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, 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.