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Villagers File Human Rights Complaint Over Giant PNG Gold Mine Project | Papua New Guinea

More than 2,000 people in 60 villages in northern Papua New Guinea – where the country’s largest gold, copper and silver mine is expected to be built – have filed a human rights complaint with the government. Australian government against developer PanAust.

The landowners of the proposed Frieda River mine, on a tributary of the Sepik in the north of the island of New Guinea, allege that PanAust did not obtain their consent.

Sepik Project Coordinator Emmanuel Peni said: “The failure of PanAust and its subsidiary Frieda River Limited to obtain the consent of the Sepik River communities violates their right as indigenous peoples to give their free, prior and free consent. informed about developments that affect them. . “

PanAust, an 80% shareholder in the project, is an Australian registered miner ultimately owned by the Chinese government and part of the state-owned company Guangdong Rising Assets Management.

The complaint also alleges that “the proposed mine poses a serious risk to the communities living on the Sepik River”. It was deposited – on behalf of members of the affected community by the local organization Project Sepik Inc and the Australian NGO Jubilee Australia Research Center – with the Australian National Contact Point for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD ).

While the complaint does not stop development, Jubilee Australia Executive Director Dr Luke Fletcher said he hoped the national contact point would assess the validity of the complaint, possibly reviewing the statement by ‘environmental impact of PanAust – which, according to the complainants, does not properly assess the impact of the project on water catchments – and the organization of meetings between the company, NGOs and Australian governments and PNG to “ find a negotiated settlement ”.

Fletcher said: “These communities have the right to have their voices heard and to decide what happens on their lands. The communities of Sepik River have clearly expressed their concerns about this mine, but so far those concerns have fallen on deaf ears.

“PanAust and its subsidiaries must suspend all development of the mine, as not all affected communities currently consent to the mine. “

The proposed 16,000-hectare mine would be built in one of the most earthquake-prone regions in the world, with an accompanying dam to store 1,500 megatonnes of waste.

Government officials, environmental groups and villagers living along the river have warned that the proposed dam is a potential environmental disaster that could wipe out entire villages in the event of a natural disaster.

The proposed Frieda River mine has been the subject of protests by residents of the Sepik River valley, downstream of the mine site. Photograph: Supplied

Similar concerns were raised by 10 UN special rapporteurs, who wrote to the governments of Papua New Guinea, Australia, China and Canada, as well as the promoters of the state-owned mine. Chinese, warning that the project for the largest mine in Papua New Guinea’s history carries the risk of catastrophic human loss and environmental destruction and “appears to ignore the human rights of those affected.”

PanAust says it conducted a “dam failure analysis” which ensured that “appropriate safety factors were incorporated into the design” of the dam.

“The likelihood of failure is very unlikely,” the company’s environmental impact statement said. “However, the extreme consequences of a complete failure leading to the uncontrolled release of large amounts of water and solids (from the placement of waste rock and tailings) would likely result in extreme environmental and social impacts downstream.”

The proposed mine is expected to produce gold, silver and copper worth an estimated US $ 1.5 billion per year for more than 30 years.

In response to detailed questions from the Guardian, a representative from PanAust said the company “politely declined the opportunity to comment.”

PanAust said in its environmental impact statement that the “nation-building project … presents vast opportunities for commercial and socio-economic development for Papua New Guinea.”

The mine plan also includes a hydroelectric power station, an electricity grid, and improvements to roads, airports and seaports.

PanAust said it is engaged in “an extensive and ongoing engagement … over decades” with those affected by the mine, holding briefings in nearly 140 villages attended by more than 18,000 people.

“Local opinions and issues were sought through engagement campaigns… formal and informal meetings with village chiefs and through socio-economic surveys conducted in villages between 2010 and 2018.”