Tag Archives: Sepik river

Communities reject planned Frieda river mine

Ambunti on the the Sepik River

“most of the river communities in Ambunti, Wosera-Gawi and Angoram have responded negatively”

By Clifford Faiparik | The National aka The Loggers Times | 22 October 2018

East Sepik Governor Allan Bird, pictured, says many communities along the Sepik River have expressed concerns about environmental impacts that will be brought about by the Frieda River mine.

Bird said this yesterday in response to reports of a team from the Mineral Resources Authority (MRA) carrying out awareness on the mine along the Sepik River.

“Most of the river communities in Ambunti, Wosera-Gawi and Angoram have responded negatively to a team of officers from Mineral Resources Authority who were there to do awareness on the mine,” Bird said.

“Villagers tend to become suspicious of government officers conducting awareness on a project that will affect their environment.

“They are also suspicious that they will not get economic benefits from such impact projects, although the government officers had portrayed a promising economic and social benefits package to them in the awareness.

“MRA officers had been conducting awareness for two weeks amongst villagers along the river about the economic and social benefits from the Frieda mine.”

The mine is at Telefomin in West Sepik.

Meanwhile, the MRA officers said they had encountered some “misunderstandings” while conducting awareness.

“We were advised not to conduct awareness in those villages,” one of the officers said.

“This misunderstanding was created by a non-government organisation that was there earlier on conducting awareness on the mine.”

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Save the Sepik from mining: learning from the past

Visiting the Sepik River and its people. Photo supplied.

Ken Golding | Echo Net | 21 September 2018

The people of the Sepik River in Papua New Guinea understand the threat to their lives and culture from the Chinese-owned copper and gold mine that is currently being proposed to be built on the Frieda River, a tributary of the headwaters of the Sepik River.

My partner Raine Sharpe, myself and Keith O’Neill have just returned from the remote Sepik River in Papua New Guinea. We were part of the Northern Rivers Folk Choir that responded to invitations from the people of The Sepik to live with them, share their culture and help alert the world to the threat to their lives from the copper and gold mine being proposed.

Rich culture

We were welcomed into their homes, their daily life and their rich and colourful culture. Sepik people are warm, generous, and intelligent with a great sense of humour. They are renowned for the quality of their artistic cultural expression and live an ecologically aware life described by PNG ABC journalist Sean Dorney as ‘affluent subsistence’.

The Sepik River is 1,200 kilometres long and is the largest uncontaminated freshwater system in the Asia Pacific region. Rising in the Central Highlands it winds its serpentine way through mountains, rainforest and wetlands to the ocean. People have lived on the Sepik for many thousands of years.

Poisoned river

The second-largest river in PNG is the Fly River. In the 1970s Australian mining companies built Ok Tedi, a huge copper and gold mine on the river’s headwaters. This mine became the scene of what is now recognised as the biggest ecological disaster in the world.

Discharging 80 million tonnes of contaminated tailings and mining erosion into the river system each year has caused 1,300 square kilometres of the river to be irrevocably damaged. People of the Fly River now suffer serious health problems with their main sources of food and water subjected to heavy-metal poisoning.

No social licence

I’m drawing the comparison between these two magnificent river systems because the mine proposed by the Chinese-owned Australian mining company PanAust that is preparing to build a gold and copper mine on the Sepik river system is as big, if not bigger than, Ok Tedi mine.

The people of the Sepik fear for their future and their way of life. They know about the damage to the Fly River and its people and are deeply fearful that the Freida mine is another Ok Tedi in the making. So far there has been minimal community consultation and the Sepik people consider the mine does not have a social licence to go ahead.

We have a deep sense of shame that an Australian company recklessly inflicted damage on the Fly River and its people.

The Sepik River is the lifeblood of its people. The children of the village we stayed with are healthy and vibrant. Their delight and laughter melted our hearts.

Professor Tim Flannery says he cannot think of a worse place for a copper mine. Surely we cannot allow an ecological disaster to happen again.

Raise awareness

To raise awareness and funds in support of the people of the Sepik we are holding an evening event Tales of the Sepik River in Mullumbimby on Saturday September 29 at 6.30pm.

If you want to know more about this event email raines@australis.net.

If you want to know more about the people of the Sepik, and the Frieda mine, go to Save the Sepik River and its people on Facebook.

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Chinese looking to cut costs for Frieda river mine

What will be the costs for the environment and the mighty Sepik river as PanAust looks to “decrease capital expenditure”?

Frieda River upside options explored

PNG Industry News | 16 February 2018 

THE Frieda River copper-gold project in Papua New Guinea’s Sandaun Province represents PanAust’s long-term strategic growth opportunity.

This was said by PanAust managing director Fred Hess when he presented the company’s quarterly report for December 2017 this week.

[PanAust is wholly owned by Chinese State company, Guangdong Rising Assets Management Co. Ltd (GRAM)]

“In 2017, we made strides towards making the project a reality through identifying opportunities to increase the value of the project, decrease capital expenditure, and reduce its overall risk profile. 

“We will continue to evaluate these opportunities in 2018,” Hess said. 

The company says it continues to liaise with PNG authorities on Frieda River following lodgement of a special mining lease (SML) application and environmental impact statement (EIS) with the Mineral Resources Authority (MRA) of Papua New Guinea and Conservation and Environment Protection Authority (CEPA) of PNG, respectively in 2016.

“The overall approval and permitting process for the SML application and other permits and approvals is now being coordinated by a government appointed state negotiating team, chaired by the Department of Mineral Policy and Geohazards Management.

PanAust says it is investigating opportunities to increase the value of the project and access alternative development pathways to decrease capital expenditure and reduce the overall Project risk profile. Study work to investigate these opportunities continued throughout the quarter, and indicate several potential pathways for value enhancement. The outcomes of this work will inform a decision as to whether an update to the project’s SML application will be made.

Hess added: “Looking to the year ahead, PanAust will look to further strengthen the relationships that have become integral to the company’s success, and are synonymous with how it conducts itself where ever it operates.

“The common currency of PanAust’s success is the strength of its relationships; relationships with our employees, communities, host governments, suppliers, peers, and partners. These relationships depend on trust and consistent transparent communication. This is what pushes PanAust way ahead and will continue to do so throughout 2018,” Hess said.

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Pundari discusses impact of Frieda mine

Sssh – don’t mention the Chinese!

Funny how the media can report so many ‘facts’ about the proposed Frieda river mine, including, supposedly its ownership, but leave out the fact that it is the Chinese State owned Guangdong Rising Assets Management Co. Ltd (GRAM) that owns PanAust, the company developing the mine…

The National aka The Loggers Times | December 21, 2017

THE Conservation and Environment Protection Authority (CEPA) has received a notification of intention by PanAust to develop the Frieda gold mine as required under the Environment Act 2000.

As part of the process to obtain an Environment Permit to develop the mine, the company has met the initial requirements of the legal process by submitting to the Director for Environment an Environment Inception Report.

Information CEPA has to date on the proposed gold mine is contained in the Environment inception Report.

Based on the EIR the following information is known by CEPA:

Copper mineralisation was first identified at Freida River in 1966/67, with the first exploration permit (termed a Prospecting Authority) held by Mount Isa Mines Ltd.
Since that time, the area has had a long history of exploration activities undertaken by numerous companies, with exploration permits held from 1967 to the present day.
The project is located within the Sepik River catchment and would comprise development of the Horse-Ivaal-Trukai, Ekwai and Koki (HITEK) copper-gold deposit in Telefomin district, West Sepik.
The project lies some 200km south of the northern coastline of mainland PNG and 75km east of the border with the West Papuan province of Indonesia.
The project would be developed by FRL, a company owned by copper and gold producer PanAust Limited on behalf of the joint venture between FRL and Highlands Frieda Limited (HFL), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Highlands Pacific Limited (HPL).
These deposits contain significant gold and copper with an estimated mine life of 17 years.
The main activities associated with the development of the project would include:

  • A sire access road from the Sepik River to the mine site;
  • mining will be done via an open pit mine;
  • placing waste rock and tailings into an integrated storage facility;
  • processing ore in a conventional concentrator at a site adjacent to the open pit;
  • copper-gold concentrate transportation by pipeline to a Sepik River port then barging along the Sepik River and northern coast of PNG to the proposed concentrate export facility located at Cape Moem near Wewak;
  • power generation during operations using an intermediate fuel oil (IFO) power station then augmented by a hydroelectric power station;
  • an airport constructed at Kaugumi Creek to transport personnel to and from the site;
  • the viability of the Project reflects a combination of economic, engineering environmental and social consideration that have been assessed and presented in FRL’s proposal for development; and,
  • The proponent for the project is FRL as manager of the Freida River Joint Venture and on behalf of joint venture participants FRL and HFL.
  • The participants and their equity in the project are: PanAust Ltd (80 per cent), Highlands Freida Limited (20 per cent).

Pan Aust Limited is a copper and gold producer in Southeast Asia and has a portfolio of organic growth projects in Laos and Chile.

Processing method
The mine processing method will involve conventional crushing grinding and flotation circuit.
Mine tailings and waste rock will be contained within an engineered Integrated Storage Facility (ISF).
The mine will also have quarries to provide materials for the construction of dams, roads, water diversion bunds, infrastructure pads and the construction of the ISF embankment.

Power supply
During the construction phase, power generation will be provided by diesel generators.
Following construction phase and during operations, a portion of the power will be supported by hydroelectric power.

Raw water requirement & supply
The Nena River will supply all raw water requirements for the mine.

Main access road
A main access road will connect the Sepik River port, Kaugumi Creek airport, Freida River airstrip, IFO power station, ISF, process plant, mine infrastructure area and accommodation camps.

River ports
Construction: Freida River port and Sepik River port will accommodate transport of construction materials to the mine site.
The Wario River port, adjacent to Nekiel, will provide access for construction of the main access roads.
Operations: The Sepik River port will be used for import of equipment and consumables and export of concentrate. A tugboat refuelling facility will be located at Pagwi and a mooring point will be located upstream of Yambon Gate.

Logistics
Mine equipment and consumable will be received at the Port of Wewak where it will be transferred to barges, transported to the Sepik River and then trucked to site. Concentrate will be transported in barges along the Sepik River and the Bismark coast to a new concentrate export facility at Cape Moem.
Accommodation construction: Main (mine camp) – accommodation for 1500 personnel and various other accommodation facilities at different locations.
Construction: Peak construction workforce of 3720 personnel.
Operations: About 2000 personnel with a further 1000 ISF contractors in Years 1 to 9 ongoing construction campaigns for the ISF.

Main airport
Existing Freida River airstrip to start followed by a new airport to be constructed at Kaugumi Creek.

Tailings management
Integrated Storage Facility (ISF) will be constructed in the lower Nena River catchment about 4.5km upstream of its confluence with the Ok Binai.
Along with the large open-pit void, it will be the most prominent feature of the mine.
The primary design objective of the ISF is to safely store tailings and waste produced by the mining and milling operation.
This design has been subject to international expert peer review by Pan Aust’s ITGRP, which has been established to access the adequacy of the design of the ISF and the underlying studies informing this design, and to provide recommendations on additional studies or evaluations to address areas of uncertainty.

Environment regulatory process
The environment regulatory requirements for satisfying the environment impact assessment process as contained in the Environment Act 2000 is as follows:

  • Submission of EIR;
  • approval of EIR;
  • conduct of environment impact assessment;
  • submission of EIS;
  • stakeholder consultation on EIS;
  • preparation of submission to Environment Council;
  • Environment Council recommendation to Minister;
  • minister’s approval-in-principle; and,
  • Director of Environment issues Environment Permit.

The above process can take up nine months to complete and is also dependent on adequacy to technical information submitted.
CEPA will also conduct its independent peer review on critical aspects of the project submissions will then be presented to the Environment Council for deliberation and recommendation to the minister to issue an AIP.

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New governor signals approval for Frieda river mine

East Sepik’s new governor, Allan Bird, has signalled his approval for the planned Frieda river mine – all he wants is a government assurance ‘everything will be fine’ – SURELY HE IS NOT THAT STUPID?

Possible mining impact on Sepik river a concern

By Dorothy Mark | The National aka The Loggers Times | August 30, 2017

EAST Sepik Governor Allan Bird has warned that the start of the Frieda gold and copper mine on the border with West Sepik will depend on an assurance by the government that the river will not be polluted.

Bird said the people depended on the East Sepik River daily and did not want it polluted by the activities of the Frieda gold and copper mines.

He was responding to the concern raised by Madang provincial mines director John Bivi on the operation of the Wafi gold mine in Morobe, Marengo in Madang and Frieda in East Sepik.

Bivi requested Bird to highlight this problem in parliament if there is debate on the three mines to begin operating quickly.

Bird said he would not comment on Wafi and Marengo but he would see that the people of East Sepik get the maximum benefit from the Frieda mine.

“We don’t  want what happened at OK Tedi to happen to us. So we will be very careful with this one,” Bird said.

Ramu development foundation director Dr Boga Figa asked Bird to assist in any way possible to have a feasibility study carried out to construct a road from  Banu Bridge to Forogo which could link to East Sepik.

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Onus on Chinese to build a safe dam if large Sepik mine proceeds

Vanimo Harbour, West Sepik, Papua New Guinea. Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

Vanimo Harbour, West Sepik, Papua New Guinea. Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

Minister’s advisor has ‘fingers crossed’ the Chinese do the right thing and we don’t end up with another Ok Tedi. VERY REASSURING!

Radio New Zealand | 25 November 2016

The onus is on a Chinese developer to build a safe tailings dam if it proceeds with developing Papua New Guinea’s Frieda River mine.

A feasibility study was recently completed for the copper and gold mine in West Sepik province for which Chinese-owned company PanAust has lodged a special mining lease application.

The study unearthed an even larger copper deposit than previously estimated.

However, local communities are worried about potential mine tailings polluting the major Sepik River system.

Katherine Karaya, the first secretary to the Mining Minister Byron Chan, said the government acknowledges the need to have sound environmental expertise incorporated before the mine is developed.

“Well let’s hope that the Chinese do a good thing, the right thing, to build a dam,” she said.

“Let’s keep our fingers crossed. They say they can do it, they’ve done it before in China, so let’s wait and see. Only time will tell whether they can prove they can do it, or if not there’s going to be another lawsuit like the Ok Tedi thing.”

Ms Karaya said the Environment Minister would have to be satisfied with the miner’s plans before a mining license is granted.

A pre-requisite for a license, according to the Mineral Resources Authority, is an environmental permit approved by PNG’s Conservation and Environment Protection Authority.

The MRA has also said PanAust would build a damn that would be part of PNG’s largest land tailings storage facility to ensure tailings are not dumped in the Sepik River and its tributaries.

The facility could double up as a hydro power damn for generating electricity.

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Frieda Mine Road Construction a Threat to Upper Sepik Environment

frieda road sepik

William H. Townsend, Ph.D., P.E.

It is clear that constructing the Frieda Mine Access Road from Nikie to Kubkain by way of Yabatawe in East Sepik Province will have major impact on the forest along the road, which runs through several Sanio-Hiyewe communities. By damaging their sago and other food sources, a sustainable food supply will be threatened in this challenging environment.

I lived with the Saniyo-Hiyewe for 20 months in 1966-1967 and shorter periods between 1980 and 1984. One of my activities during this time was mapping ridges, swamp forests, and paths between villages. Another was weighing food and measuring sago stands.

In 1981 through 1984 I served the PNG Government as its technical advisor on the Ok Tedi Mine, reporting to the Secretary of Minerals and Energy and the Secretary of Finance. As a civil engineer, I was responsible to monitor construction of the mine and report on OTML’s progress as it affected local facilities and environmental impact. 

Responding to a Directive from Parliament in 1982, I did an inspection of the Access Road from Kiunga to Tabubil and reported back to Parliament. This inspection revealed that the construction of the road through rain forest was slower and more difficult than anticipated. The side cast method of road construction used there discarded topsoil away from the roadway, pushing it into the adjacent forest.  (See photo.)

If the same construction methods for mine access roads are used on the Frieda Mine that were used in Western Province, runoff will deposit materials that will damage the prime sago areas, which have taken generations to develop, and other food sources. Damage to the fragile forest during construction would take decades to remediate and restore sustainable living to the people of the Upper Sepik tributaries.

While commentators are rightly concerned about the massive damage that occurs from riverine disposal of mine wastes during production or through the failure of poorly constructed tailings dams after mine closure, vigilance is also necessary from the beginning of construction. Environmental damage from construction shortcuts is especially likely during the pre-production and early production phases, before the project returns a profit, as Ok Tedi should have taught us all.

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