Tag Archives: Human rights

Village Houses Burnt Down – Again – at Barrick Mine; Violence Against Local Men and Women Continues Unabated

Mining Watch Canada

Before dawn on March 25, some 150 houses in the village of Wangima were burnt to the ground by Mobile Units of the Papua New Guinea police, according to reports from Akali Tange Association, a human rights organization in Porgera.

Wangima is located inside the mine lease area of Barrick Gold’s Porgera Joint Venture (PJV) mine. The violent raid on the village occurred while people were sleeping. Barrick has now 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 villagers of Wangima, though claiming only 18 houses were destroyed.

Akali Tange Association’s McDiyan Yapari interviewed the victims while their houses were still smouldering. In a letter sent to Barrick’s President Kelvin Dushnisky, Yapari records an interview with one of the victims:

“an owner of one of a [sic] houses that was burnt down said that he was fast asleep at around 5:30 am in the morning when the PNG Police Mobil Squads forcefully broke his houses door and entered. After entering his house, they dragged him out of his house half naked and a policeman set his house on fire. He further said that he did not get even a single shirt or a pant. Everything he owns including cooking utensils, clothes, beds and other valuable properties were all burnt down.”

Barrick says that the PJV mine has been advised that warrants were issued by the Porgera District Court for the raid and asserts that mine personnel had no prior knowledge of the police action. This response is remarkable as it does not explain how such a planned raid could occur in a village inside Barrick’s mine lease area without Barrick’s prior knowledge – particularly as there is a history of such house burnings in Wangima by police involved with the mine, as reported on by MiningWatch in 2009 and 2014.

Police who guard the mine are housed, fed, clothed and paid by the mine which is 95% owned by Barrick (Niugini) Ltd., in turn 50% owned by Barrick Gold. Yapari refers in his letter to Barrick’s Dushnisky that one of the police involved in the raid told Yapari that the “Company gave us orders and that we had no choice but to follow their directives,” adding,

“We are here working for money and if we don’t follow orders, we will not be paid our daily allowances.”

Yapari was also told that young girls were gang raped and young men beaten in the raid.

Violence against local men and women by mine security guards and Papua New Guinea police, who guard the mine under a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Papua New Guinea state, is also long-standing and ongoing. Barrick has never released the MOA.

Yapari highlights the ongoing violence against locals by mine-related security by describing an “incident of gang rape on Monday, 20th March, 2017 at around 3:00 pm. One eyewitness said women were crossing a haul road when the Barrick hired PNG Police Mobil [sic] Squads patrolling the Mine’s Waste Dump held them up during the daylight and gang raped them.”

Barrick’s public statement does not address the violence that reportedly accompanied the house burnings, nor the allegations made by Yapari of gang rape on March 20.

“It is simply incomprehensible that Barrick does not publicly condemn house burnings by police occurring on the mine’s lease area, by all accounts by police funded and directed by Barrick, as these are gross violations of human rights,” says Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada, “Does Barrick think it is appropriate to send police to remove people from where they sleep and burn down their houses and possessions?”

In the letter, Yapari says, “Barrick needs to give us an explanation for these continuous violent raids on our people and must give immediate humanitarian aid to the victims as well as remedy for the losses and personal harm they have suffered.”

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NZ Maori blasts EPA decision to extend seabed mining hearing

The New Zealand Herald | 28 March 2017

Te Runanga o Ngati Ruanui Trust has blasted a decision to extend the hearing into Trans Tasman Resources’ plan to mine ironsands from the seabed off South Taranaki.

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) hearing was due to finish on March 20 but has been extended until May 31. It then has 20 days to make a decision.

The EPA delayed the completion date after more investigation was needed into sediment plume modelling, and working out worst case scenarios.

Te Runanga o Ngati Ruanui kaiarataki Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said the trust along with the several fisheries organisations, including Talley’s Group Limited and

Fisheries Inshore New Zealand, opposed the extension because it “unreasonably added cost, time and effort to an application that was already seen as inadequate”.

She said there had been “a clear one-sided advantage throughout the whole process”.

Ngarewa-Packer said there was an allowance under law to extend the hearing but the scales were tipped in the wrong direction.

“Trans Tasman Resources are set up to focus on one thing, while the hundreds who oppose this can only draw on a finite amount time and money.

“As it stands, TTR have failed to dispel any of the uncertainties brought up during the hearings to date.

“So why give them more time to address the numerous gaps in their own information?

“If it doesn’t stack up now the project should be rejected outright.”

She said the delay was another “questionable act by the EPA” which had previously “refused to hold the hearings in the area that would be affected most”.

It had also wrongly redacted information, she said.

Te Runanga o Ngati Ruanui chairman Haimona Maruera Jnr said it “appeared the authority was doing everything it could to get the project over the line”.

“Moving the goal posts to suit one side is shameful and highlights the unfortunate trend of playing games with our community’s future.”

He called the process “shambolic and often confusing”.

“….we have lost all faith in the EPA and doubt it can uphold the fairness the authority should stand for.

“Our people have fought hard and fairly, yet the burden is again placed on us to exhaust further time, money and effort to protect our rights,” Maruera said.

In announcing the extension, EPA chair Alick Shaw said its Decision Making Committee (DMC) had taken into account the interests of the parties to the hearing, including the additional time and costs.

“However the DMC is conscious of its obligation [under law] to base its decision on the best available information and consider that the extension serves the interests of the community in ensuring that the DMC is able to achieve an adequate assessment of the application.”

He said the DMC “thanked all parties for their contributions to the hearing up to this point.

“The DMC have received a considerable amount of information and heard a wide range of views from a large number of submitters and expert witnesses.

“Much time, effort and thought has gone into the evidence and representations that have been heard,” Shaw said.

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Police target ‘illegal’ activities at Barrick’s Porgera mine: Houses razed but no arrests

Aerial view of police operation in Wangima, Porgera — image Barrick Niugini

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.

Location of Wangima settlement relative to the Porgera Mine — image Barrick Niugini

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Central Colombia town bans ‘world’s largest open pit goldmine’

Adriaan Alsema | Colombia Reports | March 26, 2017

In a historic vote, a central Colombia town banned plans to build what would be the ‘world’s largest open pit goldmine,” creating a major stand-off with multinational mining giant Anglo Gold Ashanti, which has said it would advance the project.

The Colosa project in Cajamarca, Tolima was South African mining giant Anglo Gold Ashanti’s biggest bet in Colombia, until Saturday when the local population banned all mining from its territory in a landslide vote.

According to the National Registrar, 6,165 townsmen voted “No” to all mining exploration and excavation activities. Only 76 people voted ‘Yes’.”

The vote obligates the town council to formally ban all mining activity from the municipality.

Never before has a Colombian municipality banned controversial mining practices from its territory, effectively ending whatever mining titles may have been granted by the national mining agency.

Ahead of the vote, Anglo Gold said a “No” vote would have “minimal” effect, claiming the referendum only applies to future titles, while the company had already been exploring since 2002, reported newspaper El Espectador.

Judicial experts, however, said the mining company was wrong, primarily because business deals do not transcend state decisions. If an activity is prohibited by law, it becomes illegal activity.

Additionally, “they don’t have an environmental license to carry out exploration activities. If ‘No’ wins in the popular vote, it would be absurd if the company were to continue the project,” Dejusticia expert Diana Rodriguez told the newspaper ahead of the vote.

While the town may have avoided becoming the world’s largest gold mine, it has created a problem of epic proportions for the national government, which could be sued before an international tribunal if the state is accused of having breached a contract with a private foreign company.

This could not just cause a AngloGold Ashanti vs. Colombia case, but a downpour of lawsuits against the nation.

Since 2001, mining companies have requested mining titles covering 20% of Colombia’s national territory through some 20,000 exploration and exploitation requests, according to the Center for Investigative Journalism CIPER in 2011.

The government of Alvaro Uribe (2002-2010) granted 9,000 of these titles, reportedly in disregard of obligatory environmental regulations and local approval.

The current government of Juan Manuel Santos hailed mining as “the engine” of Colombia’s economy until 2014 when commodity prices dropped, the peso collapsed and the economy proved to have been growing on a bubble.

Since then, several municipalities have taken legal action against oil and mining licences while the national government declared large swaths of land protected.

A domino effect of Sunday’s vote in Cajamarca is possible, because while mining has been profitable for the fossil fuel industry, Colombia;s national government and foreign investors, most of the areas where mining have taken place have seen more losses than gains. While large communities remained poor, they were left with a mining-destroyed environment.

Additionally, mining has had a major impact on violence in Colombia’s countryside where particularly gold mining has drawn the interest of multiple illegal armed groups.

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Porgera police squads accused of burning 150 houses and raping women

The aftermath of the Porgera fire. Photo: Supplied/ McDiyan Robert Yapari

Radio New Zealand | 27 March, 2017

A human rights group in Papua New Guinea is accusing police of burning down 150 houses in a village near the Porgera Gold Mine, during an early morning raid over the weekend.

The Akali Tange Association also alleges up to eight women were gang-raped and six men beaten during the raid.

The group’s executive officer, McDiyan Robert Yapari, said police mobile squads forcefully evicted residents from Wingima village and it is the third time the village has been burnt down.

Mr Yapari said he had been informed by a local policeman that the raid was ordered by Barrick Gold, which co-owns the Porgera Mine.

Earlier this month, the association joined calls for Canada to appoint a mining ombudsman to monitor Canadian mining companies, including Canadian company Barrick Gold, which co-owns Porgera.

It said an ombudsman would finally provide some justice for victims as well as holding mining companies to account.

Barrick did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Bougainville to continue pursuit of Rio Tinto

It is a bit late now Mr Momis, how long have you been President and done nothing?

Sounds like an election soundbite not a genuine commitment! 

Radio New Zealand | 27 March, 2017

The President of Bougainville, John Momis, says his government is going ahead with legal action against mining giant Rio Tinto over the destruction caused by the Panguna mine.

Rio Tinto was the majority owner of Bougainville Copper Ltd, which ran the mine for 20 years before it was shut down by a civil war, fostered by environmental and social damage attributed to the mine.

Rio Tinto’s shares in BCL were given to the Papua New Guinea and Bougainville governments and the multi-national walked away from further involvement.

Mr Momis, whose government was now the biggest shareholder in BCL, said his administration would still prosecute Rio Tinto over its Panguna legacy.

“We are going to pursue this matter as a moral issue because they caused so much damage and just think they can get away scot free,” he said.

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Confusion over FGF and bauxite mining in Fiji

Luke Rawalai | Fiji Times | March 23, 2017

The landowning unit of Fiji’s first bauxite mine in Nawailevu, Bua yesterday clarified this issue that Lands Minister Faiyaz Koya earlier described as “one that will benefit the future generation only”.

In an earlier interview with this newspaper, Mr Koya said only the three generations emerging within the 99-year lease duration of the Nawailevu bauxite mine would be eligible for the Future Generation Fund.

Mr Koya said the funds were meant for the future generations of the three landowning units of Noro, Nalutu and Naicobo in Nawailevu.

However, in their response and speaking on behalf of the landowning units, Vilikesa Kaidawa said the Future Generation Fund derived from the royalties of bauxite mining would also benefit current landowners.

This, he said, included the elders of the three landowning units.

Mr Kaidawa said landowning units had a workshop with representatives from the Land Bank Unit who assured them that current generation would also benefit from the revenue generated from investments of the FGF.

“We had a workshop with the unit on the first week of last month where we were told that the fund would be put in investment institutions to grow the fund of $600,000,” he said.

“Revenues generated from the investments will benefit current members of the LOUs while the $600,000 will be set aside for future generations.

“The workshop was also attended by representatives from investment banks and talks had been held during the workshop on putting up investment projects such as the purchase of a home, hotel and so on to bring in revenue.”

Mr Kaidawa said they had asked for part of the funds to invest and make money.

But the Ministry of Lands has made its stand clear that the FGF would not be released at any time except for the three generations born during the 99-year lease period.

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