On 12 December 2003 an international oil and natural gas company
announced that they would drill within the borders of the Crater Moun-
tain Wildlife Management Area in Papua New Guinea. The company landed a
helicopter, without warning, in a forest clearing located directly below the Sera
Research Station, a station funded and maintained by the U.S.-based Wildlife
Conservation Society and located in a bit of the forest that has been part of a
social relationship between expatriate ecologists and Papua New Guinean land-
holders since 1987. The company did not alert the Wildlife Conservation So-
ciety’s Papua New Guinea o≈ce, located in Goroka, a mountain town to the
north of the Crater Mountain Wildlife Management Area, that they would carry
in sixty helicopter loads of equipment and clear six hectares of forest. Rather,
they just landed and began their work. The research station and the forest in
which it is located are at the head of the Purari River system, a system that feeds
life into villages, gardens, and forests across the lower half of the country. While
there was some knowledge of the possibility of oil exploration in the area, this
event was a surprise for the Pawaia peoples, who hold the land around the
station in traditional tenure and for the conservation organization. It was not,
however, the first shock of resource extraction exploration experienced by peo-
ple who live and work within the Crater Mountain Wildlife Management Area
(cmwma)in the past few months.
On the other side of mountain, which has become known as Crater Moun-
tain (the name’s origin will be discussed later) there had been similar events
earlier in the year. On 16 August 2003 a national alluvial mining company,
landed in Maimafu village, one of the rural villages within the cmwma, and
announced that they would start an alluvial gold-mining project at the head of
the Nimi River. The Nimi River begins high in the mountains where the Youha
and the Nemeahlo Rivers meet, and it flows southward, giving life to a tropical
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