In the highlands of Papua New Guinea, a grassroots human rights group living in the shadow of one of the world’s largest gold mines is once again raising the alarm on behalf of human rights victims of the mine.
“Akali Tange Association Inc (ATA) has submitted 256 names of victims who have been shot death (sic), injured and raped by Barrick PJV Security Personnel,” reads a communiqué from ATA. ATA submitted the names to the mine’s grievance office in September 2015, and received a claims number, but there has been no progress on the claims. A peaceful protest to deliver a petition to the mine site is planned for June 24, 2015.
After years of denial of excessive use of force by mine security and police guarding the Porgera Joint Venture mine, Barrick ran a compensation program at the mine site between 2012-2014 that eventually provided 119 victims of rape and gang rape by mine security with financial compensation in return for signing legal waivers.
“These women did not enjoy procedural fairness in the Barrick mechanism and did not have effective independent legal counsel,” says Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada, “they are now protesting the compensation they received as it is reportedly a quarter of what 11 rape victims in Porgera received who did benefit from international independent legal counsel.”
Furthermore, ATA and international observers, including MiningWatch, are aware of women who should have received compensation through Barrick’s mechanism and were either not aware of the now closed program or were wrongly turned away. There also have been further incidents of violent rape since the compensation mechanism closed down.
Additionally, the program Barrick put in place dealt narrowly with victims of sexual violence. The mine refers other victims of excess use of force by mine security, including those who have been maimed, and family members of those who have lost their lives, to a “grievance office” at the mine site. ATA notes that this office is not responding to claims the organization has submitted.
“Barrick cannot now return to its previous policy of denial in regard to these serious cases of human rights abuses by mine security and police guarding the mine,” says Coumans, “nor can Barrick wash its hands of these victims who were not included, or passed over, in the compensation mechanism for rape victims. The responsibility to provide remedy to victims of the mine’s operations is not restricted to those who pose the greatest legal risk to the company.”