Occupying Spaces Created by Conflict: Anthropologists, Development NGOs, Responsible Investment, and Mining

Regulators, investors, and communities are increasingly aware of the potential environmental andsocial harm associated with open-pit mining projects. Local-level conflict is now commonly associated with proposed and operating mines as community members struggle to protect economic and social values of importance to them, to assert the right to refuse a mine, or to advance claims on miningcompanies for damages. In response, mining companies seek partnerships to help them secure a so-called social license to operate and manage risk to reputation. 

This essay, published in Current Anthropology, examines the role of anthropologists, development organizations, and socially responsible investment companies in the context of conflicts between indigenous Ipili and the Porgera Joint Venture gold mine in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. In dialogue with the mine, these corporate engagement actors define the problems to be addressed and implement solutions that may impede the agency of the Ipili by not reflecting and advancing Ipili claims on the mine, providing information and advice regarding the community to the company (where it often becomes proprietary), lending legitimacy to corporate social responsibility strategies, and remaining silent about the environmental and human rights abuses to which they become privy.