The goldmining project on Lihir Island in New Ireland Province, Papua New Guinea, has brought dramatic socio-economic changes. In this matrilineal society, while women’s economic contributions were substantial, their political status was not. Women’s participation in decision making about the mine has been restricted, mainly because men have excluded them. The mining company established a women’s section that has supported the development of women’s organisations and a range of economic development projects. The women’s organisations provide the context for new political roles for women but have experienced many setbacks that are common in such groups across Papua New Guinea. Through the Lihir experience in the first five years of the mine, this paper examines the tensions and divided loyalties that constrain women’s organisations and often lead to the failure of income-generating women’s projects in Papua New Guinea.