MEDIA RELEASE: Ban the Frieda River Mine!

May 29, 2020


Friday 29 May 2020

Ban the Frieda River Mine!

Historic customary declaration issued to PNG government by spiritual guardians of the Sepik

Customary clan leaders of Haus Tambarans in Papua New Guinea have issued an historic Declaration to the PNG government. 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. It is our innate role to guard the River against exploitation and destruction by outsiders. 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,” declares the Supreme Sukundimi.

The Supreme Sukundimi Declaration issued by the Supreme Sukundimi, a unanimous coalition of traditional clan leaders from 28 Haus Tambarans (‘spirit houses’) along the Sepik River, represent approximately 78,000 people from 25 villages. The Declaration process was facilitated by Project Sepik, a not-for-profit organisation based in Papua New Guinea.

“The Supreme Sukundimi Declaration is the first Declaration ever issued by Haus Tambarans in PNG.” said Emmanuel Peni, Project Co-ordinator of Project Sepik. “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 declares that the authority of the Haus Tambarans is continuing and of 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.” 

As a place 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/gold mine. It 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,” said Mr Peni.  

In addition to the Supreme Sukundimi Declaration, over 6,000 signatures have been collected from villagers of the Upper Sepik region opposing the mine by Project Sepik, and over 2,400 people have sent letters to PNG’s environmental authority asking that the mine be rejected.

View the Supreme Sukundimi Declaration:


For more information
Emmanuel Peni, Project Sepik, +675 7369 6248 or penimanu[at] (Papua New Guinea)


The Sepik region is one of the most culturally and biodiverse areas on the planet


Frieda River mine project one of the largest known copper and gold deposits in the world


Nominating the Sepik regions rich cultural heritage for World Heritage listing


Show your solidarity by taking action to call for the Rejection of the Frieda River mine

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