Reports from Papua New Guinea detail the aftermath of an unusually high discharge of un-neutralized waste at Barrick Gold’s Porgera mine. The discharge – which reportedly occurred on July 27, 2010 – poisoned dozens of locals, whose accounts are documented in a recent report produced by the Porgera Alliance, a coalition of human rights and landowner groups.
According to Mark Ekepa, chairman of the Porgera Landowners Association, “The villagers went down to the Red Wara River panning for gold, and when the villagers contacted the river they got burned up and sores were all over their bodies.”
“This is just another example of why it is unsafe to live near the mine-site,” says Jethro Tulin, Executive Officer of the Porgera Alliance. “Barrick needs to resettle people out of the Special Mining Lease area.”
In Papua New Guinea, approximately 5000 adults live within the Special Mining Lease area of Barrick Gold’s Porgera mine. In addition to the health threat to local inhabitants, the expanding waste dumps have covered land once used to grow food and are increasing causing landslides that destroy homes.
The local landowners, represented by the Porgera Landowners Association, are seeking resettlement into another area that could provide the means to a subsistence lifestyle. Their requests have so far been denied by the company, which prefers to offer individual cash payments. According to the Porgera Alliance, this is not a permanent solution as the villagers simply move uphill into increasing crowded quarters after receiving their payment.
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