Yandera landowners question renewal of EL 1335
by Paul Oeka - July 13, 2022
Local landowners from the Yandera Copper Project in Madang have stressed their concerns and objections to the upcoming renewal of its project exploration license EL 1335.
Most landowners are adamant to have the renewal refused by any incoming Minister for Mining, as they want an innovative developer to come into the project that can do actual work on the ground and have a better approach to community relations.
Located 95 kilometers southwest of the northern seaport of Madang and situated within the highly prospective New Guinea Copper-Gold Belt, the Yandera Project area was the subject of intensive, drill-based exploration programs during the late 1960s and 1970s up until the early 2000s by several companies.
The recent acquisition of Carpo Resources by Canadian junior Freeport Resources was finalized in August 2021, as Freeport’s report confirms. Since then, they have been the full owner of Carpo Resources and all shares in Era Resources (formerly Marengo Mining), the current holder of EL 1335, which currently has an application for renewal still pending for the past year.
A spokesman for the Yandera Landowners Association, Mr. Greg Gambu, raised concern earlier this year that EL 1335 Yandera expired in November 2021, and appealed to the Mineral Resources Authority (MRA) not to renew the license to any company except a genuine developer.
“Our pristine environment has suffered tremendous damage under the pretext of exploration while the exploration companies have made a lot of money on the stock exchange over the years,” Mr. Gambu said.
“With no road access we depend on our rich environment for our survival, and the exploration activities have disturbed our means of survival in a very big way.”
“We cannot let them (exploration companies) continue to keep us in suspense and become rich on the stock exchange market at the expense of our suffering by destroying the environment that we depend on for our daily needs.”
“It’s time now that they act on the results of their exploration activities – they should decide whether to Pack up and leave us alone or mine the deposit now,” Mr. Gambu added.
In response to these statements, MRA Managing Director Mr. Jerry Garry stated: “There is no mining activity in the exploration license (EL 1335) at Yandera Copper mine in Madang Province.”
Mr. Garry confirmed that the exploration license is still undergoing extension application, which is deemed ongoing until a determination is made by the Mining Minister, currently Johnson Ibo Tuke MP.
“The exploration license is for exploration only and does not extend to mining deposits. EL 1335 was first granted in 2003 and has remained active since,” he added.
“The EL has been reviewed for consideration by the Mining Advisory Council, if not it will be reviewed to renew their licenses,” Mr. Garry said.
As far as many locals are concerned, they still have a lack of trust in Freeport’s ability to develop Yandera. This was due to reports that showed Freeport’s continued share price decrease since 2021, so they seem uncertain on how Freeport would fund any mining activity at Yandera, even if they obtained a renewal of EL 1335.
Before this, officials of the firm have not made any contact with landowners at Yandera during the signing of the acquisition last August.
About this issue and the underlying concerns from landowners from Yandera, former Marengo Mining CEO Les Emery commented on the current situation.
Photo: Former Marengo Mining CEO - Les Emery
Emery said: “From 2005 until my team and I were replaced in May 2014, Marengo Mining undertook a vast amount of exploration within the Yandera Project area and the one aspect that was of paramount importance was that we worked to ensure that the local communities were kept continuously informed of what was happening.”
“From the reports that I receive from many of my friends within the project area, Freeport has failed to make any sort of contact with the landowners, since announcing their involvement in the Yandera Project, almost one year ago.”
“My other concern is the capacity of Freeport to be able to fund the level of budgets required to take the Project to the next stage, given Freeport’s current stated cash reserves and market capitalization, should they be fortunate enough to gain a renewal of EL 1335, they would, in my opinion, struggle to even undertake minor exploration projects, let alone fund the completion of a bankable feasibility study,” Emery added.
The Yandera Copper Project and all concerned stakeholders will most likely still await an announcement, as the country is amidst the elections and the appointment and determination of a new Mining minister will see another inevitable delay in the progress to review and renew EL 1335.
Jimbo Gulle - July 19, 2021
Ex-Marengo boss offers insight on Freeport purchase of Yandera
On June 28, Canadian junior mineral exploration company Freeport Resources Inc. announced it had acquired Carpo Resources Inc. in a definitive share purchase agreement -- and thus took control of the Yandera Copper Project in Madang, within New Guinea’s rich Copper-Gold Belt. Yandera is one of the most prospected resources in PNG that has yet to be mined. Located 95 kilometers southwest of Madang, the project area was the subject of intensive, drill-based exploration programs during the late 1960s and 1970s by a number of companies, including Kennecott Copper and BHP. The historic activity, which included 102 diamond drill holes totaling over 33,000 metres, culminated in the preparation of a mining study by BHP, identifying the Yandera porphyry system as containing one of the largest undeveloped porphyry copper systems (with ancillary molybdenum and gold) in the southwest Pacific. A pre-feasibility study, completed by the Worley Parsons Group in November 2017, indicated Yandera had measured and indicated resources of 727 million tonnes grading 0.39% copper equivalent with inferred resources of 231 million tonnes grading 0.32% copper equivalent. The study also identified 541 million tonnes of probable reserves, grading 0.39% copper equivalent. Since acquiring Yandera, Era Resources Inc. – which is owned by Carpo Resources -- has completed an additional 471 diamond drill holes totaling over 144,000 metres. Era released an updated NI 43-101 compliant resource estimate in December 2016 following a 43-hole diamond drill campaign. “This latest resource is significantly strengthened compared to the 2015 estimate, with a substantial increase in size,” Era says on its website. “It also encompasses an expansion of the footprint, establishment of linkages between previously separate pits and the potential to further optimize pit designs and reduce stripping ratios.” But with Freeport -- which recently acquired Quidum Resources, which in turn controls the Star Mountain project in PNG -- now taking control of Carpo/Era, Yandera seems to be a step closer to development. Freeport confirmed in a press statement that it does not expect to assume any material liabilities, nor will it commit the majority of its working capital or resources to Carpo or the Yandera’s development. “As a result, the transaction does not constitute a fundamental acquisition for the company, within the policies of the TSX Venture Exchange … [and] will not result in the creation of a new insider, or a change of control, of the company.” The acquisition is the second in PNG for the Vancouver-based Freeport in a year. Last October, it purchased the Star Mountains copper and gold project. The closing of the Yandera deal is pending Toronto Stock Exchange approval. PNG Business News was fortunate to interview one man who was involved with Yandera for several years -- Les Emery, who was President and CEO of Marengo Mining Inc. until April 2014. Later that year the company changed its name to Era Resources Inc. “I listed Marengo on the ASX in 2003 and then listed the Company on the TSX in 2008, as Marengo Mining Inc, delisting from the ASX soon after. In 2006 Marengo also listed on the Port Moresby Stock Exchange in Papua New Guinea,” he told PNG Business News. Following the listing of Marengo in November 2003, Emery and his management team started to look for a “company-making asset.” During the next 18 months they reviewed some 150 projects before being offered an opportunity to look at several PNG projects. “Following a visit to PNG in 2005, none of these projects were considered to be what we were looking for either; however, a chance meeting with some people in Port Moresby introduced us to the Yandera Project, which at that time was held in a private PNG company (Belvedere Limited),” he said. Following a review of data on Yandera, produced by BHP and Kennecott Exploration from the pre-1975 period, an agreement was reached with Belvedere’s shareholders for Marengo to acquire Belvedere, making it a wholly-owned subsidiary of Marengo and its PNG operating company (Yandera Mining Company Limited), Emery added. Here is the rest of our Q&A with Les Emery: PNGBN: Please describe the Yandera project. How significant is it compared to existing PNG copper projects? To PNG mining projects in general (existing and prospective)? Emery: The Yandera project is a world class sized copper-molybdenum-gold deposit that will be one of the next phases of mine developments in PNG. As we know, the ‘electrification’ of the world means that the demand for copper is increasing at a rapid rate and many of the world's current mines are seeing their reserves depleted by age, hence new mines are required. These mines are not discovered overnight and as in the case of Yandera, date back many decades to the original discovery, in Yandera’s case more than 50 years. PNGBN: How did Freeport Resources come to purchase Era Resources and thus Yandera? Were you involved in the decision? Will you still be involved with Yandera going forward? Why? Emery: Following my departure from the board of Marengo the company changed its name to Era Resources Inc and during the following year the major shareholder, a private equity company, Sentient, took over the company in full. During 2020, Sentient announced that it had exited its investment in Era Resources by way of a private transaction with an unnamed Canadian group. On 28 June 2021 Freeport Resources Inc, a TSXV company announced that it had entered into an agreement to acquire Era Resource and hence the Yandera Project from Canadian unlisted Carpo Resources Inc for shares. I left Marengo in April 2014, so I had no involvement with the Company from that time. PNGBN: Has Era's application for the renewal of Exploration Licence 1335 been approved? Why are there questions if it should be granted by the PNG ministry? Emery: From recent enquiries it appears that the current renewal application for extension of Exploration Licence 1335 at Yandera has not yet been approved by the PNG authorities. It is my understanding that this renewal application covers a two year period from November 2019 to November 2021 and the delay in considering this is due to previous work programs/expenditure being considered. In addition, of course COVID restrictions have delayed many administrative matters in PNG. PNGBN: From what you know, has Freeport begun contacting the community at Yandera to get them involved? How important would the project be to the community, and why is it necessary to build a partnership agreement with the local landowners? Emery: As of today (July 3 -- Editor), I have been advised by a number of landowners that no contact has been made by Freeport, or the previous owners of Era Resources. My personal view is that for any company wanting to operate successfully in PNG they need to gain the full trust and support of the community, this can only be gained by giving the community early notice of any activities that affect them, whether not be on-ground activity or corporate matters that affect the ownership of the operator and hence its future activities on site. As with many jurisdictions, in PNG the rights to minerals are controlled by the government, however the land is owned by the traditional landowners, so at all times you need to have full and rank discussions with landowners as to what you wish to do on their land and how it will benefit these people, together with what effect these activities will have on them. Failing to undertake these discussions on a very regular basis will work against any group wishing to explore and ultimately bring a project to mine status. I take pride in the fact that during my time at Yandera we put a big effort in maintaining a very strong relationship with the community at all times, this paying off with total support in return. PNGBN: When would the Yandera project become fully operational? What would it take for Freeport to get it off the ground, in terms of financing, operations, etc.? What sort of revenues could the company expect yearly from this project? Emery: As it has been some years since my involvement with the Yandera project I cannot give a definitive answer, however I believe that with the current demand for copper and with the right group operating the Yandera Project, it could become one of the next major PNG mines by the end of the decade, if not before. Any operating company will however need deep pockets or a substantially-sized partner. PNGBN: Given the government's moves to modify or change the tax regimes for mining, how would it affect Yandera? How far away is the project from getting its license to operate from the government, and what would it take to open it sooner? Emery: The recent moves by the PNG government to see greater participation on mining projects can only assist the Yandera Project, it aligns the aims of all concerned, the company, the government, and the community. PNGBN: How has the COVID pandemic affected mining operations in PNG, and Yandera in particular? What are the opportunities and challenges for the project going forward? Emery: Although I have no direct involvement in any PNG mining operation it has been well reported that some operations have suffered shutdowns due to COVID outbreaks and restrictions. As for Yandera, there has been no effect on exploration or feasibility activities onsite as it has been reported to me that no site activity has been carried out since 2017-2018.
Marcelle P. Villegas - March 14, 2023
Yandera Project: A review of its past to predict its future
Photo: Looking back: Happy memories with the locals at Yandera, Madang Province in 2014. From 2006 until 2014, the Yandera Project was owned and managed by the Australian company, Marengo Mining Limited, with Mr Les Emery as their CEO. (Photo credits: Mr Les Emery) The Yandera Project in Madang Province, PNG, is considered to be one of the world's largest undeveloped copper-gold-molybdenum projects. Currently, it is owned by Freeport Resources Inc., a copper-centric company based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. However, the local landowners have expressed their concerns about the current status of the Yandera Project. What the does future hold for Yandera Project? The following may help in understanding its current status and in predicting its future. On 9th January 2023, Freeport Resources Inc. announced a proposed stock issue with an objective to raise up to C$3 million for working capital. On 3rd February 2023 Freeport announced that it had closed the first tranche by raising C$1.47 million. The project was formerly held by the Sentient Private Equity Fund, through Marengo Mining Limited (later re-named Era Resources Inc). The Yandera Project is held under Exploration Licence 1335, which is awaiting approval of a renewal application. Looking back from 2006 until 2014, the Yandera Project was owned and operated by Marengo Mining, with Mr Les Emery as their President & CEO. The locals and landowners felt more at ease with this company under Mr Emery’s leadership. Thus, the transition after 2014 was something they felt was unfavorable for the community as it generated many issues. Photo: Part of the local workforce with Mr Les Emery, CEO of Marengo Mining Limited, which managed the Yandera Project from 2006 until 2014. (Photo credits: Mr Les Emery) In relation to Freeport’s recent announcement on their proposed issue of stock with the objective to raise up to C$3 million, Mr Emery shared his sentiments on the matter. He stated, “Even if they do raise the full amount, speaking from my years of experience at Yandera with Marengo, these funds will go nowhere near getting the project to the next stage.” “It is also interesting to read in the release that they have stated that COVID-19 issues and political concerns have delayed the renewal of EL 1335. However, I believe that the failure of Freeport to fund any activity at Yandera, since they acquired ownership of Era Resources, is the main reason for the renewal application not yet being approved.” Furthermore, he stated, “As I have said on many occasions, I believe that the Minister should be refusing the application for the renewal of EL 1335, to allow a new company to enter the Yandera Project.” “It is time for the Landowners to again raise their voices in opposition to allowing Freeport / Era to remain at Yandera.” Just last year a group of landowners released a media statement to set out their grievances. Their media statements were directly addressed to the Office of the Prime Minister of PNG, the Mining Minister, and others. They stated that Yandera Project was discovered by BHP in the 1970s. However, landowners said that, “Nothing further was done until the Australian company Marengo, headed by CEO Mr Les Emery, entered the project in 2006.” “From 2006, Marengo undertook exploration and other studies on the Yandera Project. This involved the drilling of some 622 diamond drill holes, bulk sampling, metallurgical test work, etc. Total expenditure up to 2014 was around 700 million Kina.” The Project was moving forward until Mr Emery, his Board and Project Team were removed in 2014. This decision was forced by Sentient, the major shareholder at that time. “Soon after the termination of Les Emery in April 2014, Sentient moved to change Marengo's name to Era Resources Inc. and compulsorily acquired all remaining shares in the Company, and in turn the Yandera Project.” Budget reductions followed, and by 2020, local employment at Yandera was nil. Here is another issue. Landowners have reported that Freeport management have never contacted them to explain the transition of ownership nor the company’s plans for the Yandera Project since it acquired Era in 2021. “It is suspected that they are trying to leverage the copper resource at Yandera to improve their share price and nothing more.” [2} Yandera Resource Owner Concerns From the landowners’ media release regarding the licence renewal, they stated, “The reason of the delay is understood to be because of the lack of work undertaken at Yandera over recent years.” Here are some of the concerns of the people of Yandera: “In July 2017, the people of Yandera became agitated with the Era due to its failure to complete a Definitive Feasibility Study. At that time the Yandera LOA members raised their concerns that the Yandera Project might be put up for ‘sale’.” “During the Mining Wardens hearing, in November 2017 the people of Yandera overwhelmingly objected to the renewal of EL 1335 to Era. However, recommendation to the Minister for Mining was for renewal of EL 1335 to Era for a further 2 years.” “Our objection not to reissue EL 1335 to Era has grounds because the Yandera project literally came to an abrupt stop and has remained close since. We are sure that since buying Era, Freeport has gone hunting around trying to sell the Yandera project to the highest bidder.” The people of Yandera described the site having world-class copper-molybdenum-gold deposit, on par with Frieda and Wafi-Golpu projects. “The measured copper resources at Yandera stand at 959 million tonnes with a current value of USD$35 billion plus or PNGK120 billion. We want to be involved in equitable terms and partial ownership of a mine.” The Landowners said. --- Acknowledgement: Thank you to Mr Les Emery for the guidance and resources for this article. Reference:  Freeport Resources Inc. (9 Jan. 2023). "Freeport Announces Private Placement". Freeport Resources Inc. news release. Retrieved from - https://www.freeportresources.com/news-release-1/freeport-announces-private-placement?fbclid=IwAR1DKAShCeGJYxY57PSw4yNKca9SartxA_tEytQ3gW5m6kVMYg1_gGDt9zI  Gambu, Kila. Egewo, Arnold. Buka, Alois (2022). “Yandera Copper-Gold-Molybdenum Project, Bundi, Madang Province”. Media Advertisement.
PNG Business News - June 05, 2023
PNG PM Marape Participates in PIF Leaders Breakfast Caucas
Photo: PNG PM Marape Participates in PIF Leaders Breakfast Caucas Prior to the Korean-Pacific Islands Leaders (Kor-Pic) Meeting, Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Marape joined other PIC Leaders for a breakfast caucus Chaired by Cook Islands Prime Minister and current Pacific Islands Forum Chair Mark Brown, to discuss the agenda and a common position on shared development issues. Prime Minister Marape said climate variation, being the perennial issue including sourcing appropriate development assistance from the Korean Government was high on the agenda. He said the encouragement during the caucus was for all PIC Leaders to discuss their developmental challenges and put forward their ideas on how Korean Development assistance could complement the 2050 Blue Pacific Strategy. Following this caucus, Prime Minister Marape, met with Australian Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles. Their discussions were centered around progress of the proposed Bilateral Security Treaty (BST), the recently concluded Defense Cooperation Agreement with the US, Visa issues and the PNG NRL Bid. On the BST, Prime Minister Marape mentioned that it was work in progress and required the PNG side to consult our domestic processes and sovereign laws in relation to certain wordings and provisions. He also conveyed his apologies to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese for the delay in formalising this proposed Treaty with Australia. For the DCA with the US, Prime Minister Marape informed that it was centered around improving the PNGDF's capabilities and interoperability including protecting our frontiers and sovereignty. He said it was non-discriminatory and PNG was open to entering into similar arrangements with its bilateral partners. “In fact, the DCA would also complement domestic law enforcement,” Prime Minister Marape said. “The Ship Rider Agreement on the other hand was also vital in combating illegal fishing and transnational crimes.” For Visa issues, Deputy Prime Minister Marles informed that the current Australian Government was fully aware of the situation and following the Ministerial Forum in February this year in Canberra, had established a Joint Ministerial Team to work on bringing the Australian visa processing facility back on shore to PNG. Prime Minister Marape in his response said that all processes from both sides had to be attended to in order for smooth facilitation and for citizens and businesses to continue without much hindrance now and heading into 2050 when PNG celebrates 50 years of nationhood. On Papua New Guinea’s NRL Bid, Prime Minister Marape explained that PNG was still very keen as rugby league was a major unifying factor, bringing our 800 tribes together as one people. In closing Prime Minister Marape assured Deputy Prime Minister Marles that PNG in no way would compromise its excellent existing bilateral relations with Australia and further stressed that PNG was capable of managing its sovereign affairs on its terms, systems and processes.
PNG Business News - June 05, 2023
ADB Helps Launch Vocational Education Project in PNG
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea (PNG) today launched a cofinanced project to improve the country’s technical and vocational education and training (TVET) program. PNG's Deputy Prime Minister John Rosso delivered a keynote address at the launch event at Port Moresby Technical College. PNG’s Minister of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology, and Sports Don Polye, ADB Country Director for Papua New Guinea David Hill, and Australian High Commission Minister Counsellor Paul Lehmann all spoke at the event. The Improved Technical and Vocational Education and Training for Employment Project financed by ADB and the governments of Australia and PNG will strengthen the country’s TVET program and help prepare students to be more competitive and responsive to employment and industry demands. “We hope this project will become a model for all vocational education and skills training in TVET colleges in the country,” said Mr. Rosso. “The beneficiaries of this project—young, skilled workers, including women and men—represent PNG’s future, and through this project, the future of vocational education in PNG looks bright.” This project aims to boost the numbers of skilled workers in the construction and agriculture sectors where demand is high. “We will work with our partners to help advance reforms in the vocational education and skills training space in PNG,” said Mr.Hill. “These sought-after skills in priority sectors will help grow PNG’s economy.” The TVET sector of PNG’s education system comprises public, religious, or private institutions, including technical and business colleges offering postsecondary courses and vocational training. “The Australian government is pleased to be supporting the Government of Papua New Guinea to achieve its reform goals in technical and vocational education and training to increase the number and quality of skilled workers,” said Australian High Commission Minister Counsellor Paul Lehmann. “My vision for the TVET for Employment Project is that it will perform as an innovation and technology business incubator across PNG,” said Mr. Polye. “The project is the embodiment of a new approach—building a culture of quality education and innovation in a renewed and revitalized TVET sector.” The Improved Technical and Vocational Education and Training for Employment Project is funded through a $50 million concessional loan from ADB and a $10.6 million grant from Australia. The Government of PNG is also contributing $5.7 million. ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members—49 from the region.
PNG Business News - June 05, 2023
PNG Forges an Innovation-fueled Partnership with South Korea in Digital Transformation
Papua New Guinea was amongst seven other Pacific Island countries to sign a partnership statement of intent with the Republic of Korea to further cooperation and partnership in digital transformation. Information and Communications Technology Minister Timothy Masiu, who also was appointed co- chair of the just concluded Korea -Pacific Islands Digital Ministerial Conference in Seoul, South Korea, signed the statement together with the meeting chairman Korean Minister for Science and ICT Dr Lee Jong-Ho. The others who signed the partnership intent are Tonga, Nauru, Samoa, Palau, Cook Islands and Kiribati. Australia and the World Bank also attended the meeting as supporting partners. The Statement of Intent states; The partnership recognize digitalization has transformed not only daily lives but also shapes innovation in all sectors including politics, economy, society, culture and environment. Recognize and note that digital technology offers great potential to address various social economic challenges that come with rapid transformation of society. Agree on continued partnership in digital transformation inclusive of sustainable development will be the key to future prosperity of the people of Korea and the pacific. Agree on sharing digital vision of policies will pave way for strong partnership to digital co-prosperity. Mr Masiu expressed deep satisfaction that Korea , the global leading innovation country, has agreed to partner with Pacific countries including Papua New Guinea in digital transformation that will greatly enhance communication in a vast area like the Pacific and more so, strengthen supporting technology to better access to health, education and business. He told the conference that Papua New Guinea has begun the digital transformation with Parliament passing the Digital Government Act 2022 and relevant policies, and welcomed the partnership with the Republic of Korea, which he says, will go a long way in progressing the digital transformation agenda for PNG and the region. Mr Masiu had bilateral meeting with his South Korean counterpart, further seeking a stronger country to country relations in digital transformation and support to the National Broadcasting Corporation proposing a partnership between the NBC and the Korean Broadcasting Services. The Minister has formally invited the Korean Minister for Science and ICT to visit Papua New Guinea for the Pacific ICT meeting in August 2023 or to accompany the South Korean President who has been invited by Prime Minister James Marape to visit PNG. Mr Marape was in Seoul also this week for the Korea- Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting. Minister Dr Lee Jong-Ho acknowledges the leadership of Papua New Guinea in digital transformation and reaffirmed its support to PNG and the other Pacific Island countries.