International Journal of Cultural Property

Research Article

Stepping Stones Across the Lihir Islands: Developing Cultural Heritage Management in the Context of a Gold-Mining Operation

Nicholas A. Baintona1, Chris Ballarda2, Kirsty Gillespiea3 and Nicholas Halla4

a1 University of Queensland. Email: [email protected]

a2 Australian National University. Email: [email protected]

a3 University of Queensland. Email: [email protected]

a4 Stepwise Heritage and Tourism Pty Ltd. Email: [email protected]


Large-scale resource extraction projects often create obstacles for the protection, maintenance, and inheritance of indigenous cultural heritage. In this article we detail some of the challenges and opportunities arising from our collaborative partnership with the community of the Lihir Islands in Papua New Guinea, which is seeking to establish, inform, and resource a formal cultural heritage management program in the context of a large-scale gold-mining operation. The general approach to this collaborative venture involves the application of a specific development tool, the Stepping Stones for Cultural Heritage program. This consultative process is innovative in both Melanesia and the context of resource extraction, but also more generally within the field of cultural heritage. We describe the outcomes of this process and some of the initial pilot projects, one of which was based on the recording of traditional Lihirian songs. We also argue that while the mine places greater pressure upon Lihirian cultural heritage, it also presents Lihirians with the opportunity to realize a vision of their cultural future that is beyond the reach of many other indigenous communities.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS An earlier version of this article was originally presented by Nick Bainton at the Sustainable Development Indicators in the Mineral Industry Conference, at the Gold Coast, Australia, 6–8 July 2009. Our work in Lihir would not have been possible without the support of the Lihir Sustainable Development Planning and Monitoring Committee and the Lihir Cultural Heritage Committee, and in particular Luke Kabariu, Peter Toelinkanut, and Patrick Turuan. We are grateful to Deanna Kemp, Veronica Klimenko, Martha Macintyre, Sharon Sullivan, and John Burton for reading draft versions of this article and providing insightful commentary and direction to previously overlooked resources. We also thank the two anonymous reviewers for their suggestions. Naturally, the authors accept full responsibility for all information and arguments presented here.