By PATRICK TALU*
Two Porgera mine landowners, who flew to Toronto last week to protest Barrick’s alleged human rights and environmental abuse at its giant Porgera gold mine during Barricks annual general meeting, called for a relocation of villagers living near the mines lease area and stop dumping of wastes in the river system.
According to Mine Watch and other sources, several flight delays kept Jethro Tulin of Akali Tange Association and Mark Ekepa of the Porgera Landowners Association, members of the Porgera Alliance (PA) from speaking at the Barrick shareholders’ meeting last Wednesday. But after finally making it to Toronto, Tulin addressed the crowd outside 131 Bay Street and joined over 200 anti-Barrick protesters at the AGM.
Tulin 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”.
This year, 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 hat” in the countries like Papua New Guinea, angering the Porgera community and prompting Mining Minister John Pundari to demand an apology. Instead of an apology, Barrick’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 PA has since called for accountability in addition to backing the Pundari’s call for an apology.
Similarly, an Amnesty International report released last year 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. Tulin’s said Barrick housed the police who carried out these fiery evictions, and according to Ekepa, they continue to support these same police.
“Barrick is continuing to house, feed and provide fuel to mobile units of the police force 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.”
*Spotted in The National