Bridging the divide in heritage?: managing caves as heritage places within the Sepon Gold and Copper Mine, Lao PDR

Roberts, Nicholas (2019) Bridging the divide in heritage?: managing caves as heritage places within the Sepon Gold and Copper Mine, Lao PDR. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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This thesis applies a Critical Heritage Studies Framework to examine the effectiveness of applying international 'best practice' to identify and manage heritage as part of operations within the Sepon Gold & Copper Mine, Lao PDR. The management of caves as 'heritage places' is applied as a case study to highlight and discuss general heritage management issues as well as issues specific to caves. In particular, this examination will critique the way international 'best practice' applies a 'divided' heritage - the constructed nature-culture dichotomisation, and categorisation of cultural heritage as tangible, intangible, or historical heritage – and will critique the outcomes of applying the 'divide' in practice.

Findings from this thesis indicate that caves located within the Sepon Mine support a range of natural and cultural uses and values that often overlap or are interdependent. Caves are also identified to hold past, present and future uses and values and remain significant to local community groups. From this perspective, caves can be managed for a range of 'living', 'plural', and 'sacred' heritage significance. Heritage management practices at the Sepon Gold & Copper Mine are guided by international regulatory processes, with Archaeological Heritage Management predominately applied to identify and manage heritage in operations. Following international 'best practice' and Lao heritage legislation, caves remain generally managed for natural or cultural tangible, intangible and historical heritage values independently, rather than as integrated 'living', 'plural', and 'sacred' places, that support a range of cross-cutting past, present, and future uses and values.

Mining activity is also found to have increased the threat of damage and destruction to caves and other locally significant natural and cultural heritage. Unmitigated mining activity and application of a 'divided' heritage increase the risk to the sustainability of natural places like caves and their associated local heritage knowledge and practices. Overall, mining is a transnational commercial context that has arguably supported the alteration, and in some cases destruction, of aspects of local community heritage and the knowledge and practices associated with them. Mining and heritage together act as agents of change that together engender a process of 'reterritorialization' of the physical natural environment and associated local cultural knowledge and practices. The current context however represents a new phase in an ongoing process of change and interaction between human society and natural landscapes/places in the region in the Lao 'frontier' uplands as a result of social, economic or political interactions and influences.

Managing present interactions and change sustainably will require stronger national regulation advocating for heritage management and protection within mining operations and after operations cease to support longer-term and sustainable management practices. To alleviate impacts and produce sustainable and longer-term management practices the application of local 'heritage' values in conjunction with regional and international 'best practice' approaches for heritage management is required. To meet local management needs in the present and future this will involve moving beyond application of international 'best practice' outright. Further, applying multi-lateral heritage management practices that integrate community knowledge and participation with international 'best practice' approached within mining operations can embrace a broader interpretation and management of caves as 'living' places, with 'plural' uses and values, and 'sacred' qualities. Community-based control of heritage can support efforts to localise identification and management of heritage, supporting effort to 'bridge the divide' in how heritage is defined, managed, and lived with.

Item ID: 61146
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Lao PDR; caves and karst; natural and cultural heritage management
Copyright Information: Copyright © 2019 Nicholas Roberts.
Date Deposited: 13 Dec 2019 02:57
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050204 Environmental Impact Assessment @ 25%
16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1601 Anthropology > 160104 Social and Cultural Anthropology @ 50%
21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2101 Archaeology > 210103 Archaeology of Asia, Africa and the Americas @ 25%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950502 Understanding Asias Past @ 30%
95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9503 Heritage > 950304 Conserving Intangible Cultural Heritage @ 35%
95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9503 Heritage > 950305 Conserving Natural Heritage @ 35%
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