Gold revolution: developing Papua New Guinea’s alluvial mining industry


Developing alluvial mining in Papua New Guinea can greatly boost the rural economies, according to Immaculate Javia, founder of Sustainable Alluvial Mining Services. Her project won the inaugural Innovation PNG 2019 Award, Small Organisation Category, and it could revolutionise the small scale mining industry. David James reports.

Immaculate Javia from Sustainable Alluvial Mining Services [centre] accepting the inaugural Innovation PNG 2019 Award, Small Business Organisation from NCD Governor Powes Parkop and Chair of the award judging panel, Deloitte’s Pete Williams. Credit: Rocky Roe

Small-scale, or alluvial, mining is a reserved activity in Papua New Guinea, meaning it is reserved for Papua New Guineans only. While the sector doesn’t receive the attention and support that large scale mining receives, there is clear potential, as Javia’s award-winning project demonstrates.

The initial proposal of Sustainable Alluvial Mining Services (SAMS) was to develop a pilot program in Esa’ala district, Milne Bay Province. After Javia gave a presentation at an artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) convention in the district, Davis Steven, the then local parliamentary leader, and other local parliamentary members funded the first phase or her project. But the money ran out after the first phase and now she’s looking for more funding.

She said the pilot project is expected to benefit 3000 local miners; if replicated across the country, it could affect 100,000 miners.

‘We should do something to help these people. There is a sector [alluvial mining] that can drive development in rural sectors. With my knowledge and experience in the Mineral Resources Authority, I have tried to do something for the industry.

‘There are so many issues in the small scale mining industry. We want development in this country but there are problems with land issues.’

‘If the pilot project is developed in one small scale mining district, then we can try to develop it in other small scale mining districts around the country.’

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SAMS’s project is set out in five succeeding phases over four years. However, due to funding constraints, it’s currently likely to take five or six years.


A key element in the design of SAMS is decentralisation – and collaboration at all government levels is expected. Alluvial mining is regulated at the national level, which Javia believes is ineffective because the statutory organisation, the Mineral Resources Authority, is located in the capital city and has limited capacity to reach out to rural areas. A better approach would be to be regulated by the provincial, district or local governments.

Javia said there needs to be a holistic approach in which all the requirements are addressed.

‘There are so many issues in the small scale mining industry. We want development in this country but there are problems with land issues. How do we address these issues in order for development to happen?’

‘Small scale mining can start the technical [learning] to start other sustainable activities’

Javia said one initiative is to get the small scale miners to form an association. She is also aiming to get the government’s attention, or ‘industry specialists or innovators in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector to help us collaborate and network.’

Javia said one of the goals at the end of the program is to get small scale miners to export the gold themselves and bring in the money that can support what they are doing in their villages.

The final imperative is to develop alluvial mining in a way that helps sustainability. ‘We realise that there are sustainable activities such as tourism, fisheries and agriculture but we believe that small scale mining can start the technical [learning] to start other sustainable activities.’

Javia said SAMS is collaborating with the Mineral Resources Authority. ‘Local miners are victims of the negativity faced in the sector due to inadequate policies to regulate and monitor destructive mining habits. But, on the other hand, they are a great strength of the country as far as revenue generation is concerned. They contribute directly to the economic development of the country.

‘It has the potential to drive rural development if adequately reflected in mining policies, monitored and regulated well, and supported financially by governments.’

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