Monthly Archives: April 2017

Mining violence survivors demand justice in Toronto

Everlyn Gaupe, a survivor of sexual violence at the Porgera mine in Papua New Guinea, speaks with protesters outside Barrick Gold’s annual general meeting on Tues. April 25, 2017 in downtown Toronto. Photo by Riley Sparks

Elizabeth McSheffrey | National Observer | April 25 2017

Everlyn Gaupe says she could have outrun their attackers but her little sister could not. She stayed behind. Both girls were beaten and gang raped.

Their assailants were security guards hired to patrol a gold mine in her community of Porgera in Papua New Guinea. Gaupe was 18 years old.

But time has not healed, and though the vicious attack was nearly 20 years ago, the experience brings her to tears today. Gaupe flew from Papua New Guinea to share the difficult memory with Barrick Gold — the Canadian mining giant that owns nearly 50 per cent of the Porgera gold mine.

She and another survivor of the violence at the mine, Joycelyn Mandi, attended the company’s annual general meeting with shareholders on Wednesday to demand justice for more than 100 other women who have experienced similar trauma at the hands of Porgera’s security guards. But they were denied the opportunity to speak by a member of Barrick Gold’s staff, as a protest against its operations was underway on the streets of downtown Toronto.

In an interview with National Observer, Barrick Gold’s senior vice-president of communications, Andy Lloyd, said it appears there was a problem with their arrangement to speak at the meeting through a proxy shareholder — a practice regularly used by activists to participate in such meetings, and permitted by the company.

Barrick Gold regrets the “misunderstanding,” he said, and despite the protocol mishap, Lloyd said the women should still have been able to ask questions at the meeting. Barrick has offered to meet with Gaupe and Mandi privately to hear their concerns while they’re still in Canada.

Everlyn Guape and Jocelyn Mandi travelled from Papua New Guinea to Canada to tell Barrick Gold shareholders about violence they suffered at the hands of security guards at one of the company’s mines. But the company wouldn’t let them speak. Video by Riley Sparks

Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada accompanied Gaupe and Mandi at the shareholder’s meeting and read their statements for them as they watched quietly, unable to speak. She equated the rejection of their proxy request — which she says was completed on time — to taking “away their voice.”

“We’ve been doing this year after year, using this forum to allow people to have a voice in Canada and talk to the shareholders and directors directly,” she told National Observer. “This year, they rejected almost all the proxies, and there was no reason given. The first thing that came to my mind is, ‘silence is violence’… This is how you silence people.”

A history of violence at Porgera mine

Gaupe and Mandi, who left Papua New Guinea for the first time in their lives just to make this presentation, were devastated.

“It’s not only us,” said Mandi, standing at the heart of a small protest outside the meeting. “We are representing the majority back home. It’s not about us.”

The Porgera gold mine in western Papua New Guinea has been the notorious site of gang rape, beatings, and other atrocities since it started operating in 1990. Detailed reports by Human Rights Watch and other industry watchdog groups describe disturbing cases of extreme violence at the hands of mine security personnel, some of whom threatened victims with arrest if they tried to complain to other authorities.

Most of the victims are villagers who scavenge for low-grade ore discarded in the company’s waste rock piles, said Coumans of MiningWatch Canada, or women and girls who are crossing mine property to get to school, their jobs, or the market.

“This mine dumps all of its tailings and waste rock directly into the river valleys all around the pit,” she told Barrick’s shareholders, reading the presentation Gaupe intended to make. “Our villages are surrounded by mine waste. We have to cross this waste just to get from one village to another, or to go to our vegetable gardens or schools.”

The mine is a joint venture of Barrick Gold, a Chinese producer called Zijin Mining Group, and Mineral Resources Enga, which divides its five-per-cent interest between the local provincial government and landowners. Barrick, the largest gold producer in the world, acquired its interest in the mine in 2006, which means much of the documented violence occurred before it became involved in the project.

Reports from the ground however, indicate that the company’s efforts to contain violence at the hands of mine security guards since 2006 have failed: Beatings, rapes and attacks are still common, reports MiningWatch Canada. In March, a local human rights organization — the Akali Tange Association — also said a police raid on a village within the mine’s lease destroyed 150 houses, and that villagers were beaten and gang raped.

In a letter to the Akali Tange Association, Barrick Gold acknowledged encouraged that the raid took place, but said no mine personnel were involved, nor were they aware the raid would take place. The company disputed the organization’s numbers, encouraged it to present evidence to support a full investigation into the incident, and said the mine’s operators would consider all requests for humanitarian assistance arising from the police operation.

“It’s an extremely complex environment, one of the most challenging environments to operate a mine in the world,” said Lloyd of ongoing violence at the mine. “The mine and its owners will not be able to solve these challenges on its own. We need the government to be at the table, we need community leaders to be at the table.”

Gender-based violence is an issue across Papua New Guinea, he added, not just at the mine site. To help with the problem, the company has brought in a global human rights training program for all of its employees that includes a focus on gender-based violence.

“Nobody, as far as I’m aware is calling for the mine to be closed, so the challenge is, how do we actually address some of these persistent issues that have been there for 20 years? They’re not new and they’re not easy to solve.”

The Toronto-based mining giant, Barrick Gold, owns roughly 50 per cent of the Porgera Mine in Papua New Guinea, pictured here. Photo courtesy of Barrick Gold.

Dispute over compensation for survivors

According to Gaupe and Mandi, there’s a simple solution to Barrick’s conundrum.

“Maybe they should return to Canada and stay in Canada,” said Mandi in an interview. “I think it is best to stop this big Canadian gold miner, Barrick, from mining in our home country.”

Mandi, who was a school girl when she was raped by a group of Porgera mine security guards, is one of an untold number of women who have never received compensation from Barrick for their suffering. Ashamed of what had happened to her, she fled her village after the attack, she told National Observer.

She never heard that in 2012, the company launched a formal remediation program for female victims of sexual violence in the Porgera Valley. The first of its kind, it offered the women PGK50,000 (roughly $21,000) in compensation, and a promise that school fees and medical support would be provided for their children over the next three years.

But much of the latter has not been delivered, says Gaupe — one of 119 who did hear about the package and accepted it. When her husband found out that she had been raped, he abandoned her, leaving her alone to raise their children. She is now struggling to keep them healthy and in school, she says, as a single mother of four.

The remediation program has been widely criticized by industry watchdogs, who say many of the women didn’t understand the documents they were signing, and were led to believe that if they didn’t sign, they would get nothing. In accepting the package, the women also signed a controversial legal waiver that forfeited their rights to sue the company or seek further compensation for the same grievance.

In 2015, 11 survivors of sexual assault at the mine settled out of court with Barrick, for what was reportedly a much larger sum than was provided through the remediation package. In November last year, Gaupe — along with the other women who took that package — signed a letter seeking intervention from the officials at the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva in their quest to receive compensation to match the sum received by the women who settled out of court.

Those sums have been kept confidential and National Observer could not confirm the numbers.

No plans to re-open remediation program

On Wednesday, at the shareholder’s meeting, Coumans of MiningWatch Canada demanded on their behalf that Barrick release them from the legal waiver preventing them from suing or seeking extra cash.

“Then at least the women can consider whether they have legal options,” she said. “I don’t think it’s good enough for Barrick to say, ‘This is a difficult environment.’ They are mining there, so they have a responsibility.”

Lloyd said the company has given the women who accepted its remediation package a cash “top up” since 2012, but has no plans to reopen the program. He acknowledged that Barrick’s own consultants identified problems with the program and how it was carried out, and that the violence experienced by the women is “completely unacceptable.”

Broadly speaking however, he said the Porgera mine is a “very positive contributor to the community.” It employs more than 2,000 people, and since Barrick Gold acquired its interest in 2006, the company has made substantial contributions to the Porgera District Women’s Association and the family and sexual violence unit of the local police, and has provided funds for new women’s welfare liaison officers, which provide an alternative avenue for women to report cases of abuse.

The efforts are of little comfort to Gaupe and Mandi. Mandi, who filed her complaint about her assault to the grievance office in Porgera and received a case number, hasn’t heard from a mining official in a year.

“I should tell Canadians that Barrick is a bad company and it should stop mining,” she said.

“No matter how long it takes, I will still keep on fighting until justice has been made,” added Gaupe.

Incidents plague Barrick mines around the world

Barrick Gold reported weaker-than-expected quarterly earnings on Monday, the day before the shareholder’s meeting. It also slashed its forecast for output and raised costs at its gold mine in Argentina, where a local judge is contemplating an order to shut it down.

The company had its third cyanide solution spill in 18 months at the Veladero mine in San Juan last month.

Responding to that incident, Lloyd said the company is confident it can operate the mine safely in the future and that the incident is “very disappointing.” The company has committed to “completely overhauling” its operations there, he added, to ensure “world class” oversight.

The Toronto-based company has previously been hit with a record US$16.4-million penalty in Chile, where it was found guilty of 23 violations of its environmental impact agreement at the Pascua Lama gold project on the Chile-Argentine border. The convictions included building earthworks without approval, failing to prevent runoff from mineral acid, and failing to tell the whole truth when it came to such operational failures.

The North Mara mine in Tanzania, 64 per cent owned by Barrick, has also suffered from steady violence by security guards, similar to the Porgera mine. Last year, a Tanzanian government inquiry found that at least 65 people have been killed and 270 have been injured at that operation since 2006.

Leave a comment

Filed under Environmental impact, Human rights, Papua New Guinea

Fiji gold mine awaits full audit report

Repeka Nasiko | The Fiji Times | April 25, 2017

VATUKOULA Gold Mine Ltd will wait on the outcome of the full audit carried out by the Department of Mineral Resources before deciding on the next course of action.

Company’s corporate services manager Dinny Laufenboeck said the company’s underground operations would remain closed until the audit was completed.

“Since all three incidents occurred in Vatukoula’s underground workings, the only competent authority to conduct an investigation and to whom all reporting is made, is the Mineral Resources Department,” she said.

“Work in the particular area (Smith Shaft) where the fatality occurred was suspended (and remains suspended). That is standard practice.

“Vatukoula’s underground workings are very extensive with outlying areas some kilometres away from where the fatality occurred and at varying depth.

“Since the subsequent two rock fall injuries occurred in another shaft (Philip Shaft), the MRD clearly deemed it timely to suspend operations mine wide and conduct an audit to determine what, if any, the contributory causes may have been.”

Ms Laufenboeck said the onus would also be on VGML on how it would satisfy the Mineral Resources Department audit team.

She said the Mineral Resources Department was the only authority licensed to inspect mines.

“Because the mining situation is dynamic, it is constantly changing and unlike a surface building which, once made safe, remains that way until something breaks or changes dramatically, we make the underground situation safe to work in but then make it unsafe by blasting with explosives to break the rock to produce gold and then make it safe again to bring out the rock.

“The Mineral Resources Department is the only authority with inspectors professionally trained for inspections in an underground environment,” she said.

Last week, Minister for Lands Faiyaz Koya suspended all underground operations at the mine pending a full audit of the company resulting in about 500 employees being sent home.

Mr Koya had said there was no set timeline on the audit.

Leave a comment

Filed under Fiji, Human rights

Experimental seabed mining!? Leave my down below alone!

Seas at Risk | April 21, 2017

Mr Smashing makes a comeback with an experimental seabed mining disco love song.

Destroying the deep sea to get metals for our throw-away mobile phones and other e-devices? Seas At Risk thinks it is better to step up efforts on the circular economy – make devices repairable, re-usable, recyclable. Use mineral resources more efficiently and keep them in the economy loop instead of wasting them.

2 Comments

Filed under Environmental impact, Pacific region

Anglo American should divest from high risk deep sea mining

Deep Sea Mining Campaign | 24 April 2017

Multinational mining company Anglo American will be held accountable today at its annual shareholder meeting. The company’s investment in the experimental Nautilus Minerals Solwara 1 deep sea mining project, is deeply opposed by local communities, churches and wider civil society in Papua New Guinea. These stakeholders ask Anglo American to divest from Nautilus Inc.

Anglo American is proud of its international commitments to sustainability, human rights, and environmental stewardship, but will they inform shareholders that their investment in Nautilus does not respect people’s culture and heritage?

“Anglo American, we are not guinea pigs for your experimental project!” stated Jonathan Mesulam from the Alliance of Solwara Warriors. “We in the Pacific are custodians of the world’s largest ocean. These oceans are important to us as sources of food and livelihoods. They are vital for our culture and our very identity. Solwara 1 is in the middle of our traditional fishing grounds. You are threatening our home and our existence with experimental seabed mining.”

Christina Tony, from the Bismarck Ramu Group in PNG, said:

“Anglo American, Solwara 1 does not respect local communities’ livelihoods, health, food security and culture all of which are strongly linked to the sea. Our people have not provided their informed consent for this project. The Solwara 1 Environmental Impact Statement contains many gaps and errors – we can’t even obtain all the environmental research reports. By investing in this industry, Anglo American is complicit in trampling on our human rights.”

Dr. Helen Rosenbaum, Deep Sea Mining campaign stated:

“Deep Sea Mining is risky business as both the environmental impacts and the returns are complete unknowns. Nautilus’ Annual Information Form, lodged with Canadian securities, emphasises the experimental nature of the Solwara 1 project. In addition, report after report[1] demonstrates the world’s oceans are already on the brink of peril. Recent research from the MIDAS consortium indicates a concrete risk that deep sea mining would lead to serious irreversible harm. With our Pacific partners. we call for a complete ban on Deep Sea Mining and for Anglo American to dissociate itself and its shareholders from this unjust experiment.”

Andy Whitmore, London Mining Network says:

“We welcome Anglo American’s desire to look for more sustainable forms of mining to meet society’s needs[2][3]. However, deep sea mining is not the answer. Instead, the solution should prioritise environmental protection and resource conservation while maintaining economic benefits. We ask Anglo American to divest from sea bed mining and instead get behind alternatives to traditional mining developments and truly cutting edge approaches hold the promise of win-win solutions for society and the environment. 

NOTES

[1] Reports include: World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Reviving the Ocean Economy (2015) ; The Living Planet (2016);  International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) State of the Ocean (2013) ; Explaining Ocean Warming (2016); and the United Nation’s World Ocean Assessment 2016 which is a global inventory of the state of the marine environment and problems threatening to degrade the oceans.

[2] For example, California based Blue Oak Resources estimates that every year mining companies spend roughly $12 billion for virgin ore deposits. While tons of cell phones and other electronics are thrown out every year, each ton contains 70 times the amount of gold and silver found in virgin ore. For copper the number is even higher, with the equivalent of roughly one-third of global mining production thrown out in e-waste globally every year; ‘Urban mining’: UBC engineers say e-waste richer than ore pulled from the ground;  Can ‘urban mining’ solve the world’s e-waste problem?

[3] In Apple’s 2017 Environment Responsibility Report released last Wednesday 19th April, the company has announced a new, unprecedented goal for the tech industry to “stop mining the earth altogether”. Read more: No Mining Required; No more mining says Apple; and Apple will stop relying on mining for minerals ‘one day’.

Leave a comment

Filed under Environmental impact, Human rights, Papua New Guinea

Panguna landowners say ‘no’ to BCL’s proposed return to mining on Bougainville

Bougainville Revolutionary Army fighters look down on the Panguna mine in 1996

One PNG | 24 April 2017

Panguna landowners have reacted angrily to a report that the PNG Government supports formerly Rio Tinto-linked company BCL in its bid to convince authorities it should be given exploration rights at the controversial Panguna minesite – the scene of major civil unrest in Bougainville in the 1990s.

The President of the Special Mining Lease Landowners Association, Philip Miriori, said his group was 100% opposed and that many other Bougainvillians shared this view.

Claims of unanimous landowner support for BCL were wrong and insulting, Mr Miriori said, adding it was time PNG Prime Minister O’Neill and Bougainville President Momis heard some true facts.  

He also went on to say:

“In fact, during the first phase the issue of an exploration licence, we are the only Landowner Association that has a say as it will be our minerals and land that will be disturbed and subject to exploration. It is only later, when the mine is redeveloped that the other Landowners will need to consider their position.”

“Our group owns the land and the mineral rights for the minesite.  Nothing can occur on the site without our permission,” Mr Miriori said.

“We are being deliberately passed over despite Bougainville Government assurances that no action would be taken on the minesite without proper respect to people’s views.

“Many Bougainvillians were angered at the statements about PNG Government support for BCL. I expect we will hear much more this week,” he said.

Mr Miriori was referring to a planned gathering of ex-combatants from the Bougainville conflict, which erupted on the back of BCL and Rio Tinto’s operation of the old Panguna, leaving only environmental carnage and deep-seated disputes over improper payments and lack of accountability with the death of many of our friends and family.

“All this will do is further motivate our people to stand up against BCL, stronger and more vocally,” Mr Miriori said.

“Most people in Bougainville know of Francis Ona’s words: ‘BCL should never be allowed to return to Bougainville’.”

The SML group made their position very clear to Bougainville’s President Momis at a meeting in late February and another earlier in December last year.

“We said we will never accept BCL.  It is the same company that caused turmoil in Bougainville which lasted more than 10years. It is run by ex-Rio people. And it continues to break its promises, try to bully us and misrepresent us, as it tries to drive a wedge between our people and ignore our rights as the owners of the minerals.”

“It is time people woke up to this.  In 28 years, BCL has done nothing for Bougainville or PNG except make empty promises or ignore us. Why would we even consider giving BCL anything – they have given us nothing and they owe millions in unpaid rent and hundreds of millions in compensation for ruining the environment.

“There is a better way forward which will finally get rid of BCL and bring some real hope back for Panguna and future Bougainville independence and prosperity.”

2 Comments

Filed under Environmental impact, Human rights, Papua New Guinea

Last-minute info request from seabed miner unfair say opponents

Kiwis Against Seabed Mining spokesperson Phil McCabe says it is clear the EPA had embarked on an exercise of completing and, in effect, proving the applicant’s case. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Robin Martin | Radio New Zealand | 24 April 2017

Opponents of a proposal to mine millions of tonnes of ironsand from the seabed off the Taranaki coast say the hearings process has been biased.

They say the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has bent over backwards to help the applicant Trans-Tasman Resources prove its case, at the expense of those opposed to it.

Trans-Tasman Resources has applied for consents to dig up 50 million tonnes of the South Taranaki Bight seabed every year for 35 years, for a net return five million tonnes of iron ore annually.

The company says it will earn about $400 million in export earnings a year, with the government pocketing about $6m in royalties, and create about 300 jobs.

Opponents claim the technology is unproven and the project could do irreparable damage to sensitive marine environments.

Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM) spokesperson Phil McCabe said a last-minute request for Trans-Tasman Resources to provide more information on the sediment plume and noise was unfair on other submitters.

“To call for brand-new information is just not OK, because that information needed to be at the front-end of the process and our view is that this call for new information makes this whole hearing process essentially null and void.”

Mr McCabe said the call for new information came on top of an earlier extension to allow the company to get more data, for an application that he said should have been rejected in September last year on the basis of being incomplete.

He feared there were other factors in play.

“It’s clear to us that there is downward pressure upon the EPA, being placed upon the EPA, to get this application over the line.

“It’s obvious with three ministries MBIE [the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment], MPI [the Ministry of Primary Industries] and DOC [the Department of Conservation] all giving it the tick and the go-ahead.”

Mr McCabe said KASM would seek a judicial review of the process, a declaratory statement, or an appeal on the basis of a flawed process.

“It is demonstrably clear that the EPA has embarked on an exercise of completing and, in effect, proving the applicant’s case. This is an unlawful exercise of power which also significantly prejudices submitters in opposition to the application.”

The group was not alone. Fisheries submitters, Ngāti Ruanui and Forest and Bird were also angry, and all wrote to the EPA to say so.

Ngāti Ruanui chief executive Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said if the Trans-Tasman Resources application was not clear it should have been rejected. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Ngāti Ruanui chief executive Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said when it wanted more time or information the authority put up road blocks, but it had done the complete opposite for Trans-Tasman Resources.

“Our general view which has been emphasised throughout this whole ridiculous process has been if the information wasn’t clear in the application at the beginning it shouldn’t have been accepted.

“And this behaviour, this need for them to have more information, further validates our concerns.”

Ms Ngarewa-Packer said the iwi was also planning a legal challenge and she feared there would be backlash among her people if the application was approved.

“I think they’ll be incensed, I think they’ll be furious and there’s a large degree of being resigned to being ripped off and treated poorly.

“I think that they are absolutely appalled at the disregard they’ve faced as the little people and there’s very much the sense of David versus Goliath.”

In its response to the submitters’ criticism, the chairman of the authority’s decision-making committee, Alick Shaw, said the Exclusive Economic Zone Act imposed an obligation on it to seek information throughout the hearings process and provided wide powers for it to do so.

“The requests for further information are made with due consideration to the obligation to establish a procedure that is appropriate and fair. The DMC [decision-making committee] has always taken steps to ensure that there is a process allowing parties an opportunity to respond, and this will continue to be the case.”

The EPA has received more than 14,000 submission on Trans-Tasman Resources’ application, the overwhelming majority against the project.

The hearings are now due to end at the end of May, and a decision on whether it is approved is due 20 days later.

Leave a comment

Filed under Environmental impact, Human rights, New Zealand

BCL Makes Final Royalty Payment

Romulus Masiu | Post Courier | April 21, 2017

BOUGAINVILLE Copper Limited (BCL) [says it] has completed the 1990 Panguna landowners’ compensation payment verification program.

[It says] A total of K14 million has been paid directly into the bank accounts of the landowners as their royalty payment, as agreed in the Bougainville Copper Agreement. This is the landowners’ last royalty payment, unless BCL returns to dig the mine again in the future.

The program, which started in December last year, covers the Special Mining Lease areas, starting from Port Mine Access Road to the Lower Tailings of the Emperor Augusta Bay in Bana and Torokina districts of South Bougainville.

To date, the two districts are still facing the marine and environmental damages from the polluted Jaba and Kavarong rivers even though the mine officially shut down operations in 1989.

The program has also covered the middle tailings and the SML areas, including the mine pit and the surrounding villages.

“Full credit must go to the hardworking team led by Bruno Babato and his officers from the Office of Panguna Mine Negotiations who tirelessly worked for five years for this to finally happen”.

BCL was “well represented” during the verification process by Port Moresby-based officer, Justin Rogers, who was on the ground to oversee the smooth running of the program, which was finally completed at Pakia village, Ioro constituency of Panguna district.

Mr Babato appealed to the recipients to use whatever amount they’re paid wisely because this is the final land compensation payment since BCL started operations in 1972.

Apart from the 1990 outstanding land compensation payment, which the resource owners of Panguna received, they also want BCL to progress with the belkol ceremony before any discussion with the company on the mine reopening issues is discussed. The belkol will involve the whole of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville population from North, Central and South Bougainville.

1 Comment

Filed under Financial returns, Papua New Guinea