Resolving Conflicts in Customary Law and Western law in Natural Resource Developments in Papua New Guinea

1 Jan 1993

Paper by Dr.John Nonggorr. The most traumatic experiences that have happened to Papua New Guinea in its 15 year existence as an independent nation have been the events leading to, and following, the closure of the giant Bougainville Copper mine on the island of Bougainville, North Solomons Province.

These have been traumatic in terms of economic as well as political and social terms. The underlying causes of the Bougainville problem have been attributed to historical cultural and political reasons. While there is some credibility in these explanations, the main causes of the Bougainville problems fall squarely on the Bougainville mine.

The Bougainville conflict has exposed the conflict of values and norms - those of the western cultures and the Melanesian cultures - concerning property rights, distribution of such rights, the relationship of people to their environment, the existence and functioning of political units etc. These conflicts are surfacing in a most crucial area for Papua New Guinea - that of natural resource development.

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