The story led the business pages in Papua New Guinea’s Post-Courier in early February. "Analyst: PNG on verge of change" screamed the headline. British-based market analysts Bdaily Business Network praised the $US17.3 billion Exxon-Mobil led LNG project. "[It] is the most important single development in the history of PNG", it stated, coming online for overseas markets in 2014.

But the reality away from corporate spin is a simmering conflict. A source close to the Southern Highlands land owners, the site of the major LNG project, predicts civil strife in the coming years. Locals are starting to collect weapons and grenades for the coming fight. Sabotage and attacks on pipelines are likely. Weapons are being smuggled in from Indonesia, including West Papua and Thursday Island near Australia.