“Barrick will sell its interests without proper notice and exit Papua New Guinea leaving the landowners with a new owner who will not provide restitution for the damage left behind so that MRE, the landowners or citizens of Papua New Guinea will be left with an insurmountable bill to remedy the social and environmental damage”
Esmarie Swanepoel | Mining Weekly
Gold miner Barrick Gold was facing a legal challenge at its Porgera mine, in Papua New Guinea, with landowners in the region claiming billions of dollars in compensation.
The Justice Foundation for Porgera (JFP), which represents landowners in the Porgera region, has submitted a position statement to Barrick and its subsidiary Barrick Niugini outlining irreparable losses as a result of social, economic and environmental damages caused by the Porgera gold mine.
Displaced by the mine’s activity, 14 landowner clan agents of the Porgera special mining lease formed the JFP.
The group claims that landowners’ subsistence and livelihoods were catastrophically changed as a result of the near doubling of the openpit mining rate and that Barrick Niugini, a subsidiary of Barrick, had breached agreements pertaining to environmental standards, the relocation of displaced landowners and the number of fly-in, fly-out workers to the region.
JFP reported that a group of specialists, including lawyers, scientists and film crew, have conducted a fact-finding mission to the area to gather data and evidence to support the group’s claims, with the evidence secured including 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.
The JFP pointed to a 2011 Human Rights Watch report, which 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 stated that “Barrick has responded with dismissive hostility to concerns about its human rights record at Porgera”.
In February this year, Barrick announced plans to sell its 95% share of the Porgera mine, to help reduce the company’s debt by at least $3-billion by year-end.
The gold miner’s joint venture partner, Mineral Resources Enga (MRE), which holds the remaining 5% interest in the Porgera mine in trust for landowners with the Enga provincial government, has expressed its displeasure at the development.
“Barrick will sell its interests without proper notice and exit Papua New Guinea 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 Papua New Guinea will be left with an insurmountable bill to remedy the social and environmental damage,” said MRE chairperson and director Kurubu Ipara.
Barrick’s share of gold production from the Porega operation reached 493 000 oz in 2014, and in 2015, the mine was expected to deliver between 500 000 oz and 550 000 oz to the gold miner.