Impacted communities confront Barrick Gold on human rights abuses

By Sakura Saunder

Indigenous representatives from Porgera, Papua New Guinea traveled to Canada this week to speak at Barrick Gold’s annual general meeting (AGM). This year marks the fourth year that the Porgerans have visited Barrick Gold’s AGM, each time raising serious human rights and food security issues. While they were not able to address shareholders inside the meeting for the first time in 4 years, they addressed the more than 200 people who rallied outside to protest about the company.

Jethro Tulin speaks to the crowd outside the AGM

Jethro Tulin, Akali Tange Association a member of the Porgera Alliance said, “Since 2008 we have stood here at Barrick shareholder meetings and told them about the abuses our people suffer at the hands of Barrick’s security forces – beatings, shootings, rapes and gang rapes.” 

“At past AGM meetings, the board has assured the shareholders that our words were not true. But now, the world knows that there are serious abuses occurring at your Porgera Mine in PNG.” 

In 2011, due to pressure from an investigation by Human Rights Watch, Barrick finally allowed for an investigation of their security regarding the allegations of gang rapes. Five Barrick employees were fired, while eight former employees were implicated in the abuse.

Barrick founder and Chairman, Peter Munk, was later quoted in the Globe and Mail saying “gang rape is a cultural habit” in the countries like Papua New Guinea, angering the Porgeran community and prompting the country’s Mining Minister, John Pundari, to demand a public apology.

Instead of an apology, Barrick Gold’s Australia-Pacific President, Gary Halverson stated that Munk’s comments were taken out of context, lamenting that “only a small portion of this conversation was included” in the Globe and Mail article. The Porgera Alliance has since called for accountability in addition to backing the Mining Minister’s call for an apology.

Similarly, a Amnesty International report released in 2010 showed evidence of at least 130 structures adjacent to Barrick’s Porgera mine were burned down, many of which were houses, while villagers were beaten, harassed, and detained.

Barrick housed the police who carried out these fiery evictions, and according to Mark Ekepa of the Porgera Landowners Association, they continue to support these same police.

“Barrick is continuing to house, feed and provide fuel to Mobile Units of the Papua New Guinea state who are responsible for burning down local landowners’ houses in 2009, and who continue to carry out beatings, rapes and house burnings around the mine.” 

Ekepa and Tulin traveled again to Canada this year to bring attention to these issues and call for the relocation of all the indigenous landowners who live in the Special Mine Area as well as the end to the practice of dumping toxic waste directly into their 800 km-long river system.

Background:
PNG Mining Minister Responds to Munk’s Statement about Gang Rape, Porgera Alliance demands Accountability: http://www.porgeraalliance.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Munk-Respond-Pundari.pdf
Porgera Alliance Letter to Peter Munk regarding his statement: “Gang Rape is a Cultural Habit”: http://www.porgeraalliance.net/2011/03/letter-to-peter-munk-regarding-his-statement-gang-rape-is-a-cultural-habit/
Barrick says chief’s comments taken out of context http://www.postcourier.com.pg/20110328/news15.htm
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3 Comments

Filed under Environmental impact, Human rights, Papua New Guinea

3 responses to “Impacted communities confront Barrick Gold on human rights abuses

  1. pana wiya

    If we haven’t woken up to the fact we are a laughing stock to the mining giants then definitely there is something wrong with the present system for benefiting from OUR resources. Politicians and resource owners( so called educated) talk but unfortunately it’s all empty.

    Just imagine you have suddenly become a white board member of a mining co. or a black person who has been corrupted to the point you loose your identity in a board meeting. These characters, I assure you, have absolutely NIL concern for what happens to our people, not only today but the generations to come.

    We will always be on the loosing side unless drastic measures from politicians and educated landowners, begin seriously analysing the seriousness of the situation. Unfortunately we like to talk big but with no concrete action! What a sad case.

    A word to the landowners….no, no rather resource owners. The resources belongs to YOU. HOW MUCH OF US$1500/OZ of gold being sold are you getting? Some educated landowner ought to do the sums for peace of mind. Simple calc for grassroot is ( $1500 minus total operating cost including landowner “keep quite” money). This, you will find is the money the shareholder in Aust, Europe, America receive and don’t forget the HUGE bonuses executives who play with your so called demands receive.

    All this, just food for thought, to you proud resource owners!

  2. Landless Landowner

    PJV has destroyed large areas around the minesite and it is continuing to do so with little regard to the Landowners. One area that has been destroyed is the Kewai area opposite the minesite. The Kewai landowners have not been compensated and what little land that is available for gardening has been destroyed. PJV (Barricks) does not care about the harmless local people who rely their land for their survival. After 25 years of mining but many SML landowners are still no better off then their subsistence farmer brothers & sisters from Paiela or Hewa. What a shame.

  3. kafupeg

    If we think equity benefits are not enough, well, consider examples from other countries, eg. neighbouring Indonesia. Otherwise lock in everything in the negotiation stage, MOU / MOA stages. The best solution yet is to amend the constitution to mandate an increased equity participat to 49% which obviously leaves developers with 51%. Any suggestions???

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