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Patrons to Gold: The Resource Curse, Nacsent Clientism, and Emerging Inequality in the Context of Mining in Wampar, Papua New Guinea

Author Willem CHURCH
Director of thesis Prof. Dr. Bettina Beer
Co-director of thesis
Summary of thesis

Capital intensive extraction industries, such as mining, logging, and liquid natural gas, continue to dominate Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) formal economy. Like so many countries endowed with valuable resources this is more of a curse than a blessing. Historically in PNG, governments, multinational corporations, and local people have unevenly gained from such projects' socio-economic benefits and burdens, resulting in persistent inequalities at best and resource conflict and environmental disaster at worst. By analyzing the impact of the prospective Wafi-Golpu copper-gold mine on a Wampar village in the Morobe Province, I ask: What are the social processes that connect resource abundance to reproducible inequalities? And, what are the social relations and interactions, between individuals, groups, corporations, lineages, and legal entities, that ground these processes? By answering these questions, I aim to disentangle how fleeting elements of individual human difference like political ambition, formal education, or dumb luck turn into reproducible inequalities, such as political offices, land owning groups, or familial dynasties. I argue that organizing leads to organization—factional competition in pursuit the unprecedented surpluses associated with mining drives the centralization of power and economic advantage. Gathering money, making alliances, acquiring court victories are the raw media for ground more reproducible forms of inequality. On the broader scale, this generates friction, and the potential of resilient stratification, between central actors, connected persons and groups, and those who have access to neither.

Administrative delay for the defence