Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Natural Resources

First Advisor

Ali, Saleem


Gold mining is often associated with positive economic benefits; however, it may also have negative impacts on the environment and human health. It is essential that communities understand the risks and benefits associated with mining, particularly in developing countries where there is often a lack of legislation governing the environmental performance of mining corporations. The perceptions of local people regarding the risks and benefits of mining may differ significantly from those of company representatives, policy makers, and the scientific community. Indeed, public concerns have sometimes been ignored or downplayed by those responsible for the implementation of environmental policies and practices. Examination of the complex social, economic, psychological, political, and cultural factors influencing risk perception in mining communities is thus important for successful risk communication and management. Issues arising from the interplay between socio-economic benefits and risks are particularly acute in small island states which have isola ted and highly limited economic development trajectories. The lessons learned in such cases are therefore instructive for crisis planning across the developing world. This study conducted firsthand empirical research into the perception of environmental and health risks in the communities surrounding the Vatukoula gold mine in Fiji. Primary data was obtained through a survey questionnaire designed to quantify and evaluate perceived risks (n= 340, representing approximately 24% of the target population). Concurrently, environmental samples were collected to assess the extent of environmental impacts at the study site. Study results revealed that gender is an important variable in risk perception at Vatukoula. Major findings include: (1) women feel they have less knowledge about the risks of mining compared to men; (2) women feel they have less control to avoid the risks of mining compared to men; and (3) women and men tend to receive risk messages from different sources. The information obtained during this study was made directly available to local stakeholders, to aid in risk management and decision-making.