Tag Archives: Sepik river

Who benefits from the exploitation of our natural resources?

Lester Seri

Last week the Sepik River People published a Public Announcement Advertisement, making clear their stand, “Ban Frieda River Mine”.  This is a repeat of their previous announcements to ban the mine.

Interesting to note that the Governor of the East Sepik Province rightly seem to be responsible and cautious by allowing for proper consultation and hearing everyone out in order to take a collective decision, but there are other MPs that seem to want the process fast tracked and give the green light for the mine development to take place quickly.

One wonders why the rush considering the enormity of the mining tasks involved of the planned project, the rugged geographical setting, and the likely social and environmental implications that might  arise out of it affecting the multitude of the people in the area, as we have seen in the other mines such as, Ok Tedi, Pogera, and Bougainville to name a few?

It seems like we have never learnt any lessons from these other mine projects to do a better job in order to minimize social and environmental impacts while improving on just and equitable sharing and distribution of the benefits from the proceeds of the mineral exports?

For whatever number of years that Ok Tedi and Pogera Mines have been in operation and the billions of revenue these mines have generated, it is beyond belief that little if any has change in the lives of the landowners and the surrounding communities, I mean basic necessities such as improved income,  electricity, water supply, hausik and medicines, schools, and better constructed road network, and business opportunities for the people in the region. How does one explain this real hard reality situation that we are experiencing in Papua New Guinea, after 42 years of political independence and billions of dollars of revenue generated?

The same could be said about our people on Bougainville Island, after how many years of the Panguna Mine and the many many millions of Kina that it generated, and after the mine closed due to civil war, what is there to show for, in terms of “development”, in real terms? The same could be said of the Misima mine and the people too?

I guess the question that needs answering is, who has and is actually benefiting out of the exploitation of our precious natural resources? More precisely, how are our own people, especially in the rural areas of these multi-billion dollar project areas, really benefiting? The fact that as citizens, we barely scrape through every year despite billions of Kina annual budget being handed down, and effectively there is nothing to show for, is quite troubling to live with.

May be, as a People and a Nation, we should acknowledge the stand taken and the call made by the Sepik River People, this time, and take a step back and critically look at our natural resources extraction policies, laws and strategies again by identifying those serious issues and problems that we have had and faced in the last 42 years, and answer the question, why have we not done well and made any real progress in our development endeavour, in order to do what might be the right thing or way to do to realize that collective desired progressive difference? This challenge should not be that difficult to do as there have been and continue to be scores of scholarly papers / books that have been written about PNG experience over the years relating to our developmental challenges that should guide us to do the right thing, for once!

One problem for sure, in my humble view, is that, in the course of the 42 years of our independence, we have had all the time and opportunity to take a bold stance and make major policy shift to make a big  and better difference but we just did not have that, bold, strong, honest and responsible leadership to do it, and our situation and sufferings today is a testament, that we had quality leadership failure. We need good, strong, bold, determined and responsible leadership with moral authority committed to doing the right thing by their people for now and into the future. 

It is my greatest hope that the Governor of East Sepik and the Leaders responsible for this major mine development will take heed of the our peoples’ call and do what is proper and right by all and guide the nation along a more prosperous developmental path into the future, a better one than what we have been through thus far?

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Environmental impact, Financial returns, Human rights, Papua New Guinea

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Environmental impact, Human rights, Papua New Guinea

MPs: ‘Stop misleading people on environmental pollution’

Frieda river mine camp

Sepik MPs denying history and the lessons learned from pollution at the ‘World Class’ Ok Tedi, Panguna, Porgera and Tolukuma mines…

The National aka The Loggers Times | January 18, 2019

Three Sepik MPs are appealing to East and West Sepik leaders to stop misleading the local people on environmental pollution caused by the Frieda River project.

Yangoru-Saussia MP and National Planning Minister Richard Maru, Telefomin MP Solan Mirisim and Ambunti-Drekikir MP Johnson Wapunai supported development of the project.

They said developer, PanAust, had revised its design to include a 320km pipeline to transport slurry to Vanimo for export.

Maru said he did not support the project at first because the proposal was for copper slurry to go down the Sepik River by barge to sea.

“I did not want to compromise the Sepik River in any way because of the experiences we’ve learnt from the Ok Tedi mine,” he said.

“I am extremely happy that the new developer has changed the development plan for the Frieda mine.

“They will now build a 320km pipeline to take the slurry from Frieda all the way to Vanimo.

“In line with that development plan, our Government has now funded the feasibility study and design of the new Vanimo wharf at a cost of over K30 million.

“The work is going on now.

“We expect that the feasibility study and the design will be completed by around March, latest April.

“Our Government has been proactive in making sure we have a wharf which shall cater for the requirements of the gold mine, Bewani oil palm project and vast economic activities that we want to create in the special economic zone in Vanimo.

“This is for us to trade into Asia using Vanimo as the major export port.

“I would like to appeal to East Sepik and West Sepik leaders to stop misleading the people of West and East Sepik and create unnecessary fear among them.”

Maru urged leaders and the public to get behind local MPs Mirisim and Wapunai and support development of the project.

“We are thankful that the developer has already submitted mine development plan and the application for special mining licence (SML) to the Mineral Resources Authority (MRA),” he said.

“We, as the leaders of East and West Sepik, will get behind this project, work with the NEC (National Executive Council) and the prime minister and not only deliver the Wafi-Golpu mine but the Frieda River mine also.”

The three MPs responded to recent awareness carried out by tertiary students on the environmental effects of the mine.

They said the environment would not be compromised in any way and the benefit streams were far better than what the Government and people have enjoyed in other mining projects.

The total cost of the project is estimated to be US$739 million (K2,443.50).

Leave a comment

Filed under Environmental impact, Mine construction, Papua New Guinea

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.”

2 Comments

Filed under Human rights, Mine construction, Papua New Guinea

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Environmental impact, Human rights, Papua New Guinea

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.

1 Comment

Filed under Environmental impact, Mine construction, Papua New Guinea

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Environmental impact, Financial returns, Papua New Guinea