Minerals and natural materials in Papua New Guinea

Timber

One of the main natural resources of Papua New Guinea is timber. The logging industry has been an important element in helping the economy of Papua New Guinea to grow, often though at the expense of the environment and rarely to the benefit of local people. For traditional forest dwellers, logging is more of a threat than an opportunity, although many agencies are now involved in helping to preserve the rainforest, promoting greater understanding and respect for ordinary Papua New Guineans’ natural heritage. This includes a growing appreciation of the historical importance of traditional silviculture in Papua New Guinea, knowledge of which may help to create a sustainable future for timber production, minimising the impact on climate change.

Precious metals

Gold, silver and copper are mined in Papua New Guinea, and bauxite (used to make aluminium) is a recent addition to the export trade. Mining however does not feature in traditional rural ways of life; exploitation of metals is a minor feature in how indigenous people related to their environment. Wood cutting tools, for example, used to be made from flint or obsidian; and, instead of coins, people used different shells.

Food and water

Food exports are increasingly important to the Papua New Guinean economy. Coffee is now one of the most important agricultural exports, although the plants used originally derive from Jamaica. In addition to food exports, there is also the potential for Papua New Guinea to export its plentiful water supplies, specifically to the much drier continent of neighbouring Australia.