Hilary Beaumont | Vice News
The very same day Harvard and Columbia released a report critical of how the largest gold mining company in the world dealt with rampant rape allegations at its Papua New Guinea mine, three men say the mine’s guards forced them at gunpoint to perform sex acts on one another.
One of the men alleges he told the officers he was HIV-positive, but they still forced him to have sex with the other two, who now worry they have contracted the disease.
Barrick Gold, headquartered in Toronto, disputes that any rapes by its security guards have happened since 2010, saying they have a mechanism of reporting human rights abuses and this is the first report they have received since that year.
“With respect to the allegations you have raised, the mine takes any allegations of human rights abuses extremely seriously and has reported the matter to the Independent Observer for further investigation,” Barrick Gold spokesperson Andy Lloyd told VICE News in an email.
According to a 2014 Barrick document, the independent observer is charged with oversight and follow up of human rights abuse investigations involving public security at the mine site.
Following the alleged events of November 19, the three men reported their stories to Karath Mal Waka, chairman of the Human Rights Inter-Pacific Association, who recorded audio and video of their accounts, and combined them into a joint statement. He then sent the statement to Barrick Gold, prompting the company to investigate.
VICE News spoke with Mal Waka and the three complainants over the phone, with Mal Waka translating.
In the joint statement, the three complainants, Tandale Wayamu, Paso Was and Wanpis Muli, say they were illegally trespassing in the open pit mine at 6 am on November 19 in search of gold. Barrick guards patrol the mine and its nearby dumps to catch locals who trespass to gather gold. That’s where more than 130 locals — mostly women and children — say guards caught and raped them.
While the three men were trespassing, they allege nine armed men, including two police officers and three Papua New Guinea Defense Force (PNGDF) members, chased and arrested them. They told VICE News the guards were carrying AR-15s and M-16s.
“The combined force came and attacked us,” the statement reads. “They used their gun barrels and iron rods and hit all of us as hard as they could.”
The guards then led them to a 10-seat car, they allege.
“The PNGDF were singing and were making fun at us and they also hit us inside the car,” the statement reads. “They were forking our bodies with a sharp iron rod.”
One of the complainants, Muli, said,
“they used the iron rod and pushed it into my anus, twice.”
Instead of taking the complainants to the detention center, the guards took them toward one of the mine’s dumping sites “near a dirty pool with muddy waters.”
The statement alleges the guards forced the complainants to undress, and perform oral sex on each other. While they were doing this, they allege, “[the guards] brought their mobile cameras very close to us and took pictures.” They told VICE News they remembered seeing the guards holding five phones to take photos.
After that, the men allege, they were forced to have anal sex. “
Paso Was is a well-known victim of HIV [and] AIDS [and he] was forced to have sex with both of us at heavy gun point.”
Paso told the officers about his illness, “but they insisted and forced Paso to have sex with the two of us,” the statement says.
According to a medical report from Tandale Wayamu (spelled Weamu on the document), a physician examined the complainant 12 days later on December 2 and “oral and anal examinations revealed nothing significant related to the incident.” The physician found “several bruises and tenderness” in his left knee, which Wayamu said was due to the PNGDF beating.
The physician tested him for HIV but found him “not reactive (negative),” which means no HIV antibodies were detected in his blood at the time. The report said he will be tested again in three months.
VICE News is awaiting medical reports from the other two men.
The three men have testified in a Papua New Guinea court twice — on November 23 and 24, however their allegations remain unproven in any court of law.
It isn’t the first time reports like this one have emerged about Barrick’s guards.
According to the Harvard-Columbia report, for years women living near the mine accused the company’s guards of sexually assaulting them, in the words of Columbia human rights lawyer Sarah Knuckey, “in some of the most vicious assaults I’ve investigated anywhere in the world.”
At first the company ignored their concerns, but in 2010 the company started an internal investigation, and in 2012, Barrick created a compensation mechanism for sexual abuses by its employees. Through this process Barrick compensated 120 women who said they were raped by the mine’s security. The company also fired approximately a dozen guards, Barrick spokesperson Lloyd said.
Eleven other women rejected the mechanism, instead opting for legal representation. According to the Harvard-Columbia report, they received compensation up to 10 times higher than the payments offered to the other 120 women.
Earlier this year, the report states, “Barrick offered each of the 120 women an additional payment, but taken together, the initial packages and additional payment remains significantly less than the international settlement.”
The 120 women are now fighting for further compensation. The three men who reported they were forced to have sex with each other told VICE News they also want compensation from the company.
In November, VICE News interviewed a group of 20 women over the phone from Porgera, Papua New Guinea who had been compensated for sexual assaults. One of the women said: “Rapes, killing, illegal mining activities are still going on. They haven’t done anything to stop it.”