Recent controversies linked with the large-scale mines in Melanesia largely revolve around the impact of their waste management strategies on downstream communities. This issue has generated debate and conflict at Ok Tedi and Porgera in Papua New Guinea, PT Freeport Indonesia's Grasberg mine in Irian Jaya, and Ross Mining's Gold Ridge mine in the Solomon Islands. In each case, the issue is generally portrayed as purely an environmental one. There is evidence, though, that from the indigenous perspective the range of issues involved extends beyond the environmental to take in economic, social, political, and cultural conc erns. In this paper, I revisit debates about the links between the environment and economic development in the context of mining in Melanesia. I suggest that the distinction between environmental and other causes of these disputes is overstated in relation to Melanesian communities. Instead, I argue that disputes over the impacts of the mines are better understood as disputes over community control of resources, and hence control over the direction of their lives.