The area at Frieda River has been described as ‘one of the largest known undeveloped copper and gold deposits in the world’.
However, this deposit is located in an area tentatively listed for World Heritage Status, in remote and mountainous terrain with extremely high rainfall and seismic activity.
These factors, combined with PNG’s history of damaging mining projects, could spell a catastrophic disaster for the Sepik river and its peoples, that could take decades, if not centuries, to recover.
The Frieda River mine is estimated to be one of the largest in the world. In terms of tonnes of ore and waste rock produced, it would be the size of the rest of the entire PNG mining industry: Ok Tedi, Panguna, Porgera, Lihir, Hidden Valley and Golpu all put together.
The Frieda River mine is being developed as part of the Sepik Infrastructure Development Project (Project). In addition to the Frieda River mine the Project will include a hydroelectric plant, an infrastructure project and a power grid.
The Project will involve the construction of a massive tailings dam (approx. 2.5 times the size of Sydney Harbour). The tailings in the dam will need to be stored under water forever, in order to remain inactive.
The Project is being developed in seismically active area of PNG and is subject to extreme rainfall. This means the Frieda River mine will be a disaster waiting to happen.
The Sepik River mine is situated in Zone One and Zone Two of the Ring of Fire. It’s a highly volatile zone. Every day there is movement in the Earth. You simply cannot safely build a mine on Zone One and Zone Two of the Ring of Fire.
– Emmanuel Peni, Project Sepik
WHO WOULD RUN THE MINE?
The mine would be run by Frieda River Ltd, a subsidiary of PanAust. PanAust is an Australian registered and incorporated company owned by Guangdong Rising H.K (Holding) Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of Guangdong Rising Assets Management Co. Ltd (GRAM).
GRAM is a Chinese state-owned company regulated under the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, the People’s Government of the Guangdong Province in China. GRAM operates as an investment company in mineral resource development, electronics, industrial waste management, real estate and finance.
WHY SHOULD THE PROJECT BE REJECTED?
There are three main reasons why the Project should be rejected:
- Like the infamous Ok Tedi mine in Western Province, it is a disaster waiting to happen
- There is no evidence of free and prior informed consent
- The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is severely deficient
A DISASTER WAITING TO HAPPEN
Like Ok Tedi, the Project is a disaster waiting to happen because:
- The Project will involve the construction of a massive tailings dam or Integrated Storage Facility (ISF or Dam).
- The tailings in the Dam will need to be stored under water forever, in order to remain inactive.
- The Project is being developed in a seismically active area of PNG which is subject to extreme rainfall.
- At the same time, the EIS does not adequately detail who is responsible for the ongoing management and maintenance of the Dam after the mine is closed and PanAust are long gone, as well as where the funding necessary to carry out the necessary work will come from.
- Therefore, the likelihood of the Dam breaking at some point in time, is a statistical inevitability. That is there is a 100% chance that the Dam will break. It is just a matter of time.
- The dam break analysis, which is not included in the EIS, has indicated that up to 30 villages would be affected by a catastrophic event resulting in the dam breaking; with substantial loss of life expected. So, there is a 100% chance that lives will be lost as a result of the failure of the Dam.
- In addition, just like Ok Tedi, there will be catastrophic consequences with toxic tailings polluting the Sepik River system.
NO EVIDENCE OF FREE, PRIOR AND INFORMED CONSENT
There is no evidence of free, prior and informed consent of all impacted customary landowners in the EIS, including communities on the mine site and along the Frieda and Sepik Rivers. This evidence is essential for the Project to proceed.
THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT IS SEVERELY DEFICIENT
The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is deficient in respect of a range of critical matters, including the following:
- The EIS is missing critical reports. In particular, critical underlying reports relating to the Dam and seismic reports have not been provided with the EIS, yet are relied upon by the EIS.
- The EIS is focused on the construction phase and there is insufficient information (and in some cases no information) on the environmental impacts on the operation and closure of the Project.
- Significant elements of the Project have not been assessed at all, including the 325km pipeline, airport, 5 major and 16 smaller bridges and all roads. Each of these elements, if being developed alone, would require an environmental impact statement. Therefore, they need to be addressed in the EIS
- The EIS does not detail the Resettlement Plan necessary for the 4 villages identified as requiring relocation. There is also no adequate discussion of consent for the project from these villagers having been achieved. An EIS should disclose whether consent has been granted from affected villages.
- There is no cost benefit analysis and the EIS does not adequately account for the impacts and their associated costs. Further, the EIS inappropriately attributes benefits of the project to the PNG people (i.e. profit and GDP increase) when they are only benefits to the mining company.
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