Radio New Zealand
The Canadian miner Barrick Gold is being urged to come clean about its handling of compensation for women raped by employees at its Porgera Joint Venture in Papua New Guinea’s Enga province.
Under Barrick’s “remedy programme” it provided compensation to 120 rape victims who had to sign legal waivers that they would not sue Barrick in civil court.
However, eleven other victims rejected the settlement and with representation by EarthRights International, negotiated a separate, far higher compensation from Barrick.
Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada told Johnny Blades that this angered the 120 women:
CATHERINE COUMANS: You know, they signed away their legal rights, nonetheless Barrick talked them up with another 30,000 kina but that brings them still to one-fourth of what the other women had received and so this is an ongoing issue. Now Barrick is being very quiet about this, there’s also no explanation being given by Barrick about why they’ve decided to give these women an additional 30,000, but there’s also no explanation about why Barrick isn’t just giving the 120 women the same amount that the women got who were represented by Earth Rights International. And it brings Barrick’s entire remedy programme into question.
JOHNNY BLADES: Just establishing again, people in Barrick Gold’s employment raped these women. Were they ever taken to task in the local judicial system? Did police investigate?
CC: Yeah this is of course a real problem, so what we are talking about are women who were raped — gang raped, very often beaten, you know these were often extremely brutal events — by personnel of Barrick’s Porgera venture mine. And when I interviewed women about this over a number of years, what very often was the case was that either they didn’t know who had raped them, because these were very often security guards who come from all over the place, they’re not local. So the women often didn’t know who it was, and then often they would say that these people, even if they did think they knew who it was, then the person would disappear so they would no longer be working at the mine, they would suddenly be moved out. But even if they filed complaints with police they were very often arrested because the police would often then say ‘well if you were raped by the security guard then you must have been trespassing’, and by trespassing they mean basically walking out onto the huge waste flows that surround this mine because the mine is dumping all of its waste rock and tailings directly into the surrounding environment, so these people have to cross these waste flows just to get from one part of the village to another. But that’s called trespassing and that would then give security guards permission, in their mind, to take action against these women and rape them — and very often they would rape them and then bring them to the police department and say ‘these people were trespassing’ and get the police to lock them up.
JB: How are things there on the ground these days? Are these rapes still going on? Are these pack rapes and assaults, do you know if the situation has improved?
CC: We understand that it has improved, that it’s not as extreme as it was for the many, many years that we were recording this information and bringing it to Barrick and having Barrick deny it. Now that Barrick is no longer denying that this has been happening and has been going on for a very long time it seems that the situation has somewhat improved. It’s hard to say because one of the things we discovered in doing the interviews that we did was that women were very often only willing to speak about the fact that this had happened to them around two years after it had happened.