Gigira Laitebo

The once untouched forests of Papua New Guinea are now being developed to pave the way for the country’s biggest LNG extraction project led by ExxonMobil, projected to produce 6.9 million tons of LNG per year.But the project, which is expected to bring Papua New Guinea $30 billion over three decades and to radically increase its gross domestic product, will force a country already beset by state corruption and to grapple with the windfall.  While the West’s richest companies are used to seeking natural resources in the world’s poorest corners, few places on earth seem as ill-prepared as the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea. According to a local myth, called Gigira Laitebo, an underground fire is kept alive by local inhabitants poking sticks to the earth. Eventually, the fire will light up the world, but a local priest quipped, “If foreigners come to our land, you give them food and water, but don’t give them fire. If you do, it will destroy this place.”

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