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Frieda mine ban campaign steps up

| Coordinator, Project Sepik

SEPIK RIVER – An historic customary declaration has been issued to the Papua New Guinea government by the spiritual guardians of the Sepik River, the customary clan leaders.

The Supreme Sukundimi Declaration calls for a complete ban on the proposed Frieda River mine, which would be the largest mine in PNG history.

“The river is the life of the Sepik and therefore it must be protected at all cost,” the declaration states.

“It is our innate role to guard the river against exploitation and destruction by outsiders.

Kanganamun Haus Tambaran

Our future is in peril from this proposed mine and therefore, we have gathered together as guardians of the river to stand firm as one.”

The Supreme Sukundimi is a unanimous coalition of traditional clan leaders from 28 Haus Tambarans (‘spirit houses’) along the Sepik River.

They represent some 78,000 people from 25 villages.

The declaration process was facilitated by Project Sepik, a not-for-profit organisation based in PNG.

The Supreme Sukundimi Declaration is the first declaration ever issued by Haus Tambarans in PNG.

It recognises traditional laws of resource management and the voice and authority of traditional leaders that are often overlooked in the development of large-scale mining projects in our country.

The Supreme Sukundimi Declaration emphatically proclaims that the authority of the Haus Tambarans is continuing authority. It is a powerful call to our elected PNG government.

The Supreme Sukundimi Declaration is admissible in court, a significant document which gives the people along the river legal grounding in their fight to stop the Frieda Mine.

Korogu Haus Tambaran

As places of governance and culture in PNG, Haus Tambarans are world-renowned for their intricate painting, carving and architecture.

They are seen as the parliament houses of each village in PNG’s remote Sepik region, and host to initiations, decision making, politics, spiritual and cultural life.

The Australian registered company PanAust has proposed the Frieda River copper and gold mine, which would be the largest mine in PNG’s history and among the largest in the world.

The project will include one of the largest proposed dams in the world and will store toxic tailings waste in perpetuity in an area of biodiverse rainforest that has been tentatively listed for World Heritage Status.

If the dam collapses it will be catastrophic and destroy the Sepik River and our way of life.

We need to ensure that the Sepik is protected. It is our identity, our life, and the heartbeat of our culture.

A life without the Sepik River as we know it would devastate our communities forever.


Extract from the Supreme Sukundimi Declaration

The Supreme Sukundimi, through the Haus Tambarans, issues a specific warning to those who are a threat to the life of Sepik. This warning is declared to the following:

  • The Government of East and West Sepik Province;
  • Politicians of the Government of PNG;
  • Leaders of regulatory and statutory authorities;
  • Leaders of industry bodies who are proponents of the Frieda River Mine;
  • Frieda River Limited and PanAust;
  • Investors, silent donors and insurance companies; and
  • All other organisations and individuals supporting the Frieda River Mine.
Palrimbe Haus Tambaran

The Sepik River is not ours. We are only vessels of the Sepik Spirit that dwells to protect it. We will guard it with our lives.

The Supreme Sukundimi represents approximately 78,000 people across 28 Haus Tambarans from the following 25 villages along the Sepik River: Swagap, Kamanimbit, Bin, Palrimbe, Karau, Enginmangua, Angriman, Singrin, Yuaruman, Yanjan, Niaurange, Timbunke, Kopar, Mendam, Marianneberg, Kandingei, Tambunum, Watam, Kanganamun, Murik, Korogu, Kringjambin, Wang ngan, Moim, Kararau

View the Supreme Sukundimi Declaration here

Download Background Paper_Supreme Sukundimi Declaration


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Martin Kaalund

From Radio New Zealand and Facebook I gather....

A new landing, road and new airstrip north-west of Iniok. Road from old airstrip to Nena prospect. Up river Idam and Yabilhanga logging apace.

There have been complaints from downstream villages that the tugs are stirring the river up. Otherwise trade stores Pagwei and Ambunti going well.

I suspect that Yilui and the Tais could be logged already or even years ago. This could lead to erosion at Yilui and the main channel moved closer.

If the people could get access to timber they love building, but how? No sawmills.

All mothers need reticulated water and light if they have a sick child on a rainy night.

Michael Dom

Not just another essay after all. Maybe there's been a paradigm shift, or the psyche of the Sepik has been touched by the broad and deep implications of Frieda mine.

Ed Brumby

Fair point, Martin - thank you. That said, I was/am aware of the tragedy of the logging. Even back in 1966 I would watch the rafts of cut logs floating past Angoram on their way to be milled at Taway - and worry about the damage being wrought.

Arthur Williams

SABL Case Study No. 5 - Belden Namah and Bewani Palm Oil Limited (SABL Commission of Inquiry Report 1: pages 125-143)

“What was particularly unacceptable … is the fact that this SABL was granted to an entity which had already been sold for ‘cash’ by its original one man owner (Mr Belden Norman Namah) to another one man owner (Mr Jimmy Tse).

"The latter had nothing in common with the resource owners. He particularly did not have their informed approval under law to be the sole owner of the SABL title holder” [p138]....

"In March 2009, Jimmy Tse transferred all the one million shares for one kina - 800,000 to Million Miles Group Ltd of Singapore; 150,000 to Bewani Palms Management Ltd in trust for four landowner groups; and 50,000 shares to Bewani Palms Management Ltd.

"Million Miles Group Ltd (MMG) has its registered office in the British Virgin Islands."

(I guess BVI is one of several tax havens for spivs in PNG and worldwide. Yet the tiny island leaders were crying for help after 2017 Hurricane Irma as none of its 400,000 -800,000 registered companies could help!))

Of course MP Namah may have been cleared of this slur on his name and is now Mr Squeaky Clean trying to rid the nation of the other corrupt elites.

Mind Bewani is only one of many since declared illegal SABL that Martin hinted at in wanting aerial pic of Sepik.

Isn't it strange how Ed Schering defender of Barrack in Enga is quiet on this Sepik mining future project.

Bernard Corden

Some more interesting links:

Kumamaliyowgwi Peni

My name is Kumamaliyowgwi and I am from the Nongusime Tribe of the village Korogu in the middle Sepik River.

In the days of old of my ancestors, the village elders would sit in the Haus Tambaran and plan war against any neighbouring village that threatened our village. Just one village fighting against another village along the Sepik River.

Today history has been made since people settled along the great mighty Sepik River from the top end of the river to the mouth of river have issued the Supreme Sukundimi Declaration.

We have 28 Haus Tambarans along the Sepik River agreeing to stand together and fight together for our river.

The Supreme Sukundimi Declaration is very very powerful. The source of our lives, the Sepik River, is threatened and we are all ready to fight.

Michael Dom

Em nau. Kain olsem.

Martin Kaalund

Ed - Could you consult an aerial photograph of the area. You will see logging apace. Loading at Log Point, Mahani, Yabilhanga, Green River and Sepik River.

You talk as though nothing has happened already.

Ed Brumby

May the Tambaran spirits, and the clear will of the Sepik people prevail and prevent the prospect of potential disaster.

May the provincial governors, politicians, bureaucrats and mine owners and investors heed the call.

May Manu Peni maintain his resolve and dedication in leading the fight to protect the mighty Sepik.

Zephaniah Winduo Aaron

We the people of Sepik River pay homage to our cultural heritage and pledge to stand together as one Sepik voice to protect Sepik river, the source of our traditional livelihood that sustained us in this modern society.

Philip Fitzpatrick

The perfidy of some mining companies is boundless.

Rio Tinto, which has a profound environmental and social mission statement, has still just managed to destroy a cave in Australia with rock art dating back 46,000 years despite appeals from the traditional owners.

It is governments that let them get away with this sort of carnage and irresponsibility.

Bernard Corden

Rio Tinto blasting of 46,000-year-old Aboriginal sites compared to Islamic State's destruction in Palmyra

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