PhD /Wafi-Golpu

The work presented here is part of my ongoing PhD research at Murdoch University PhD focused on Wafi-Golpu, which builds on work in Hidden Valley, and elsewhere – see about for more details.

My research is/will be presented in five articles. To date, three previous articles have been published. The most recent (June, 2020) is a weaving of mining and socio-environmental trends in PNG. Then there are two articles focusing on Wafi-Golpu using first a human flourishing (well-being, gutpla sindaun) (2019) and then an extractive dispossession lens (2019). Coming soon in 2020 are more two articles, one that explores the reality of life in Venembeli (Village near Wafi-Golpu) prior to mining – making visible what the impact assessment did not. The second is an assessment of the Wafi-Golpu EIS.

Articles are presented or linked below along with summarised and Tok Pisin translations ( a work in progress).


Conference Extraction: Tracing the Veins

From the 29th June – 10th July Massey University Political Ecology Research Centre and Wageningen University are hosting a free online conference “Extraction: Tracing the Veins”. The conference features more than 80 presentations from around the world spanning extractive policy, indigenous knowledge extraction, resistances to extraction, artistic responses to extraction, data extraction and more. New panel presentations will be released each day from 29th June–10th July. Listen in your own time and join the online conversation. The entire conference is free and open to all; go to the conference website to learn more: www.perc.ac.nz/wordpress/extraction.

My presentation, cryptically entitled, Asymmetric realities: Can PAR assist mining-affected communities? is scheduled for the 29th June. Please login to watch through the conference website and engage in the live conversations to follow. Here is the presentation, abstract and transcript and slides.


Journal articles

Unseen existences_ Stories of life from Venembeli, Papua New Guinea

Authors: Charles Roche , Rochelle Spencer , Eugene John , Nawasio Walim , Howard Sindana , the

Venembeli Community

Abstract: This article presents stories of life from Venembeli, a remote village in the hinterlands of Papua New Guinea. Caught up in a contentious mining development, villagers both long for and fear the development promised by global capitalism. But with a forty year development history, the proposed Wafi-Golpu mine has become the only lens through which the present or future is imagined and understood. We contend that this cultural hegemony has twisted the way stakeholders understand the mine’s outcomes and impacts. Mindful of the power of language and dominant cultures, we adopt a refined version of the Melanesian tok stori methodology to capture stories that, together with illustrations and our own observations, make visible and amplify the stories from Venembeli. The stories illustrate a different reality to those presented in the usual western, technical and reductive impact assessments; offering insights into a complex human story that requires contemplation and empathy if the communities are to be valued, heard and respected. The outcome of telling these stories is uncertain, but this emancipatory participatory action research will help readers and stakeholders to better understand the com- munity, and to prioritise their human flourishing to ensure positive, rather than negative mining legacies.

Available open access/free from the journal website


Mining in Papua New Guinea: A complex story of trends, impacts and governance

Authors: Gavin M.Mudd, Charles Roche, Stephen A.Northey, Simon M.Jowitt, Gama Gamato

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 – or you can contact the author directly.


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

Authors: Charles Roche, Nawasio Walim, Howard Sindana, Wafi and Watut CommunitiesAbstract: 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 – or you can 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

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 – or you can contact the author directly.


Hosting and Support

The research, which involved multiple trips to PNG and a PNG research team has only been possible through the support of three institutions. Murdoch University through the Centre for Responsible Citizenship and Sustainability, The Indigenous Knowledge Systems, Planning and Environmental Decision Making: The Role of Community-Based Impact Assessments (IndKnow), under the auspices of the UIT The Arctic University of Norway and funded by the Norwegian Resource Council, and the Mineral Policy Institute.

The IndKnow project seeks to address the gap between the lack of Indigenous peoples knowledge (IK) in planning, land-use and environmental decision-making and new ways of integrating IK by asking: by what means and methods can IK and rights be secured in marine and land-use planning decisions. The project endeavours to advance methodologies that can bridge this gap and develop best practice for the integration of IK through participatory GIS mapping technologies and community-based impact assessments (CBIA). We draw upon examples of best practice in CBIA and will combine IK systems with western scientific research methods from the natural and social sciences.

The Mineral Policy Institute [MPI] is an international civil society organisation with a volunteer board representing members from across the world. Operating from Australia we focus on assisting communities affected by specific mining projects and on achieving industry reform through improvements to policy, law and practice. With a strong emphasis on free prior and informed consent, MPI undertakes a supportive and background role to assist mining-affected communities. Our aim, and our role is to support communities to more effectively protect their rights and respond to mining issues that impact on them.

The Centre for Responsible Citizenship and Sustainability provides a platform for collaborative, inter-disciplinary work across the School of Business and Governance, all schools within Murdoch University and outside institutions. The Centre seeks to advance teaching and research in areas that are at the heart of key global challenges and relevant to future university graduates and society at large.