Abstract

Since the start of the Ok Tedi mining project in Papua New Guinea in 1981, Broken Hill Proprietary has operated it. Weak environmental protection laws and a series of ecological disasters have endangered the greater Ok Tedi and Fly River socioecological region. A grassroots indigenous popular ecological resistance movement made an out-of-court settlement with the mining company in Melbourne in 1996. Early in 2000 the indigenous movement took Broken Hill Proprietary back to court in Melbourne to block the company's attempt to abandon the Ok Tedi mine. Research started with Wopkaimin subsistence ecology in the 1970s. Later the political ecology of the Ok Tedi crisis was evaluated, as was ecological change in social terms; both are illustrated through the politics of cultura and ecological representation. After the successful convergence of radical environmentalists and indigenous popular ecological resistance against the Ok Tedi mine, research shifted to liberation ecology to study the emancipatory potential of struggles and conflicts against environmental degradation. The responsibilities of academics conducting research in the Ok Tedi crisis are examined. The Ok Tedi crisis challenges the proposition that academics can act as honest brokers through mining companies to negotiate deals for local communities. Academics engaged by mining companies as consultants or employees must work according to managed science and circumscribed briefs. The approach of critical liberation ecology, which directs research to community empowerment, represents a freedom of critical inquiry only available in the academy.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9464
Print ISSN
1043-898X
Pages
pp. 33-54
Launched on MUSE
2001-01-01
Open Access
No
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