Radio New Zealand | July 15, 2016
Human rights groups are accusing an international mining venture in Papua New Guinea of failing to adequately address hundreds of claims of violence against security personnel.
They say violence is continuing at the Porgera gold mine, while victims of historic cases of shooting, rape and injury are still demanding justice.
The Akali Tange Association says it’s had no response to a claim it lodged last September with Barrick Niugini on behalf of 256 victims. The association’s executive officer McDiyan Yapari says the cases span more than two decades from 1990 to last year.
MCDIYAN YAPARI: Ninety people have been shot dead just for trespassing. Eighty-eight people sustained injuries, either they were injured, tortured or illegally detained at the hands of security personnel. The remainder, 78 of them have been missed out, they were women rape victims who have missed out from the remedy.
The remedy was a grievance mechanism introduced by Barrick in 2012 to deal with allegations of violence at the gold mine in Enga Province. The company, a Canadian-Chinese joint venture, says some of the 256 claims were dealt with by the mechanism or by the mine’s previous owners. But Catherine Coumans from Mining Watch Canada says the mechanism, was too narrow in scope, as it only covered women raped by Barrick security guards.
CATHERINE COUMANS: So the Papua New Guinea police who are at the mine site through a memorandum of understanding between Barrick and the state, are actually guarding the mine, they -are being paid by Barrick, but in all of the cases where they were the perpetrators, those cases were bracketed out of this programme.
The Akali Tange Association says it held a protest last month in frustration at the lack of action on its claim. But in a statement Barrick says:
BARRICK MINING STATEMENT: It will take a significant amount of time to evaluate each claim given the volume and seriousness of the allegations. We carry a commitment to respond to allegations of negative human rights in a fair and effective manner.
Barrick goes on to say that it has also sought to verify the Akali Tange Association is authorised to act on behalf of the claimants, citing a consultant’s report that found the association has previously shown insensitivity to the vulnerability of sexual violence survivors. Catherine Coumans says there is no evidence for that allegation.
CATHERINE COUMANS: It’s very problematic that the company is trying to basically shoot the messengers. They should really focus on dealing with the complaints and not try to divert attention away from the victims.
McDiyan Yapari says despite Barrick’s claims it is addressing human rights violations at the mine, the violence has not stopped.
MCDIYAN YAPARI: Human rights abuses here in Porgera is still continuing. This very last time three men have been held up by security guards and they were forced to have sexual intercourse and then one claimed that he was an HIV victim.
Catherine Coumans says in another recent case two women were raped. She says conditions at Porgera still leave people vulnerable to assault, as villages are squeezed between the mine pit and waste flows from the mine.
CATHERINE COUMANS: They have to cross these waste flows, and as soon as they do that they are officially trespassing and that makes them vulnerable to attack from security guards and the police who threaten them and say that they’re trespassing. What we often heard from women when we were interviewing the women was that they would say ‘ok we are going to arrest you or we are going to rape you, which do you want’.
Catherine Coumans says Porgera is an industrial hellhole and villagers are adamant they need to be relocated.