacts in a potentially inflammatory political process. This action research is designed to assist communities respond to the proposed, but yet to be approved Wafi- Golpu project in the Morobe Province of Papua New Guinea. The research exchange documents with a clear voice community concerns about: a lack of information; anxiety about intentional and immanent impacts; fundamentally different conceptualisations of what human flourishing is; a lack of development, services and facilities; unrealistic expectations; and, most powerfully, an undermining of individual and collective agency. We find that despite forty years of waiting for mining, the consent process to date is unjust, flawed and inadequate, de-legitimising any future claims to informed consent. While the immediate practical, on-ground outcomes of this action-research for the communities has been positive, longer-term outcomes are yet to be determined. The concept of human flourishing offers a useful and insightful perspective that can inform communities, governments, proponents and researchers alike about the potential impacts of ELD on human well-being.

Available from the journal or your University library – though following academic convention – you can always contact the author directly.



Extractive Dispossession: “I am not happy our land will go, we will have no better life”

Authors: Charles Roche, Howard Sindana, Nawasio Walim, Wafi and Watut Communities (2019)

Abstract: Inspired by questions from local communities about the potential impacts of large-scale extractive activities, we used others’ experience to identify and illustrate intentional and immanent impacts from extractive led development (ELD). Recognising the capitalist driver of global extraction and needing to capture the harsh, but often obscured reality of local experience, we turned to theories, applications and experience of dispossession. Based on Holden, Nadeau and Jacobson’s (2011) application of Harvey’s (2003) theory of accumulation by dis- possession (AbD) in the Philippines, we identified eleven separate but interrelated and overlapping factors of extractive dispossession which provide the specific detail required to identify and understand extractive impacts. These were then discussed and tested with communities potentially impacted by the proposed Wafi-Golpu mine in the Morobe province of Papua New Guinea. Participant responses indicated the value and utility of this recipient-view perspective of extractive impact in an interactive and iterative approach that informed com- munities about potential impacts and documented their concerns with process and outcome at Wafi-Golpu – which is already a site of multiple dispossessions. The research outcome is a practical heuristic with specific factors that enhances our understanding of potential impacts from ELD and can assist in applying concepts of dispossession and accumulation to development impacts.

Available from the journal or your University library – though following academic convention – you can always contact the author directly.

Hidden Valley (2013) 22 minute documentary

Director: Jessie Boylan Editor: Anthony Kelly Cinematography and Photography: Jessie Boylan Producer: Charles Roche


The 22 minute documentary was released in 2013 – A people speak out for their river, and for their future. The Hidden Valley gold and silver mine in the Morobe Province is affecting communities living along the Watut River, a long and fast-flowing river in the lush mountains of Papua New Guinea. In this evocative and beautifully shot short documentary we hear how indigenous models of development are clashing with those imposed by mining companies and government when they are not listening to local landowners.

We hear from a diverse range of local community representatives, community workers and landowners including Reuben Mete from the Union of Watut River Communities and from Dr. Gavin Mudd, an environmental engineer, as they describe the impacts of this jointly Australian – South African owned mine as well as the way forward to a more sustainable future.


Mining in Morobe, Papua New Guinea – Impacts from mining along the Watut River

Authors: Roche, C & Mudd, G (2014)

Exec Summ: This report is about the impact of mining on communities living along the Watut River and in the Morobe Province of Papua New Guinea. Given that similar reports could also be written about other mines it is also a report that applies more widely to the PNG mining industry. While the impacts from mining on the Watut River are minor in comparison to those at Porgera, Ok Tedi and Panguna, they are nonetheless serious. Serious because of the impacts on local people, the repetition of past mistakes and as an example of the slow progress of reform in the mining industry.

The impetus for this report comes from many sources. For the Mineral Policy Institute it is a continuation of our work on a range of mine-sites and mining related impacts in Papua New Guinea since 1995. Watut River Communities became increasingly concerned about riverine impacts from the Hidden Valley mine since construction commenced and asked MPI to assist in late 2010. Subsequently, in early 2012 MPI was commissioned by the Lutheran Evangelical Church of Papua New Guinea, with support from Mission EineWelt in Germany to assess impacts from mining in the Watut River region.


Mining In Morobe Papua New Guinea – Impacts, Assurance and Self-determination

Authors: Mudd, G & Roche C (2014)

Abstract: The Morobe Province of central Papua New Guinea (PNG) has been mined for gold for nearly a century, although it is only in the past decade that large-scale modern mining commenced. The Hidden Valley gold-silver project began construction in mid-2006 and production by August 2009, and is located in the mountains above Wau in the headwaters of the Watut River. The mine is owned and operated by the Morobe Mining Joint Venture (MMJV), which also owns the Waf-Golpu project, comprising the Wafi gold deposit and the Golpu copper-gold deposit, situated in the Watut River Valley. Together they represent a potential mine of the scale of Ok Tedi or Bougainville or bigger. The MMJV is owned in equal shares by Newcrest Mining from Australia and Harmony Gold from South Africa. Although Hidden Valley was the first large-scale mine in PNG to engineer and build a tailings storage facility, poor environmental management during construction and early operations led to significant errosion of waste roack and sedimentation throughout the ~200 km length of the Watut River. Since then, substantial efforts have been made to improve environmental management, especially waste rock placement and storage and water quality management. While the impacts from the Hidden Valley project appear to be reducing, the saga has heightened concerns by many along the Watut River and across PNG about ongoing impacts from mining.

This paper presents the results of an ongoing project in the Morobe Province conducted by the Mineral Policy Institute examining the historical, current and future impacts of mining, including community views, social and environmental impacts and the monitoring and regulation of mining. Overall, there is a clear need to more fully integrate social and environmental issues into life-of-mine planning and go above and beyond regulatory requirements. In this way, some of the lessons learnt – by the community, MMJV and government – can be incorporated before, during and long after mining.