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10 Dec 2021

Lyanne Togiba, The Guardian (UK)

Papua New Guinea: Indigenous communities file human rights complaint in Australia over Frieda River mine proposed by Chinese-owned PanAust

"Villagers file human rights complaint over plan for giant PNG goldmine" 10 December 2021

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

The landowners of the proposed Frieda River mine, on a tributary to the Sepik in the north of New Guinea island, allege that PanAust failed to obtain their consent.

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

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

The complaint also alleges that “the proposed mine poses a serious risk for communities living on the Sepik River”. It was filed – on behalf of the affected community members by local organisation Project Sepik Inc and the Australian NGO Jubilee Australia Research Centre – with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Australian National Contact Point. [...]

PanAust says it has conducted “dam break analysis” which ensured “appropriate factors of safety have been incorporated into the design” of the dam. [...]

PanAust said it had engaged in “extensive and ongoing engagement … over several decades” with those affected by the mine, running information sessions in nearly 140 villages attended by more than 18,000 people.

“Local opinions and issues have been sought through engagement campaigns … formal and informal meetings with village leaders, and through socioeconomic surveys conducted in villages between 2010 and 2018.”