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May 10, 2018


UOG NGI students with BAN seabed mining stickers
UOG NGI students with BAN seabed mining stickers

University Walkabout is an initiative set up by Bismarck Ramu Group (BRG) in late 2017 to engage university students on issues of development in their home provinces. With this new initiative, BRG saw an opportunity to engage students of both East and West Sepik provinces on the campaign against the development of the Frieda River Mine, which threatens to devastate the Sepik River and the livelihoods of 300,000 indigenous people who live along and depend on this river for their survival.

Large resource extraction projects led by foreign companies are now appearing in every pocket of land in Papua New Guinea (PNG). It is an obvious race for profit, requiring exploitation of the local people and their natural resources, and beginning with devious processes for accessing and alienating the indigenous communities’ customary land, waterways, and seas. Given this, it is vital that BRG helps young people in PNG to critically analyze and understand the issue of ‘development’ in the country. Young people need to start asking themselves ‘development’ for what and for whom? Who is this so-called ‘development’ benefitting? It quickly becomes clear that the way ‘development’ is happening in PNG right now, it is benefitting only outside companies and elites, and not the indigenous communities.

And so the University Walkabout initiative aims to inform young and future generations about the importance of their identity, their land-based livelihoods, and their resources, and to support young Sepiks to take pride in their culture and their way of life, and thus become the voice of reason to SAVE THE SEPIK RIVER and BAN FRIEDA MINE. In this way, BRG believes that young people and others from East and West Sepik provinces will take active roles in critical discussions and conscious decision-making about development activities in their villages and provinces.

In October 2017, the BRG team visited three PNG universities – Divine Word University in Madang, University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) in Port Moresby, and University of Goroka (UOG) in the Highlands region – to talk to the respective Sepik Students Associations about the issue of the Frieda Mine. At UOG, there were about 150 people present. Many students downloaded the slideshow presentation and committed to carry out awareness in their home communities during the holidays. Those present were thankful and requested that BRG try to find ways to continue such programs going forward. At UOG, the BRG team was also able to talk to New Guinea Islands students about the issue of experimental seabed mining.

At UPNG, the audience was equally eager. The leader of the UPNG Avisat (Sepik River) student club gave his assurance that Avisat would develop a plan to talk with communities along the Sepik River about the dangers of the Frieda Mine. To this end, the Avisat club is now planning a fundraising drive to be held in mid-May to raise funds for a major awareness campaign about the Frieda Mine during the end-of-year holidays when many students go to their home provinces and villages. Another outcome was the launching of the annual Tingting Toktok (“Thinking Talking”) Forum by the students of East Sepik province, providing an opportunity for students to gather to discuss development issues pertaining to their home province.

The University Walkabout Campaign has inspired many young Papua New Guineans to be optimistic about defending their future. This is a huge step in the campaign against the Frieda Mine. If you would like to help support these university students and others in their struggle to stop the Frieda Mine and prevent environmental and social devastation of the Sepik River, please donate to the Sharing our Future project.   

UPNG Avisat (Sepik River) club fundraising flyer
UPNG Avisat (Sepik River) club fundraising flyer
Annual Thinking Talking Forum poster
Annual Thinking Talking Forum poster
May 2, 2018

BAN Experimental Seabed Mining in the Bismarck Sea

Locals listening during Warden
Locals listening during Warden's Hearing

The Alliance of Solwara Warriors (solwara = ocean) in west coast New Ireland, Papua New Guinea (PNG), together with Team Caritas of Kavieng Diocese put forward a strong message of opposition to seabed mining during the Mining Warden’s Hearings in their area. Four hearings have been held so far – in Burau, Rasirik, Ward 4, and Ward 5 – with representatives from the PNG Mineral Resources Authority (MRA), the company, Nautilus Minerals Niugini Ltd., together with Solwara Warriors, including local village leaders, as well as PNG Council of Churches, women, and youth representatives.

The views and emotions of the local people expressed at the hearings made it clear that that they want a complete BAN on seabed mining and cancellation of the exploration license.

At each Mining Warden’s Hearing, vocal village leaders and other Warriors stood up to articulate the views of their communities – the indigenous custodians of the land and sea – regarding the potential environmental devastation that experimental seabed mining would likely have on the sea, the source of their indigenous livelihoods. The communities made it clear that it is a COMPLETE BAN to seabed mining.      

The Mining Warden explained that the views expressed during the hearing would be presented to the Mining Advisory Committee for further deliberations. The local people were pleased to have the opportunity to make clear their opposition to seabed mining during formal discussions with government and company officials. The Solwara Warriors and their supporters are to be commended for their efforts to organize and speak out – especially as the space for civil society to talk out against large-scale resource extraction projects such as this is shrinking in PNG as the government seems increasingly committed not to listening to its own people but to facilitating access to land and resources by foreign companies. The Warriors are also keeping themselves aware of new challenges, such as the news that China is now also interested in investing in seabed mining in PNG. Despite this, the Solwara Warriors are strong and will continue to oppose environmentally destructive resource extraction in their seas. With financial support, the Bismarck Sea-wide network of Solwara Warriors can meet more often to organize and strengthen its movement to stop seabed mining – in New Ireland, PNG, and throughout the Pacific.

If you would like to help the indigenous communities of the Bismarck Sea BAN experimental seabed mining in PNG and reclaim their sea-based livelihoods, please donate to the Land is Life project.    

Burau Village, Ward 4 Councillor making his point
Burau Village, Ward 4 Councillor making his point
Mining Warden
Mining Warden's Hearing Officials
Exploration License 1196, Bismarck Sea
Exploration License 1196, Bismarck Sea
Feb 6, 2018

Two More Bright Spots For The Future

Valiant girls with Land is Life stickers
Valiant girls with Land is Life stickers

Advocating on land is simple as taking a bus ride to watch Jumanji at the cinema in Waigani, Port Moresby.

Being regulars at the cinema and with consent from parents whilst on their way to the cinema to watch Jumanji they have been distributing Land is Life stickers to crews of public transports. Going to the cinema to watch Jumanji may be a child’s favorite and it can turned out to be an opportunity for these little sweet hearts both 11 years old, becoming our unsung heroes to advocate on land issues.

We owe it to these little brave hearts that have taken a step in the line to educate and foster knowledge on land grabbing amongst citizens of this country in the capital of Port Moresby.

Their advocacy came up in a time when it is feared that customary landowners will completely loose their land when the government is trying to make all customary land bankable. Land grabbing is taking a new phase each time when land advocacy is empowering communities to resist government development plans that are mostly foreign driven.

We owe our love and courage to these brave hearts to stand with us to defend and protect our Land that is Our Life!

Land Advocacy does not require professional advice but can be a hobby or just another publicizing activity for the little ones. It may sound a bit strange for children to be involved in the whole dilemma of land in a country like Papua New Guinea. But we owe it to the little brave hearts that have taken the step ahead in the line to educate and foster knowledge amongst citizens of this country in the capital of Port Moresby.

Their advocacy came up in a time when it is feared that customary landowners will completely loose their land. Land grabbing is taking new phase every time when land advocacy is taking strength in empowering communities and the society to withstand foreign investment and government driven development plans.

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