Jarni Blakkarly | SBS | October 1, 2018
Papua New Guinea’s neighbours living next to one of the largest gold mines in the world are asking the government to block attempts to extend their mining license.
The mine has been operating for almost 30 years, but the license for the Porgera gold mine in Enga province, Papua New Guinea, expires in May.
Jonathan Paraia is the president of the Justice Foundation for Porgera and is leading the charges against the mining companies.
“The people were not treated properly, they are suffering in terms of their human rights, destroying their homes and gardens and the land they live on,” he said.
The Porgera gold mine is operated by a joint venture between Canada’s Barrick and Chinese miners ZiJin, which have a 47.5 percent stake each.
The remaining five percent is in the hands of a regional government agency, Mineral Resources, Enga.
The villagers say that promises of jobs and benefits from the mine have only reached a few, while the rest still live in extreme poverty and have lost access to their traditional lands.
The members of the community met at a meeting last Thursday to express their anger. Along with the traditional drums and songs, they were “Barrick out” songs.
Jonathan Paraia says that the operation of the mine has caused significant environmental damage.
He says he expects a different mining company to have the opportunity to enter the area, one that will extend the benefits more widely through the community.
Australian lawyers who inform the group that opposes the extension of the mine say the owners deserve adequate compensation.
“People want to be treated fairly, they want to see a much fairer distribution of mine profits. They want to see their people with more opportunities and if they can not be approached, they will oppose the mine continuing in any way, “said attorney Matthew Graham.
“Ideally, the mine should continue to operate, and people can be better off in the future and compensated for environmental damage in the past,” he added.
A spokesperson for Barrick Niguini Limited, the local arm of the company that operates the joint venture, said they always paid compensation and royalties, and that the mine had brought significant infrastructure and benefits to the local area.