Saturday, March 10, 2012

How Frieda River copper and gold was discovered


FRIEDA River copper and gold project, a tributary of the mighty Sepik River, is mooted as one of the great prospects in Papua New Guinea.
It was discovered by the legendary former kiap (patrol officer), Sepik River crocodile hunter and Member for Angoram in the first House of Assembly in 1964, John Pasquarelli.
John Pasquarelli with two locals on the day he discoovered Frieda River prospect on November 22, 1963. Sirum (right) was later take to Australia as a guest of Mount Isa Mines (MIM)

Pasquarelli came upon Frieda River quite by chance on November 22, 1963, a day forever etched in history as the day in which US President John F Kennedy was assassinated.
He has given his personal notes and pictures exclusively to The National.
John Pasquarelli with a local in new shorts on November 22, 1963. The local's nose has been completely eroded by yaws

“In November 1963, I was on a shield collecting expedition on the Frieda River, which is an upper tributary of the famous Sepik River system in Papua New Guinea,” Pasquarelli recalls.
“As the official collector for the Basel Museum in Switzerland at that time, I was exploring all the major Sepik tributaries for artefacts and this trip brought me to the Frieda River camp of Paupe.
Frieda River circa 1970-71. Jet barge in backwater at Frieda River. Wheelhouse at rear, foredeck and cargo-carrying area in front

“I was travelling in my large single dugout canoe that had been carved from a huge red cedar log that had cost me 10 Australian pounds and was powered by a Mercury 65HP outboard motor.
“Eight 44 gallon drums of fuel could be laid, end on end, lying down or standing up in this hull.
“The canoe had a Mercury steering wheel system and a canopy to protect passengers from the sun.
Caterpillar D6 at Frieda River - circa 1970-71. Norm Martin behind blade. Frank Martin working on engine and Kinook behind Frank

“I was accompanied by my team of Sepiks and one of my bosbois Sal, who hailed from Finschhafen and who was my first PNG employee when I met him on the lawns of the Wewak Hotel when I arrived on the Sepik as a cadet patrol officer in 1960.
“I was at the Paupe camp on the banks of the Frieda River, the day JFK was shot - Friday, November 22, 1963.
The first plane to land at Frieda River, a Britten Norman Islander, circa 1970-71

 “At the time of that first visit, the Paupe people had their houses high up on the surrounding ridges, giving them a good view of what was happening down on the river.
“Their camp on the river allowed them to do some hunting and gardening but they were not canoe people.
Frieda River airstrip circa 1970-71. Looking west from river. native labour camp on right and admin buildings on the left.

“I had mined opal at Coober Pedy in 1959, had some knowledge of PNG’s mining history and always carried a gold panning dish and geologist’s pick with me.”
Pasquarelli and his men walked upstream on the western bank of the Frieda a few kilometres before turning right into the Nena River and proceeding upstream.
Frieda airstrip circa 1970-71. Hangar building.

“Panning revealed good gold trace in the feeder creeks and rock samples that I recovered along the way were identified to me later as copper pyrites and copper sulphides,” he remembers.
 Pasquarelli’s communications with the famous Professor Alfred Buhler of the Basel Museum dated December 13, 1963,  record that this particular trip up the Frieda took one month,  during which time they walked over from the headwaters of the Frieda River to the headwaters of the Leonard Schultze River,  retracing their route,  returning back down the Frieda to the Sepik, travelling downriver and then up the Leonard Schultze River for a considerable distance, finally returning to Ambunti government station then Angoram.
Frieda airstrip circa 1970-71. Laura Martin wading ashore. She flew out in a Missionary Aviation Fellowship floatplane.

“I took my rock samples literally in a sugar bag and showed them to the famous explorer and prospector  Mick Leahy, when I spent Christmas 1963 with the Leahys at their farm at Zenag on the Lae -Bulolo Road,”he adds.
“  Mick told me to take out a prospecting authority but being 26,  and flat out running my trading business as well as learning all about Sepik art plus the fact that the then gold and copper prices were very ordinary, meant that I pursued what I was good at but kept the Frieda on my radar.
Helicopter landing at Frieda River airstrip, circa 1970-71

“Carpentaria Exploration (MIM) was granted PA 58 on March 20, 1968 over the Frieda River and surrounding areas and I was later to have dealings with their geologists Bob Hall and John Hartley.
“During 1966-1967 I met geologists Duncan Dow and Peter Macnab from the Bureau of Mineral Resources in Canberra.”
Hamilton jetboat running upriver. John Pasquarelli driving.

From  1964-1968 , Pasquarelli was the elected MP for the Angoram Open Electorate and during this time had the Haus Tambaran at Kanganaman declared national cultural property and was the prime mover behind the Gavien Land Resettlement Scheme at Angoram.
At the end of 1968, he organised selling his trading business Las Kompani, to Warren Hanson who had been his manager and took a year off in Sydney, where he bought a house in Balmain.
Frieda airstrip circa 1970-71. Wewak Transport office. Paul Martin (third from left), Jimmy Gordon (sitting leaft front), Frank Martin (sitting front and right of Jimmy Gordon) Norm Martin (standing behind Frank Martin) and John Pasquarelli (standing front right).

“During this time, I planned the construction of a tourist lodge at Amboin on the Karawari River and the method of transporting tourists safely and quickly would be by jet boat,” Pasquarelli says.
“I had built a trade store at Amboin under the Las Kompani banner, collected artefacts in that area and had already selected a site on the hill overlooking the Amboin patrol post, offering great views towards the Chambri Lakes to the north-west.”
Frieda airstrip circa 1970-71. Missionary Aviation Fellowship floatplane VH-WET at Frieda airstrip.

Frank Martin had been with Pasquarelli in the first House of Assembly as the MHA for Madang-Sepik (Special) and he and his schoolteacher wife Laura, operated Wewak Transport Service.
On his return to PNG, Frank and his brother Norm Martin joined him on the Karawari Lodge project and he started work on site preparation and soon had a team of Sepik carvers working on carving chairs and house posts, using traditional designs -from the beautiful and dense red hardwood, kwila.
Frieda airstrip circa 1970-71, Jimmy Gordon supervising uploading of Isuzu 6x6 tipper.

 The main feature of the lodge was the Haus Tambaran which housed the dining, recreational and office facilities.
In early 1970, Pasquarelli flew to Christchurch, New Zealand where he organised for two twin Holden 308 V8 powered fibreglass jet boats, fitted with Hamilton Colorado jet units, to be shipped to Madang, PNG.
Frieda airstrip circa 1970-71. May River and Frieda labourers clearing airstrip site.

Carpentaria Exploration had been drilling up on the Frieda River and the renowned chopper pilot Bill Dossett was doing a lot of the aerial work supplying the drill sites.
 Frank Martin told him that he had been approached by Carpentaria Exploration to build an airstrip on the banks of the Frieda River near the Paupe settlement and that McIntyres, a firm of engineers from Townsville would be involved.
Martin told Pasquarelli that a D6 dozer, International Drott tracked loader, grader and tip-trucks would have to be shipped to the site.
“It was a slow, hard grinding trip with a few scary moments but the D6 finally made it ashore to the Frieda River airstrip site,” Pasquarelli writes.
“The building of the Frieda River airstrip was a monument to the drive and natural mechanical and engineering skills of Frank Martin and the hard work of his PNG workers, led by Jimmy Gordon.
“Norm Martin and myself did our bit as did Kinook, Sal, Weliwan, Bundi, Patoman, Asa and the Frieda and May River locals who were recruited as labourers.
“Helicopters played a crucial role in the development of the Frieda project and still do but contact with the wider world was achieved with the first landing of Mount Isa Mine’s Norman Britten Islander on the new Frieda River airstrip.
“It is now 48 years since I made the first discovery of gold and copper mineralisation in that region of the Frieda River that Mt Isa Mines and now Xstrata Copper and its Joint Venture partner Highlands Pacific, have proved up in such a spectacular fashion - with Xstrata recently announcing a considerable increase in measured resources.
“If the Frieda River deposit proceeds to production, it is vital that this project is properly managed by government and the company to ensure that PNG and the Sepik people receive their just rewards.
“ For far too long, the East and West Sepik Provinces have been  left behind compared to development in other areas but now is the time for the Sepiks to seize this huge opportunity to change their standard of living for the better - time will tell.

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