Stand up against Frieda River mine


IT has come to my attention in Canada that the PanAust Mining Corporation is proposing a massive open-pit copper and gold in the Frieda River watershed of East Sepik.
As an expat who has loved Papua New Guinea and its people since days of working and teaching in Mt Hagen and Minj in 1973-1974 and as someone who lived through the opening days of PNG self-government and the lead-up to Independence, I hesitate to be perceived as attempting to impose my thoughts and opinions on Papua New Guineans.
But when I observe international corporations potentially unfairly exploiting the country and its resources, I feel obliged to expose corporate the abuser of the environmental regulatory process in the young country.
PanAust Mining has submitted a 6,000-page environmental impact statement (EIS) to the Conservation and Environment Protection Agency (Cepa) in accordance with the requirements of the PNG environmental assessment regulations as applied to the proposed Frieda River mine.
Part of that statement is an economic feasibility study assessing future profitability of the mine.
I feel it is essential that the information put forward by the proponent in that study be accurate and true to reality as possible.
The task of ensuring the legitimacy of the statement put forward by international consultants on PanAust’s behalf falls to PNG’s national leadership.
It is a sad fact of environmental assessment worldwide that international consultants often create the illusion of profitability and sustainability of mining proposals where neither exists.
These proposals are often a part of investment games that are highly profitable for corporations, but leave the exploited countries and their population at the mercy of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
PNG leadership should recognise the threat that the Frieda River mine poses to the social, economic, environmental and ecological integrity of the Sepik watershed, East Sepik and the whole of PNG.
Even if the Frieda River held out hope of being profitable, it would be an environmental disaster.
The reality that it is a financial disaster in-the-making should be solid motivation for Papua New Guineans and their leadership to reject this monstrous attack on the future of their beautiful treasured island nation.

Lawrence Wuest,