The chiefs of 49 villages along the Avisak [Sepik River] together with Save the Sepik have organised 408 clans and 51 n’gegos [haus tambaran] into a united nation working to reject the proposed PanAust Frieda River mine
SEPIK RIVER - The Frieda River gold and copper mine can be likened to a vehicle.
When it first started, and was in the exploration stage, we the people of Avisak would see helicopters buzzing and whooshing across the sky almost every day, back and forth across the project site.
We would see barges and boats going up and down the Avisak.
We had numerous visits from the people of Xstrata. After a while, Xstrata was no more. In its place came PanAust.
The vehicle called ‘Frieda Mine’ was on the move. The sound of it throttling and accelerating its engine had everyone talking about it.
Some people told us it will bring development. Other people talked about the environmental destruction it would bring to Avisak.
Some people on the banks of Avisak were excited; others worried.
We were worried for Avisak. We feared Avisak would be lost forever.
But there was no one to listen to our fears and help us voice our concerns to the PanAust company, to the government and to the world.
In those uncertain times, when we were disempowered and felt helpless, we heard a voice from the distance.
It was a small voice and though small it was considerable and it was hope.
It shared our fears and concerns.
We identified that the voice was coming from an energy, a force.
We said we would give the voice a face, eyes, body, arms and legs. We will stand with that voice and give it power to speak for and on behalf of us for the Avisak.
Over the years, that voice grew and became very loud.
The united nations, tribes and clans of Avisak assembled to ensure the growing voice was not drowned.
We the united nations of the length and breadth of Avisak are now the voice.
That voice has become our voice, it became us, and it became Project Sepik.
Since Project Sepik started, it has been slowly dismantling the vehicle we call ‘Frieda Mine’.
When it released the reports with its partners, it removed the front right wheel of the vehicle.
When the n’gegos of Avisak united and issued the Supreme Sukundimi Declaration, we removed the left front wheel.
The East Sepik Provincial Assembly decision to reject the EIS Development Proposal removed the right back wheel with the support of the West Sepik Provincial Assembly.
When Allan Bird, our East Sepik Provincial Governor, issued a warning to the Papua New Guinea national government that he would take them to court if they pursued the Frieda mine, he helped removed the left back wheel.
The vehicle now sits idle and immobile. It cannot move without its wheels.
We saw the exploration come to a slow hum; engine running but immobile.
We celebrated but knew that the company would still come back for the treasures buried under the soils of Sepik, under our great lands.
We have realised that the engine is still running and in good condition. The company and the government want to come back to install new tyres to get it going but that will not happen.
We are many, we are united and strong. We will oppose the Frieda mine project and kill the engine.
Avisak is still not safe as long as the vehicle has potential to be back on the road.
The only way to protect Avisak is to destroy the engine.
We are fully behind Project Sepik to kill the engine once and for all.