Located amid tropical rainforest in the heart of Papua New Guinea, the Frieda River area is home to one of the biggest undeveloped gold and copper deposits in the Pacific. For decades, mining companies have prospected in this area in anticipation of a large-scale mine which may (or may not) open in the future. In Emilia E. Skrzypek, Revealing the Invisible Mine: Social Complexities of an Undeveloped Mining Project (Berghahn, 2020). Emilia 'Emilka' Skrzypek tells the story of Paiyamo people on whose land a potential mine may be located. Paiyamo people hope that the mine will lead to the development of their remote rural area, and in this book Skrzypek show the unique cultural logic they use to make the potential mine a reality, or -- to use Paiyamo terms -- to 'reveal' a mine whose existence has already affected their lives, but which has not yet emerged and become visible.
In this episode of the podcast host Alex Golub speaks to Emilka about the potential Frieda mine, Paiyamo people, and the way they grapple with the existence of an anticipated mine. What does it mean to view knowledge in terms of its effect rather than its accuracy? How are relationships created and transformed as people realize older understandings and secrets had a meaning which is only now being understood in the present context? How might we use this analytic lens to think about the work of ethnography and fieldwork itself? These are just some of the questions which Alex and Emilka discuss in this interview
Emilia Skrzypek is a senior research fellow in the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. Her most recent article, "Extractive entanglements and regimes of accountability at an undeveloped mining project" appears in the December 2020 number of Resources Policy.
Alex Golub is an associate professor in the Anthropology Department at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa in Honolulu. His most recent publication is a biographical interview with Martha Macintyre, an anthropologist of mining, in the edited volume Unequal Lives: Gender, Race, and Class in The Western Pacific.