This book is an ethnographic, historical, and ecological account of the
social and environmental impacts of large- scale mining development in
the Papua New Guinea
highlands. In the chapters that follow, I ex-
amine two intersecting themes: ﬁrst, the making of a “resource frontier”
(Tsing 2005) in the homelands of the Porgeran people—predominantly
subsistence horticulturalists who are also hosts to the world- class Porgera
Gold Mine—and second, how a people whose lives are tied so closely to
the land negotiate massive social and environmental transformations.
Woven within these two themes are two topics central to environmental
anthropology: resilience and ontology. Resilience, or “the ability of . . .
systems to absorb changes . . . and still persist” (Holling 1973: 17), com-
pels us to study social and ecological changes not as aberrant but as a
means to highlight both the adaptive creativity and the vulnerabilities
of coupled social- ecological systems. A focus on ontology, or the study
of the nature of being, allows us to examine the various ways that the
world is actualized by different peoples (Descola 2013; Viveiros de Cas-
tro 1998, 2004) and the implications of the encounters between locally
derived ontologies and the ontologies of capitalism and Christianity.
As a resource frontier, the Porgera case is particularly compelling
because it complicates simple narratives regarding multinational de-
velopment practitioners and indigenous people: quite simply, Porgerans
complain that there is in fact not enough development occurring in their