Western Province: Papua New Guinea Business Guide


Western Province is the largest province in Papua New Guinea by area. It shares a land border with the Indonesian province of Papua and a sea border with Australia. There are several large rivers that run through it, including the Fly River, PNG’s biggest, and the Strickland and Ok Tedi Rivers. Lake Murray, PNG’s largest lake, is also in the province.

Lake Murray spread across Western Province. Credit: Rocky Roe

Economic overview

The major economic driver of Western Province is the Ok Tedi copper and gold mine – the country’s largest mine – in the province’s far north. Serviced by the mining town of Tabubil, the mine has been responsible for a large portion of PNG’s GDP for many years and it remains a major provider of foreign exchange. The company has achieved significant efficiency gains in the last few years, raising profitability and extending the life of the mine into the 2030s.

There are significant liquefied natural gas projects in the province including P’nyang, Elevala, Ketu and prospective sites at Stanley, Juha, Pukpuk and Douglas. In September 2020, ‘heads of agreement’ were struck between P’nyang’s developer, ExxonMobil and the PNG government for P’nyang, ahead of an expected gas agreement. The aim is for the project to use the pipeline and gas plant created for the existing PNG LNG Project.

The province possesses significant rubber, aquaculture, forestry and fisheries sectors. Rubber growing is suited to the soils and climate and there are almost 10,000 smallholder growers. China and Germany are the main export markets.

The province exports lobster tails from Daru to Australia and the United States and produces barramundi and jewelfish, mostly for domestic consumption. There is also a barramundi hatchery in Daru. There are further aquaculture possibilities in prawn, mackerel and mud crab.

The forestry sector is strong, with wood exported to China, Taiwan and South Korea. Eaglewood in its raw form is exported to overseas markets particularly in the Asian region. Production of melaleuca sap is mainly confined to Western Province, because the species occurs only in drier savannah forest types. There is the prospect of developing timber plantations and commercialising more high-value species.


In some areas, the terrain is a patchwork of winding rivers, lakes and wetlands. Elsewhere, there are open grasslands, which are habitats for Rusa deer, wallabies and wild pigs. Over half of New Guinea’s total bird population is found in Western Province, including:pelicans, hornbills, eagles, birds of paradise, parrots, cassowaries, kingfishers, herons, thrushes, robins and a host of migratory birds.

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The province’s natural history makes it suitable for a range of eco-tourism activities, including sports fishing, recreational hunting, bird watching, trekking, kayaking, cultural shows and village stays. Tourists can fish the Fly River, Lake Murray or other areas. Fishing, birding and cultural safaris are conducted in remote and wild areas of the province, including the Strickland River and the Star Mountains, which include the Hindenburg Wall, a series of limestone escarpments up to 1000 metres high and 50 kilometres long. 
There are also bird-watching excursions and trips to villages near the border of West Papua. The Gogodala Canoe Festival is held every April to May and involves canoe racing among locals. Another attraction is the Wawoi Falls in the Wawoi District of the Middle Fly.

Where to stay

  • The Bensbach and Lake Murray lodges operated by Trans Niugini Tours (pngtours.com) offer the pick of accommodation in the province.
  • Ikame Village Lodge (skepuknai@gmail.com) is a good option for bird watching.

Western Province in brief

Province name: Western

Capital: Daru

Population: 201,351

Area: 98,189 square kilometres

Distance from Port Moresby: 434 kilometres.

Getting there: Air Niugini flies from Port Moresby to Daru regularly. The flight time is 1 hour 10 minutes.

Sectors: Copper, gold, gas, rubber, forestry, aquaculture, tourism.

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