Tag Archives: PanAust

Ambunti earthquake should be a wake up call to Frieda mine proponents

Damage from a February 2018 earthquake near Mendi. The earthquake killed more than 100 people. PHOTO: MELVIN LEVONGO/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

5.6-magnitude quake hits 9 km NE of Ambunti, Papua New Guinea — USGS

Xinhua | March 7, 2019

An earthquake measuring 5.6 on the Richter scale jolted 9 km northeast of Ambunti, Papua New Guinea at 1847 GMT on Wednesday, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The epicenter, with a depth of 132.36 km, was initially determined to be at 4.1824 degrees south latitude and 142.9124 degrees east longitude.

The Frieda River mine will be 70kms south of the Sepik River on the border of the Sanduan and East Sepik Provinces and some 500kms upriver from the coast.

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Spare Sepik River from pollution

The mighty Sepik river is under threat from toxic mine tailings and increased river traffic

MM Ondassa | Post Courier | 7 March 2019

The September 2018 signing of Frieda River mine project accord by PanAust – the developer and the landowner groups as reported in the other paper was good news for the government.

The Governor of West Sepik, Tony Wouwou said in part “… the accord committed all parties to ensuring peaceful and constructive cooperation”… and “… everyone must work together to resolve differences amicably and without disruption to the project …”.

Let’s hope they all remain committed to the terms of this accord.

I have three points to raise here. First is the issue that continues to raise eyebrows. It is about the ownership of the underground resources. Who owns the oil, gas and minerals on customary land? Is it the landowners, the government, or the developer?

The truth is; landowners own the land but not the underground resources. Why this is so, is because there are man-made laws that deny them full rights to their resources, hence they don’t get a fair share of the proceeds.

When the job is done, the developer packs up and leaves behind land and environmental completly reshaped. A change of law will certainly make a world of difference in favour of the landowner communities.

My second point is on the Sepik River. Governor Wouwou made no mention of a tailings dam, or Sepik River to be the passageway for the shipment of mineral ores, but said that a tailings pipeline would be built across the border in East Sepik.

The people of Angoram and Ambunti-Drekikir, whose survival depends on the pollutant-free Sepik River are denied their rights to discuss risks that Frieda mine pauses to the Sepik River. The simple villagers have no idea whatsoever on the imminent risks they are about to face.

Despite the ignorance, there is a real possibility of serious environmental impacts that Frieda River mine activity can cause, as there is no guarantee that what happened to Fly River and now the Ramu River won’t happen to the Sepik River.

I raised this very concern last year, which was supported by the environmental scientist Alphonse Roy, who presented some related factual information based on his two “early warning study proposals” which he presented to the Angoram district administrator and others, now locked away or trashed.

May I appeal once again to the developer is to meet and listen to the Sepik River leaders and get first hand information on how this river has been their lifeline for many generations? They want to know how prepared PanAust is, in terms of the provision of alternative water services, fish stock preservation and health services in communities along the Sepik River to mitigate the impacts brought on by intentional and accidental mine rejects.

Thirdly, can the government quickly confirm if PanAust has been taken over by the then major shareholder, Guangdong Rising Assets Management – a Chinese state-owned company? If so, they must make Sepik River the safest?

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The human cost of globalization

Barzil’s latest mining tragedy should be a wake-up call for citizens at both ends of the supply chain. Photograph: Douglas Magno/AFP/Getty Images

Eric Silverman | Metro West | 17 February 2019

Last month, a massive dam holding back a lake of waste from an iron ore mine collapsed in rural Brazil. The exact toll from the tsunami of metallic sludge is still unknown. At least 130 are confirmed dead but, as one elderly woman said, “It’s easier to count the living.” Hundreds remain missing. Some bodies will likely never be exhumed from the muck. Surely you heard about the disaster, expressed momentary horror, then went about your daily life as if such matters did not concern you. They do.

Like it or not, your hand – all of our hands – helped breach that dam. Those who benefit most from the global economy have equally global moral responsibility.

If you’re reading this newspaper in Massachusetts, glance outside your window. See any mines? Count yourself lucky. The largest such chasm in Boston was the Big Hole formerly occupied by Filene’s Basement. Actually, we’re not lucky at all, just rich. Most of us in MetroWest don’t want mining. We prefer other, far safer jobs, never mind backyards unblighted by large-scale resource extraction. And we have the affluence and power to make corporate and government leaders take heed. Not so the poor souls recently entombed in the mud.

Most Americans look to nature for rest and relaxation. We sojourn in the forest, like Thoreau, to “learn what it had to teach.” Others sell their woods and hills to survive. It is far better to be on the buying end of consumerism than the giving end of iron ore and other raw materials. Just ask the people of Vila Ferteco, the community downstream from the shattered dam.

Or ask anybody at the fringes of the world system. I know some of them well, having lived and studied as an anthropologist in a community along the Sepik River in Papua New Guinea. They have little political voice, less money, and no position of privilege that would cause corporate directors or public officials to take notice. That’s why their society is at risk from one of the largest gold and copper deposits in the Asia-Pacific region, the Frieda River mine, now under development by an Australian company, PanAust, which is a subsidiary of a Chinese government entity. Many people along the Sepik River are speaking out against this mine. Few seem to care or listen, especially shareholders and consumers on the other side of the world who will someday reap the lion’s share of the mine’s benefits.

There are few opportunities for a paycheck in the developing world, never mind a job that would pass muster by the workplace safety regulations that protect your own labor. More than 750 million people, mostly in the Global South, have less than a $1.90 a day in their pockets. What they have, however, are the natural resources – minerals, timber, oil, and gas – that are fed to factories in Nigeria, India, and Guangzhou, then shipped as the myriad products that arrive by Amazon on our doorsteps. It’s not so far from Bangladesh or Brumadinho to the local mall.

Nobody gives up their land because they find pleasure in open-pit mining. They do so because they have as much choice in the matter as they do clout in the boardroom or parliament. Corporations know this well, and so do as they please in distant places beneath the palm trees, at least those that remain standing after clearcutting for palm oil plantations. The end result is what just happened in Brazil.

The Global South is the resource Wal-Mart for the industrialized world, only with worse wages and no health care benefits.

The poisonous sludge that murdered a town last week came from a mine owned by a Brazilian company, Vale SA. The same firm, together with the Anglo-Australian giant BHP Billiton, owned another Brazilian mine where a collapsed dam killed more than a dozen in 2015. BHP Billiton once operated the Ok Tedi Mine in Papua New Guinea that discharged 90 million tons of waste into the local river system – about 500 square miles – for more than a decade. Half the river, reported The Australian Conservation Foundation, was “almost biologically dead.” The cultural survival of its indigenous communities remains at risk. Across the border in the Indonesian province of Papua, the U.S.-based company Freeport-McMoRan runs the world’s most profitable gold mine. Some of those profits, reported by The New York Times, went into the pockets of military and police officials to ‘secure’ the site.

Needless to say, major Western banks and investment firms, such as Vanguard, Blackrock, State Street, Fidelity, Citicorp, Bank of America, and John Hancock, pour assets into these mines, maybe even some of your own retirement funds, just as the mines pour their toxic waste down nearby hills and waterways.

There is no shortage of blame. Corrupt politicians. Greedy Wall Street financiers. Multinational corporations and the glossy PR firms they hire to promote ‘global citizenship.’ But most of the blame rests with you and I – everyday people content with our own lives and things, and thus unwilling to consider the human cost of globalization and to demand a more ethical capitalism. It’s time we did. Before another town in a far-flung place most of us can’t find on a map is buried beneath indifference.

Eric Silverman, a former Research Professor of Anthropology, lives in Framingham. He is now affiliated with the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandies University.

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Sepik people say no to Frieda River mine

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February 4, 2019 · 8:23 am

MP wants mines to learn from Ok Tedi’s history of pollution

Will the mighty Sepik River end up a “dead river” like her sister, the Fly?

The National aka The Loggers Times | February 1, 2019

NORTH Fly MP James Donald says the pollution of the Fly River by Ok Tedi mine should be a lesson for other mines in the country.

He called for a review of the Porgera Gold Mine because the mine was contributing to pollution.

Donald said with huge pollution issues facing the province, the experience of Ok Tedi and Fly River should be a lesson for other mines like the Frieda mine project whose operation can affect the Sepik River.

Donald said to put his grievance on record, the Conversation Environment Protection Agency (formerly the Department of Environment and Conservation) had been “very weak”.

He said record showed that issues of the people were never handled.

Donald said the people of Western were being affected by the activities of Ok Tedi and Porgera mines, therefore there was a need to review the Porgera mine operations because it was affecting the Fly River.

“People are really affected and how can you allow us to be affected by two mines like these? We have to review Porgera also because we are feeling the pain of the damage caused by the two mines,” he said.

NCD Governor Powes Parkop said dumping mine waste into the river system is only practised in PNG.

“No other country practises them, not even in the US, in Europe or Australia but here we allow that to happen. Are we less human in allowing mining companies to dump their sediments and waste into the river systems?

“We must continue to invest in tailing dams, we can‘t continue to dump tailings into the river.”

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MP Mirisim Supports No Fly-In-Fly-Out for Frieda mine

Matthew Vari | Post Courier | January 23, 2019

Member for Telefomin and Minister for Defence, Solan Mirisim has appealed to the Freida River project developers to seriously not take on the fly-in-fly-out arrangements for mine staff.
Mr Mirisim said this last week during a press conference held alongside Minister for National Planning and Yangoru-Saussia MP Richard Maru and Ambunti Drekikir MP Johnson Wapunai in Port Moresby regarding the Freida River project development.
“That also goes for Freida River project, there is no fly-in-fly-out, there is got to be a township so let the landowners and all the employers comes in to participate in the local economy and communities.
“So let me appeal to the company or developer that there should not be any fly in fly out and there has got to be a township.
“Township we have been planning for a big airport in Green River in the center where the township can be up to the Freida River project township.”Mr Mirisin’s district sits where the project is set to be developed, and his comments on the issue were made on the back of Minister Maru’s stance on the issue that no such arrangement is to take place for the Wafi-Golpu project in Morobe.“We are building a national airport there (Morobe) at the cost of K1.5 billion. It has a city of its own and it will be an anchor development that will complement the airport.“And Morobe and Lae already have the wharf and facilities and I really want to see that, and there cannot be any excuse as far as I am concerned.“Morobe and Papua New Guinea must get maximum benefit from the development of their resources,” Mr Maru commented on the Wafi Golpu project development.

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Landowner anger grows about continuing mining destruction

Peter S Kinjap | PNG Attitude | January 21, 2019

One of the world’s largest underdeveloped copper and gold deposits on the Frieda River, a tributary of the Sepik, is opposed by local indigenous landowners and all right-thinking Papua New Guineans.

The Frieda River deposit is thought to contain 13 million tonnes of copper and 20 million ounces of gold and tens of thousands of people fear the likelihood of serious river system contamination and the threat to the ecosystem that supports them.

A spokesman for environment group Project Sepik, Emmanuel Peni, said there was widespread opposition to the mine’s development plan.

“From Iniok village, which is where the barges and ships stop at the Frieda River, right down to the mouth of the Sepik, people are against the mine,” Peni said.

“They are concerned about possible contamination of the river system and the destruction of the environment along the Frieda and the Sepik River system.”

The East Sepik Provincial government and the national government had not yet responded to the concerns and grievances that have been raised.

Land in the Papua New Guinea context means the natural environment including land, rivers and seas.

In Madang Province, the landowners of Basamuk, Begesin, Ramu and Kurumbukari villages are affected by the Ramu nickel mine in various ways.  The Chinese state-owned mine has been polluting the beautiful coastal seas and people have been denied their food gardens and fishing waters.

In a recent documentary, ‘Uprooted’, the people clearly showed their pain about the river system contamination and the environmental destruction. They are fearful of losing their land to large scale development.

The deep sea tailings placement (DSTP) method of mine waste management and disposal which the Ramu mine proposed and was approved by the PNG government is causing a lot of environmental destruction and river contamination. 

“I belong to the government and the government belongs to me,” Martin Dampat, a Mindere landowner, said in the documentary. “How can it abandon me? It must do all that it can to ensure that I am able to feed myself.

“It has the ability to do so. But, if it chooses not to, then I know the government has no concern for me.  We have reached our limits. We have done all we can. They’ve rejected everything we’ve said.

“We feel we can’t do anything anymore. Some have given up trying,” he said.

“There is a great heaviness in all our hearts. I don’t think anyone can remove it from within us. We will go. But our grandchildren bear hardships even greater that what we’re experiencing.”

Another disgruntled landowner, John Oma from Ganglau Landowner Company, said: “They don’t have the land to grow their food. They won’t have an ocean to catch their fish.

“Where will they eat from? Nowhere. Great hardship awaits them. We won’ be able to avoid the troubles that will come. It’s the same sea. Life will be difficult for them too.”

And Sama Mellombo from the Pommern Land Group in Ramu said:

“It’s a fearful feeling when you think about the health effects on people and the inhabitants of the seas. If we take action now to tell China to find an alternative method, I think that’s the right approach. Find an alternative method instead of dumping waste into the sea. We live by the sea.”

Former Madang governor, Sir Arnold Amet, said:

“The government has endorsed the actual deep sea tailings deposit and an environmental plan. I think it is our assurance that the laying down of the pipe will not affect the lives of our people.  

“And the whole project has been signed and sealed by the national government and relevant agencies.”

A confused landowner from Ramu said:

“We hear that the minister has come. We hear that the member has come. We hear that the mine boss has come. But we’re confused. For the people here in Mindere and Ganglau, we feel like we’re about to die because we don’t have a Father. Our Father – the government – isn’t here.”

Bong Dampat, a mother and a Mindere villager, said:

“We fear for our children’s future. It’s going to be a long time. When waste dumped here, unborn children could be affected. The government and the company must pay attention. They cannot ignore us. What kind of a future will our children have? They have to pay attention.

“When a mining development contract allowed the Chinese to own and operate the mine, there was no concept of safety or environmental standards.  It was a cowboy operation. You did whatever you wanted and it didn’t matter if you were injured. It seems they came with a set of rules that didn’t comply with the rules of our country.”

“This is not a fight against development. No. That isn’t why we’re campaigning,” said Ramu landowner Michael Kasuk.

“We are fighting to protect and save our environment, our forests, our land, our river systems and our seas because our existence is connected to the land, forests, river systems and the sea,” Mr Kasuk said.

Peter S Kinjap is a freelance journalist, email pekinjap@gmail.com

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