van Putten, E.I., Aswani, S., Boonstra, W.J., De la Cruz-Modino, R., Das, Jewel ORCID:, Glaser, Marion ORCID:, Heck, N., Narayan, S., Paytan, A., Selim, Samiya Ahmed ORCID: and Vave, R. (2023) History matters: societal acceptance of deep-sea mining and incipient conflicts in Papua New Guinea. Maritime Studies, 22 (3). DOI

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New marine industries that develop and grow in response to the changing demand for their products have the potential to exert pressure on fragile marine environments. These emerging industries can benefit local communities but equally can have negative environmental and socio-cultural impacts. The development of new and emerging industries, like deep seabed mining (DSM), requires the acceptance and involvement of local communities. Yet, the history of marine exploitation is imbued with conflicts between industries and local communities. This paper presents a DSM case study in Papua New Guinea (PNG) to stimulate debate around the potential for conflict in the pursuit of resource extraction from the deep sea and the social and environmental harm that these extractions can cause. We do so by first presenting a timeline of local and extra-local events and enabling conditions that form the development background for the DSM Solwara 1 project in PNG. We then undertake a media narrative analysis to consider the contribution of aspects of social acceptability to this highly complex and multi-scale conflict. We find that the lack of (or a decrease in) social acceptability contributed to the conflict situation and ultimately the demise of the Solwara 1 project. Extra-locally, the initial development was positively framed around solutions for decarbonisation using new technology. Over time, actions by international NGOs, financial issues related to foreign companies, and asymmetry in the power balance between the Pacific Island nation and global businesses played a role in growing negative perceptions of acceptability. Historical experiences with prior environmental mining disasters, together with sea tenure governance challenges, and a lack of community and stakeholder acceptance also contributed to the demise of the project. Untangling and debating these complex interactions provides context and reasons for the tension between the lack of societal acceptance at a local scale and the perceived need for DSM products in the global North for innovative technologies and decarbonising societies. Better understanding these interactions and tensions can help emerging industries navigate a future blue economy.

Document Type: Article
Programme Area: PA2
Research affiliation: Social Sciences > Social-Ecological Systems Analysis
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: No
ISSN: 1872-7859
Date Deposited: 03 Aug 2023 08:03
Last Modified: 26 Mar 2024 13:31

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