Nick specialises in the anthropology of large-scale resource extraction with a particular focus on Melanesia. 

Nick’s research broadly focuses on the anthropology of resource extraction, with particular attention to large-scale mining in Melanesia. His work combines long-term ethnographic research and extensive engagement with the resources industry. He is one of a small number of scholars worldwide bridging the social and operational aspects of resource extraction. Nick’s research and publications span numerous interrelated topics including the social impacts and political economy of resource extraction, resettlement, project-induced in-migration, landowner business development, sacred geographies, cultural heritage management, and the articulation between resource economies and mortuary ritual and ceremonial exchange. He is currently developing research on the ways in which mining agreements shape the social outcomes of mine closure.

Nick has more than 15 years combined experience in academic and applied research and senior management leadership in the resources sector. He is committed to a form of engaged anthropology situated at the interface between landowners, resource extraction companies, governments, civil society and the academy.

He gained his PhD in anthropology at The University of Melbourne in 2007, and then took up a position as a post-doctoral research fellow at CSRM as part of a research collaboration with the Lihir gold mine in Papua New Guinea. During this time he was involved in various social impact monitoring activities and cultural heritage management projects in Lihir, and published a book on his earlier research titled The Lihir Destiny: Cultural Responses to Mining in Melanesia (2010, ANU Press). He then spent 7 years working with Newcrest Mining Limited in PNG, where he held numerous positions including Manager Social Responsibility and Environment, and Principal Social Performance at the Lihir gold mine. Nick is a member of the Australian Anthropological Society (AAS) and the Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania (ASAO).


For the last ten years Nick has worked closely with the resources industry as an independent researcher, consultant and as a social performance manager/practitioner. His engagement with the resources industry spans corporate and site level, and has covered all aspects of social performance, most notably agreement making and governance, social impact monitoring, resettlement, grievance management and community engagement, cultural heritage management, and environmental monitoring and management.  


Nick continues to collaborate with a wide range of scholars and practitioners on various academic and applied projects which has resulted in numerous co-authored reports and publications. 

Key Publications

Bainton, N., A (2010). The Lihir Destiny: Cultural Responses to Mining in Melanesia. Canberra, ANU E Press.

Bainton, N. A. and M. Macintyre (2013). "'My Land, My Work': Business development and large-scale mining in Melanesia." Research in Economic Anthropology 33: 137-163.

Bainton, N., A (2009). "Keeping the Network Out of View: Mining, Distinctions and Exclusion in Melanesia." Oceania 79(1): 18-33.

Bainton, N. A., et al. (2012). "The end of the beginning? Mining, sacred geographies, memory and performance in Lihir." The Australian Journal of Anthropology 23: 22-49.

Bainton, N. A., et al. (2011). "Stepping Stones Across the Lihir Islands: Developing Cultural Heritage Management in the Context of a Gold-Mining Operation." International Journal of Cultural Property 18(1): 81-110.


Nick’s research has been funded, supported and enabled through a combination of university funded projects, applied university-private sector research, private sector commissioned research, and management of private sector socio-economic impact monitoring and management programs.