Yandera Project: A review of its past to predict its future

By: Marcelle P. Villegas March 14, 2023

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 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.[1]

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:

  1. “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’.”
  2. “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.”
  3. “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.



Thank you to Mr Les Emery for the guidance and resources for this article.


[1] Freeport Resources Inc. (9 Jan. 2023). "Freeport Announces Private Placement". Freeport Resources Inc. news release.

Retrieved from -


[2] Gambu, Kila. Egewo, Arnold.  Buka, Alois (2022). “Yandera Copper-Gold-Molybdenum Project, Bundi, Madang Province”. Media Advertisement.

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