We are tribal leaders from Papua New Guinea’s devastated Ok Tedi Fly River Region.
The Ok Tedi Mine environmental disaster destroyed our home.
Now we’re being persecuted for trying to get the Ok Tedi pollution-affected people the help we need.
Ok Tedi Fly River Development Foundation – For the people of the Ok Tedi Fly River region.
For decades, many millions of tonnes of contaminated mining waste have been discharged annually into Papua New Guinea’s (PNG’s) Ok Tedi and Fly river systems.
For over 140,000 local inhabitants across 165 villages, the Ok Tedi mining disaster destroyed our homes, livelihoods, and way of life.
It is one of the worst man-made environmental disasters in history.
A series of settlements have been reached over the years to establish trust funds to help the affected communities.
Yet our communities have never benefitted from these funds.
We founded the not-for-profit Ok Tedi Fly River Development Foundation (OTFRDF) to represent the impacted communities and recover money that rightfully belongs to the pollution-affected people of the Fly River region which has been misappropriated over two decades.
As our fight accelerates, a campaign of intimidation, abuse of power and arbitrary arrests has been initiated against the OTFRDF, its Directors, executives and supporters.
About Ok Tedi Fly River Development Foundation
We are a not-for-profit organisation, setup in 2016 to represent the communities directly impacted by the Ok Tedi Mine environmental disaster.
The Ok Tedi Fly River Development Fund’s mission is to recover money that rightfully belongs to the pollution-affected people of the Fly River region which has been misappropriated over two decades.
The Western Province Community Mine Continuation Agreement Region People’s Dividend Trust Account (WPPDTA-CMCA) defined the cash compensation, investment and development payments that Ok Tedi Mining Limited (OTML) makes to the local communities affected by the mining operations, in return for the license to continue operating the Mine by dumping the waste into our traditional customary lands.
But our communities had never received the funds meant to help them.
In 2018 we commenced legal proceedings to ensure proper governance and use of the fund arising from the WPPDTA-CMCA.
On the 5 September 2018, PNG’s National Court ordered that Ok Tedi Fly River Development Foundation be appointed trustee of those WPPDTA-CMCA funds.
This process gave rise to the Ok Tedi Fly River Development Foundation as we know it today, and we continue to fight for the release of other larger funds which have been misappropriated and are still not being utilised to help the victims of the Ok Tedi Mine environmental disaster.
Ever since, a menacing campaign of intimidation has been initiated against us.
Some of the Foundation’s directors have even been arbitrarily arrested on false accusations.
About the Ok Tedi Environmental Disaster
Located in PNG’s Western Province, The Ok Tedi Fly River is the second largest tributary of the Fly River system.
For our 165 villages, the Ok Tedi Fly River is a home, a livelihood, and a way of life.
In 1976 Australian mining company BHP began operating the open-pit Ok Tedi copper and gold mine in PNG.
In 1983 dams designed to hold back mining waste collapsed. Toxic waste was now being disposed of straight into the Ok Tedi Fly Rivers system.
Many millions of tonnes of contaminated mining waste has been discharged annually into our river system every year, including cyanide and sulphuric acid.
In one of the worst man-made environmental disasters in history, the river has been poisoned and thousands of square kilometres of forest have died. Over 3,000 square kilometres of pristine natural forest is affected.
Scientists think it could take 200 years for the river system to recover after the mine is closed.
Studies now show that pollution from the mine has even reached the Torres Strait Islands in Australia.
We depend on the Ok Tedi Fly River system for our survival, but our homes and livelihoods have been devastated.
The Betrayal of the Ok Tedi Fly River pollution-affected people
In 1994, on behalf of local traditional landowners, a $4 billion claim was issued against BHP in the Victorian Supreme Court in Australia.
In 2002 BHP exited the mine and its shares were transferred to the Papua New Guinea Sustainable Development Program (PNGSDP); a trust company established by BHP to serve as trustee of these shares intended to help the people affected by the disaster.
BHP appointed Directors to the PNGSDP Board until 2013.
PNGSDP was supposed to be used to help establish projects to reverse and alleviate the environmental and economic damage caused by the Ok Tedi environmental disaster.
But for over twenty years, the funds held by PNGSDP have not been used to help the affected communities.
Today, PNGSDP holds assets worth over US$ 1.4 billion, but continues to ignore the plight of those the money is meant to be helping.
The Ok Tedi Fly River Development Foundation have initiated legal action seeking to ensure that PNGSDP funds are finally used as intended – to assist those whose lives and livelihoods have been destroyed by the Ok Tedi Mine environmental disaster.
Now a campaign of intimidation, abuse of power and arbitrary arrest has been initiated against us.