Martyn Namorong | Namorong Report | 28 March 2017
Barrick Niugini Limited has confirmed allegations made by the Akali Tange Association that a Papua New Guinea police operation on the 25th of March led to the destruction of homes belonging to the villagers of Wangima near the giant Porgera gold mine.
The Wangima settlement is located on the slopes of Mt Peruk on the perimeter of the Porgera Mine pit.
According to Mr McDiyan Robert Yapari of the Akali Tange Association of Porgera, “PNG police Mobile Units forcefully evicted residents from Wingima village near Barrick’s Porgera gold mine and burnt down some 150 houses.” Yapari further alleged that no prior warning was given to the residents of Wangima.
Barrick has however disputed these claims and said in a statement that “approximately 18 structures were removed in the police operation.”
Barrick further added that the “police operation was conducted under warrants issued by the Porgera District Court, and that notices of eviction had been previously provided by police to persons residing unlawfully in the operation area.”
However according to Mr Yapari, locals claim that the police had informed them that they were acting on company orders. Mr Yapari further claimed that this was “the third time Barrick and its allies are burning down Wingima Village.”
Yapari further alleged that several women were sexually assaulted and men were beaten during the raid.
Barick and the Porgera Joint Venture management have responded to these allegations by appointing former Chief Ombudsman Mr Ila Geno, the Independent Observer of Porgera Police Operations, to investigate the reports.
Porgera mine management distanced themselves from the raid stating “that mine personnel had no involvement in or prior knowledge of the police operation.”
However Mr Yapari pinned the blame squarely on the mine management stating “you are paying for the food and accommodation and fuel of the police, and they are guarding your gold, you have a responsibility.”
Yapari called for an independent investigation into the matter and for partners in the Porgera Joint Venture to provide humanitarian assistance.
Barrick has urged the government of PNG to investigate the police operation and has stated that it will consider any requests for humanitarian assistance.
The Porgera Gold Mine employs over 2,500 Papua New Guineans, and over the life of the mine it has contributed approximately 10% of Papua New Guinea’s total annual exports.
On an annual basis, the Porgera Gold Mine pays more than K34 million on royalties, over K109 million on taxes and duties to the National Government, more than K9 million on the Government-owned Tax Credit Scheme (TCS), spends over K3 million on highway maintenance, and over K1 million annually on donations, among other benefits from the mine.
The mine has however been dogged by human rights abuses including the infamous rapes of local women by mine employees. A quasi-judicial settlement of that matter has been heavily criticized by international legal experts including the Harvard School of Law.