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Frieda River mine ‘unfit for purpose’

The Frieda River


WEWAK - A civil society organisation, Project Sepik, has called for the rejection of the proposed Frieda River mine saying that the environmental impact statement is ‘unfit for purpose’.

The copper and gold mine proposed to be located in the remote Sepik region, would be the largest ever mine in Papua New Guinea and one of the largest in the world.

Project Sepik’s call came after it obtained 10 expert reports submitted to PNG’s Conservation and Environmental Protection Authority showing that, if the mine were to go ahead, the region could face catastrophic and permanent destruction.

The reports revealed that the environmental impact statement (EIS) did nothing to reassure the experts that there is any safe or secure way to store the massive amount of mine waste (tailings) without damaging the river.

The project is being developed in a seismically active area of PNG which is also subject to extreme rainfall. The likelihood of the tailings dam breaking at some point in time, and causing catastrophic damage, is inevitable.

Furthermore, the EIS shows no evidence of free, prior and informed consent by all impacted customary landowners, including communities on the mine site and along the Frieda and Sepik Rivers.

“This evidence is essential for the project to proceed,” Project Sepik says.

FriedaThe expert submissions also disclose that the EIS is missing critical reports and information that would normally be necessary in any comprehensive assessment.

Crucial reports relating to the tailings dam and seismic reports have not been provided.

The EIS is also missing vital information about the operation and closure of the mine, an assessment of the proposed airport and a resettlement plan for the four villages requiring relocation.

It is also missing a cost-benefit analysis.

“We have long said that this mine could not be built safely, and now these 10 expert reports prove it,’ said Emmanuel Peni, of Project Sepik coordinator.

“We call upon the Conservation and Environmental Protection Authority to reject this incomplete and defective EIS and reject this project.

“The people living on the Sepik and across PNG need the organisation that is supposed to protect their land and waterways to step up and stop these foreign companies from destroying their rivers for profit,” Mr Peni said.

“The 100,000 people who live on the Sepik don’t want this mine.

“It will not bring the promised benefits to my people and it will endanger the beautiful Sepik river, which provides us not only with our home but our livelihood and also defines our identity.”

Project Sepik submitted its expert reports as it launched a new ‘Save the Sepik’ campaign in conjunction with Australian partners Jubilee Australia and AID/WATCH.

“We have seen this movie of Australian-based companies causing havoc to PNG’s rivers before,” said Dr Luke Fletcher, executive director of the Jubilee Australia Research Centre.

“We all remember BHP’s Ok Tedi disaster, and we are still tracking the ongoing tailings disaster in Bougainville.

“In both cases the tailings released into these rivers contaminated and killed fish, caused mass flooding and the spread of contaminated mud, decimated land previously used for growing food and led to the leaching of heavy metals in a chemical process called acid rock drainage.

“The Australian-sanctioned destruction of PNG’s natural environment must end now with the rejection of Pan Aust’s irresponsible plans for the Sepik.

“The Sepik region is a haven of biodiversity.”

The Frieda River mine has been proposed by an Australian registered company, PanAust, which is owned by Chinese state-owned enterprise Guandong Rising Asset Management.

In 2006, the Upper Sepik River Basin was transitionally listed for World Heritage Status by the PNG government.


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John Samar | Former OTML employee and consultant

I have worked for Ok Tedi Mining Ltd (OTML) and have seen the massive permanent environment damage done to the Ok Tedi and Fly River systems and wish that nothing like that should ever happen to my pristine Sepik River.

I am from the Wewak islands and my island people rely on fish to sustain their livelihood.

I understand that scientist, Dr Alan Tingay has produced an independent report on the massive permanent environmental damage done to the Ok Tedi and Fly Rivers.

People need to read his report to ensure that nothing like that happens in the Sepik River region again.

I have also witnessed environmental damage to the Kawerong River in Bougainville from the Panguna mine.

So I recommend that Frieda be left alone. PNG has enough copper and gold mines to earn money for less than 11 million people.

Bernard Corden

The following link provides access to an article covering pollution at Glencore's Bing Bong port near Borroloola in the Gulf of Carpentaria:


The non-executive chairperson of its parent company is none other the Tony (I'd like my life back) Hayward, who once proclaimed during a Stanford Business School lecture...…."Our primary purpose in life is to create value for our shareholders. In order to do that you have to take care of the world."





An order of chivalry is imminent.

Arthur Williams

Everyone now seems to accept oceans used for disposal of mining filth. It is said to be banned in Australia. Is that correct?

Below I copy part of a 2002 report for the Lihir gold mine
It is sobering reading and Woodlark is to join growing mine companies using PNG rivers and oceans like their personal long drop.

Why are we still allowing this crazy disgusting habit of miners and their anal waste product disposal?
2002 Report by Elizabeth McKinnon ‘Environmental impact of mining waste disposal at Lihir Mine

Lihir mine got permission to dispose of its tailings after the cyanide process had got the gold.

They used barges to motor out to about 1km and dump 89 million tonnes of cyanide contaminated tailings and 330 million tonnes of waste rock into the ocean.

That is a disaster but as I was getting ready to leave the island in mid 1999 the company had a Lihir management strategies to manage mining waste There are 3 categories of waste to be disposed of at the mine site.

1. Dumping of waste rock at sea.

2. Submarine tailing deposition (STD) after processing. STD as an entity will be discussed below followed by a specific discussion on cyanide, the solvent used in processing.

3. Stockpiling of low-grade ore for later processing. Whilst not truly an immediate waste, the stockpile of rock will sit for up to 25 years and will have an effect on water concentrates of heavy metals as it is under the influence of water and weather during this time.

Dumping of waste rock at sea

The processing of 104 million tons of proved and probable ore reserves from the Lihir mine will create 341 million tons of waste rock.

While some rock will be used to extend the land area near Luise Caldera, most material will be disposed of in the ocean about 1 km from the shoreline.

Four barges operate 24 hours a day and dump between 1,400 and 4,600 tons of rock per hour (Shearman 2001). Barges operate 24 hours a day to dump waste rock outside the harbour.

Bernard Corden

Social licenses to operate are a patina of mendacity underpinned by a festering culture of deception. This was reflected via an adversarial and amoral internal memo from Norman Irving, the CSR personnel manager back in
1977……."Even if the workers die like flies, they will never be able to pin anything on CSR."

Civil action against CSR from former Wittenoom employees began in the 1970s and the organisation
relied on an enigmatic corporate veil to evade accountability and minimise its liabilities. The company
name was sanitised to Midalco (formerly Australian Blue Asbestos, a subsidiary of CSR). It was
discreetly stripped of any significant assets and provided with minimal insurance cover. The legal
process was quite complex and involved penetrating an intricate labyrinth of corporate deception and
establishing a causal nexus between asbestos exposure and mesothelioma.

After several prolonged battles a pyrrhic victory emerged via the Heys and Barrow case, which established a legal precedent. The defendant’s legal team adopted a brutal scorched earth policy and ruthlessly exploited the plaintiff’s limited life expectancy. Despite the botox, haute couture and Kallis pearls, an illegitimate daughter of
Satan, who eventually became our foreign minister, behaved with about as much compassion as Myra Hindley and resorted to sinister delay, deny and die tactics.

John Mackerell

I was working in Tabubil when the Ok Ma tailings dam collapsed. I was privy to a discussion between government representatives and BHP officials about what to do. What I witnessed then was treasonous to the people of the Fly. Unless they are very strong, the same will happen to the people of the Sepik.

Aisi Golina

Its time for a change.

Will write more in due course

Martin Kaalund

Has the Sepik River been bridged, one would think somewhere around Yapsei?

Bernard Corden

Worth a read:


There is no requirement to join any dots, it is just painting by numbers.

Catherine Tanna, a former executive with QGC is also head of the Chinese owned and Hong Kong based Energy Australia. Other sinecures include senior executive roles with the Reserve Bank of Australia and a recent appointment by Scomo to the National COVID Commission.

Alma mater colleagues include the former Queensland state premier, Anna Bligh, who now heads the Australian Banking Association and knows where all the bodies are buried, especially after the royal commission.


The late Reg Tanna was a former senior executive with the Gladstone Port Authority, which transformed a modest fishing harbour into an international coal export terminal. It is also the confluence of Queensland’s extensive coal seam gas network at nearby Curtis Island and the complex infrastructure did not suddenly or supernaturally transpire overnight.


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