Justice Foundation for Porgera (JFP), an entity which represents landowners in the Porgera region in north-western Papua New Guinea, has submitted a position statement to Barrick Gold and its subsidiary Barrick Niugini outlining irreparable losses as a result of social, economic and environmental damages caused by its Porgera gold mine. JFP are seeking billions of dollars in compensation on behalf of Landowners from Barrick Niugini through the claims set out in the position statement.
The position statement claims that landowners’ subsistence and livelihoods were catastrophically changed as a result of the almost doubling of the open pit mining rate which had initially been agreed to in the 1989 MDC, and that Barrick Niugini breached agreements pertaining to environmental standards, the relocation of displaced landowners and the number of fly-in, fly-out workers to the region.
Barrick recently announced its intention to sell its interests in Papua New Guinea as part of a greater debt reduction plan which includes the sale of assets in Australia. The position statement was provided to both Barrick Gold Corporation Canada and Barrick Niugini Ltd on 24 February 2015, putting the company on notice to disclose the landowner’s pending legal claims to any potential investors.
Within weeks, Barrick Niugini engaged Credit Suisse to search for an external buyer for its 95 per cent stake in the Porgera mine, and other interests in Papua New Guinea and Australia.
Kurubu Ipara, Chairman and Director, Mineral Resources Enga (MRE), which holds 5 per cent share of the mine in trust for the landowners with the Enga Provincial Government, claims that:
“Barrick will sell its interests without proper notice and exit PNG leaving the Landowners with a new owner who will not provide restitution for the damage left behind or that MRE, the Landowners or citizens of PNG will be left with an insurmountable bill to remedy the social and environmental damage”– 6 February 2015
A group of specialists, including lawyers, scientists and film crew, have recently conducted a fact-finding mission to the area to gather data and evidence to support JFP’s claims. Evidence secured includes photographs of impoverished townships, harsh living conditions and poor quality infrastructure. It also includes testimony from landowners, including women who claimed to have been gang raped and families who allege that they have been forcibly removed from their land without compensation.
A 2011 Human Rights Watch report found that Barrick Niugini-hired mine guards detained women found trespassing on the mine site and
“gave them a choice of submitting to gang rape or going to prison”.
The report also states that:
“Barrick has responded with dismissive hostility to concerns about its human rights record at Porgera.”
JFP was formed by 14 landowner clan agents of the Porgera Special Mining Lease that were displaced by the mine’s activity.