Date filed
9 December 2021
Keywords
Countries of harm

Allegations

On 9 December 2021, Project Sepik Inc and Jubilee Australia Research Centre (‘the Complainants’), on behalf of 2,638 people living along the Sepik River in Papua New Guinea, filed a specific instance against PanAust Limited at the Australian NCP. The complaint concerns activities of PanAust and its subsidiary, Frieda River Limited, regarding their plans to build the Frieda River Mine in the headwaters of the Sepik River. If built, the mine will be the largest in PNG’s history and includes a proposal for a vast tailings dam that, if breached, would lead to significant environmental destruction for communities downriver. The Complainants allege that PanAust has failed to uphold their rights as affected Indigenous communities to give Free, Prior and Informed Consent to the project. The Complainants also allege that PanAust has failed to adequately address the environmental risks and likely impacts of the Project on the Sepik River and its environment; and have not adequately disclosed project information to stakeholders. The Complainants are seeking support from the NCP to facilitate discussions with PanAust, and are asking the company to pause all further project development, and engage in good faith consultations at an international standard with all potentially affected communities, including the Complainants, with participation of an independent third party. Should these consultations not result in the Complainants providing their Free, Prior and Informed Consent to the project, the Complainants ask that the company commit to discontinuing its plans for the mine.

Relevant OECD Guidelines

Outcome

On 25 July 2022, the Australian NCP published its initial assessment accepting the complaint for further consideration and offering its good offices. According to the NCP, “[t]he objective of good offices would be to help the parties resolve their differences regarding PanAust’s due diligence on the proposal and planning for a mine in the Frieda River Project.”

The NCP noted two aspects that required attention to inform the potential and scope of any good offices: the Complainants’ position and proposals within and outside the NCP process, and the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process underway in PNG. The NCP invited both parties to provide further detail on these two aspects, as well as: the company to address whether and how the Complainants’ concerns are being addressed consistently with the Guidelines, and for the Complainants to confirm their wish to genuinely engage in the NCP process with a view to finding a solution to the issues raised.

More details

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