UN Special Rapporteurs concerned over Frieda mine

Sep 28, 2020


Monday 28 September 2020

Ten UN Special Rapporteurs concerned that proposed Frieda River mine disregards human rights

Image above [left to right]: Scientist and water specialist, Matilda Koma, Mr Peter Bosip, Executive Director, Center for Environmental Law and Community Rights, Zephaniah Winduo Aaron & Vernon Gawi, Project Sepik

PORT MORESBY | Ten UN Special Rapporteurs, along with the UN Working Group on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations, have written to the PNG Government to raise their concerns about the proposed Frieda River mine and the risk of failure of its proposed tailings dam. 

The letter, which was recently released, raised ‘serious concerns’ about the human rights impacts of the project, including the rights to life, health, bodily integrity, water and food, and the right to free, prior and informed consent. The letter also raised concerns that the people of the Sepik River ‘will be forced to bear the costs of the Project in perpetuity.’

Mr Emmanuel Peni, Co-ordinator of Project Sepik, said, “We are optimistic about the success of our campaign to Ban the Frieda Mine given that representatives of the United Nations have raised their concerns with the Government of Papua New Guinea.”

Mr Peter Bosip, Executive Director of the Centre for Environmental Law and Community Rights (CELCOR) Inc. said, “The address by the Special Rapporteurs to the Government of Papua New Guinea in relation to the impact of the Frieda River gold and copper mine is very important and should be considered seriously.

“This statement is not made by one, but ten different Special Rapporteurs, who have united to highlight these issues with our national government. This emphasises the importance of protecting human rights and the well being of the future generations in the Sepik Region; and PNG as a whole.

“This address shows how serious the risk posed by the Frieda River mine to the Sepik really is. Never before in this country have I come across such a powerful international statement issued before a mine has been approved or had one piece of pipeline built,” said Mr Bosip.

The letter further stated, “We remain concerned that critical information about the tailings dam, including the dam break analysis, has been made neither publicly available nor available to affected community members and human rights defenders who request it.”

Other concerns highlighted in the letter to the PNG Government included the risk of a major earthquake in the project area that could damage the tailings dam – with potential impacts that would endure for millions of years – and the risk of pollution from toxic wastes along more than 320 km of pipelines.

“It is heartening for all Sepik peoples to know that their voices have been heard, and responded to in a powerful way by the lead investigators of these issues in the world today,” said Mr Peni.

The letter follows an urgent appeal to the UN Special Rapporteur on Toxic Wastes, which was filed in May 2020 by Project Sepik and CELCOR.

The UN Special Rapporteurs stressed the challenge that Papua New Guinea would face in monitoring the tailings dam’s maintenance while the mine was operational, and that Papua New Guinea would have to take on the maintenance of the tailings dam for the rest of time.

“It is our desire that the Government of Papua New Guinea will heed these concerns and that it will reject the Frieda River mine from going ahead,” said Mr Peni.

“With such strong international attention on this issue, we believe that the Conservation and Environment Protection Authority (CEPA) must reject the company’s Environmental Impact Statement and the Frieda River mine project outright,” said Mr Peni. “The Mineral Resources Authority must also use its power to stop this mine from going ahead, and refuse to approve the project and the proposed tailings dam.”

A short film launched this week internationally is available here and may be used freely in media reporting.

Project Sepik and CELCOR will be hosting a press conference about the letters from 10:00am-12 noon at the Ela Beach Hotel in Port Moresby.


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