The Frieda River copper-gold project is located near the border of the Sandaun and East Sepik Provinces of northwestern Papua New Guinea. Xstrata holds a 74% interest in the project and Highlands Pacific and OMRD the remaining 26%. Xstrata is the project operator. Mineralisation at Frieda River consists of bulk tonnage, moderate grade deposits with a separate high grade but metallurgically difficult deposit at Nena. A prefeasibility study started in early 2009.
Another report notes the potential of this mine:
According to geological reports provided by Highlands Pacific Limited, the ore potential found in the Frieda River area outsizes the neighbouring Ok Tedi Mine with a heavy presence of gold and copper accompanied by a rich concentration of other metals as well. This mineral wealth carries an attractive financial projection that runs into billions of kina.
Naturally the land is sacred, and there are concerns amongst the local people:
Writing in PNG newspaper The National, Moutu said, “I want to challenge and appeal to all the educated people of Sepik River societies throughout PNG to mobilize and address the question of a Frieda River mine before we dig and bury ourselves in the coffins of mineral intoxicants. As feasibilities are being carried out, we have the right to demand a sound environmental plan that incorporates all and every concern about our crocodiles and humans, fish and sago, water and contaminants, eels and mayflies, birds and mosquitoes, men’s houses and churches…”
Meanwhile the Chinese have been proceeding with the Ramu Mine and a plan to blast the coral, lay a pipeline, and discharge the tailings from their new nickel mine out to sea. Just this weekend this report of a setback appeared:
Papua New Guinea (PNG) landowners have won a David and Goliath battle to freeze a Chinese nickel miner’s construction of a massive pipeline to dump waste into the sea. The national court in Madang on Friday ordered work to stop on the nickel mine’s previously approved submarine tailings disposal system. The Ramu mine in Madang Province, on PNG’s northwest coast, operated by the Chinese Metallurgical Construction Group Co (MCC), plans to dump five million tonnes of slurry waste annually into Basamuk Bay. The company was preparing to start blasting coral reefs for the tailings pipeline to be laid. The stop-work order is another setback for the Chinese project, which has suffered a series of problems with the mine’s construction and relations with local people. Tiffany Nonggorr, the lawyer representing the Madang landowners, said MCC must find an alternative to dumping the mine waste into the bay.
“This injunction is a massive victory for us, definitely a David and Goliath struggle. Landowners have stopped the Chinese, who have spent $US1.4 billion ($A1.52 billion) to build this mine,” she said. “The mine’s proposal is just too risky. There are grave environmental concerns,” she said. Despite having government and environmental approval, the proposed deep sea tailings pipeline would destroy the environment and local people’s livelihoods, Mrs Nonggorr said. Judge David Cannings granted a temporary injunction forcing MCC to stop work “that involves directly or indirectly damage or disturbance to the offshore environment including all coral blasting or popping of dead or live coral and laying of pipes. MCC “shall not carry out directly or indirectly any such work, pending determination of the substantive proceedings” to be heard at a later date, he said. In July last year, construction of the mine was briefly stopped due to health and safety concerns, while in May outbreaks of violence exposed simmering tensions between Chinese management and PNG workers. The Ramu mine is expected to yield 143 million tonnes of nickel over 20 years and during construction will employ 3,000 workers including 700 Chinese.
Naturally the company is upbeat and optimistic they will be able to bring the mine to fruition. Here is what they say in one report:
Highlands said in a statement on Monday that the DSTD process has been the subject of extensive technical and investigative work over several years, and is regarded as being the safest and most appropriate method for the Ramu project. Ramu NiCo has reported that the project also complies with all the statutory requirements in obtaining and maintaining the environmental approvals, including those for the DSTP. “It is important to note that the four landowner groups that have been involved in the project since its inception continue to fully support the project as they recognise the positive benefits that will flow through the region and the country,” said Highlands MD John Gooding. “While this is frustrating, it is not the first time the project has had to overcome obstacles.”
He added that the final construction work and commissioning activities would continue on the remainder of the project.
Thus we will watch the development of these projects, as they wind their way through the regulatory process, the courts, and the pipeline.