Tag Archives: Porgera

Massacres: land rights over resource rich land may have played a role

Mt Kare in the Papua New Guinea Highlands. A large gold mine is planned for the area. Source: Supplied

Lush and humid, Papua New Guinea’s highlands look idyllic. But a brutal massacre of women and children has highlighted a deadly turf war on our doorstep.

Benedict Brook | News. com | July 15, 2019

WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGE

The images that shot around the world last week were shocking enough. The hacked bodies of women and children, victims of a bitter inter-clan conflict.

Their remains wrapped in cloths, tied to branches and lying beside a sun-soaked country road. There is a brutal logic to some of the deaths.

The scene was gruesome but what also horrified many Australians was that it happened so close to our shores.

The 16 people murdered hailed from the Hela province of Papua New Guinea. At its closest point, the PNG coast is just four kilometres from Australian islands in the Torres Strait.

Australia used to govern the nation until as recently as 1975 and, with the US, Canberra is setting up a military base in the country.

PNG’s Prime Minister James Marape has condemned the slaughter and told the culprits bluntly: “I am coming for you.”

The massacre occurred in the country’s humid highlands, a region drunk on a heady cocktail of bitter clan rivalries, mining riches, lawlessness and even sorcery. In one grim incident, young boys were beheaded.

Locals stand by the bodies of victims recovered in recent tribal violence in Papua New Guinea. Picture: Pills Kolo via AP. Source: AP

Even in an area where killings are not uncommon, PNG watchers have struggled to comprehend the sheer brutality of these murders.

“I wish I could say violence was a surprise in this part of PNG,” Jonathan Pryke, Director of the Pacific Islands Program at think tank the Lowy Institute told news.com.au.

“But targeting women and children is what makes this stand out. It’s sadistic.”

One answer to the sustained violence in this part of PNG may be found several valleys away in the shadow of a mountain. Deep beneath the grassy exterior of Mt Kare, rich seams of gold run. Just down the road, the Pogera gold mine is one of the world’s largest.

Hela provincial administrator William Bando told news agency AFP last week that the killings might have a connection to local rivalries at Mt Kare.

Location of the Hela region in Papua New Guinea. Picture: Google Maps. Source: Supplied

WHY ARE MINES SUCH FLASHPOINTS?

Mines are generally run by major firms but a proportion of the royalties are distributed locally, to the government and landowners.

In a poor country, the effect of that cash can be huge. Indeed, Hela province itself was carved out of another government region so the local Huli people could more directly benefit from the proceeds of a huge liquefied natural gas project in the town of Hides, backed by the US company ExxonMobil.

PNG experts news.com.au has spoken to have said it’s too early to tell if the new Mt Kare mine and the massacre are connected. Violent disputes can be for many reasons. The mine’s owner Indochine has said that linking the site to the tragic incident is nothing more than “speculation”.

A plausible alternative explanation is the slaughter was a tit-for-tat action for other recent killings. But land rights, including over mines, have turned violent in the past. During the 1990s, more than 20,000 people died in PNG’s Bougainville province, largely over who would benefit from an enormous mine.

Resources are big business in PNG with the industry making up 21 per cent of the nation’s economy.

Luke Fletcher, Executive Director of Jubilee Australia, an organisation that advocates for communities in the Pacific region, told news.com.au the entry of big mining firms into remote regions had fundamentally changed the way of life.

“It impacted the whole fabric of society. There was a lot more cash coming in. Disputes became associated with land and who was the landowner of a particular tenement identified for a mining project.

“The Huli ethnic group has a complex social connection to the land so it’s been very difficult for the Government to identify who is a landowner.”

That’s led to not only skirmishes over property but also the withholding of some royalties as the mining firms don’t know who to give the money to.

These disputes have rumbled alongside more longstanding feuds as well as desperation brought on by poverty.

At the same time, promises of modern infrastructure haven’t, in some cases, eventuated. And while shiny new hospitals and schools have been built, in a number of cases, funds to pay staff and materials have dried up.

“There is more cash around but in some ways that has been just as much of a problem. Because there’s so much cash, there are now so many weapons,” said Mr Fletcher.

“This isn’t the first violence we’ve seen, it’s just the most egregious.”

GOLD RUSH

Michael Main, an anthropologist and PhD candidate at Australian National University, knows Hela well. On visits to the lush mountain valleys he recalls having to persuade locals he was merely a student and not a geologist looking to pinpoint the next rich fissure of gold.

“When a piece of land acquires a much greater value (due to mining) that does exacerbate things; even if it’s only perceived in that way. With the hype around mining some think a mountain is literally full of gold.”

There had been a “gold rush” in the early 2000s at Mt Kare, he said, where nuggets were found in the soil and dug up by locals. But that was all now gone with the remainder of the riches beneath the surface.

The Porgera gold mine in Papua New Guinea is one of the world’s largest. Source: News Limited

STONE AGE TO ARMS RACE

The population of PNG’s Highlands were completely unknown until the 1930s when Australian patrols stumbled across a people who, essentially, were no more progressed than the “Stone Age”, said Mr Main.

The modern age has arrived with speed: mobile phones now sit alongside age old beliefs in sorcery. It’s a place where rivalries run as deep as superstitions, all unencumbered by the usual trappings of the nation state, like police, who are rarely seen.

But in times past there was a framework around violence.

“Most people would not have been involved in fighting and it would have been bows and arrows facing off,”

“There is no longer the strong tradition of dispute resolutions through dialogue. Guns have changed the power dynamics,” he said.

“It’s become an arms race. One clan will be well armed, the another clan they have a historical enmity with will get armed too.

“You can even hire guns from a friend.”

A Huli man in traditional ceremonial dress at a mobile phone shop in PNG’s capital of Port Moresby. Source: Supplied

BRUTAL LOGIC TO KILLINGS
Weapons mostly came in from the neighbouring Indonesian province of West Papua. But some come through Australia’s Torres Strait. While the few police will sell individual bullets to supplement their meagre wages. The Government’s own armoury has been pilfered from.

“The amount of guns vastly outnumbers those held by the entire PNG defence force,” Mr Main said.

The recent violence has been eye opening, however. Women, who in Huli society are never armed, have become victims as have children. And traditional tools — like the bush knife — have also been used to butcher victims.

“When I was there, there was the case of young children being beheaded as part of the conflict,” he said.

He added there was a brutal logic to killing kids: “It’s making sure the next generation doesn’t grow up to take revenge.”

Mr Main likened the violence to that which has occurred in many parts of the world, from the Balkans to Ireland, where groups jostle for land and prominence.

The Lowy Institute’s Mr Pryke agreed: “There’s nothing distinct about PNG people; it’s just where they sit on the development spectrum”.

There was no “silver bullet” he said to end the violence, but the PNG Government needed to make its presence felt.

Some mining firms, he said, had been more successful than others at building local infrastructure and remunerating locals. But they needed to step up.

“The mining industry will tell you they are doing as much as they can and they don’t want to fill the gaps left by the Government. But they need to think more deeply about improved development outcomes, because if this violence continues that could be destabilising for business interests in the country.”

Mr Main said the mines have brought jobs and cash. But much of that was when they were under construction, with many wage packets drying up when mining began.

“When they were in the construction phase there wasn’t much fighting because there was money coming in, development was happening and people were focused on the future.

“Now that vacuum has been filled with all these jealousies and grievances from the past returning.”

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Enga landowners say Porgera talks broken down

Radio New Zealand | 28 June 2019

A landowning group at the site of the Porgera mine in Papua New Guinea’s Enga Province says negotiations with the owner Barrick have broken down.

The Canadian company is pushing to renew its contract in August for another 20 year period.

The company has said it had met with senior landowners to discuss their issues.

But the Justice Foundation for Porgera Ltd, which said it represented the bulk of local landowners, said without their commitment any agreement would be worthless.

It said Barrick needed to come to it to negotiate the necessary protocols.

The mine is currently the subject of a multi-billion-dollar lawsuit for damages caused over its 30-year life and PNG’s Prime Minister James Marape has recently committed to ensuring PNG citizens have greater control over their resource wealth.

The contract renewal comes amid unresolved allegations of rape, sexual assault, drownings and shootings at the mine site.

Justice Foundation for Porgera chair Jonathan Paraia said: “Barrick knows full well the vast majority of landowners are sick to death of the human rights abuses, the environmental destruction, the hollow promises”.

He said they were highly offended at the lack of respect Barrick’s CEO has shown towards them while trying to engage them in a significant international mining contract with a 20-year life.

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No tangible development in Western despite decades of mining

A father holds his malnourished son in Western Province, Papua New Guinea. Photo: Sally Lloyd

Marape Tells Awi Yoto To Improve Western

Leiao Gerega  | Post Courier | June 24, 2019

For almost 38 years Western province has seen no tangible development taking place despite helping the country generate millions in kina from the Tabubil mine.

The province remains one of the least developed in the country with low health status and lack of basic delivery of service to its people.

Prime Minister James Marape who visited the province on Friday to launch both the provincial and district five year development plans was implored by Governor Taboi Awi Yoto to look at the provinces needs which include;

  • Creation of one or two electorate added to the province’s current three electorates;
  • Uplift moratorium on the Province’s need to recruit new public servants;
  • Fix issues with the province’s dividend trust account through former operations with Ok-Tedi;
  • Find common ground on issues regarding WP’s major development program called the PNG sustainable development program;
  • Building of a major port to export its resources;
  • Request Ok-Tedi and Porgera to compensate middle and south Fly over mining waste pollution;
  • Current 33 percent shares in Ok-Tedi be lifted to previous 64 percent and
  • Stop fly-in and fly out of Ok Tedi workers to ensure money goes back to the people

Mr AwiYoto admits that the slow progress of development of the province was due to disunity amongst the leaders.

He assured Mr Marape that they are now ready to work together to ensure their people benefit from the money owed to them.

The 2018-2022 development plan under the theme “a new way forward” focuses on three key areas which are health, education agriculture and covers the province and its three districts in the Middle, South and North y.

“This is no easy task….everyone in this country have their own issues,” Mr Marape said while giving examples to how Buka and Lihir have fared poorly over the years despite the huge mining activities.

“Our agriculture and mining resources have been lost over the years while the people are suffering. Waigani is stealing from them and we are here now to turn things around,” Mr Marape said.

“These new work will take years but we want to direct and steer the country in the right path,” he said.

Mr Marape who travelled later to Tabubil to hear presentations from Ok-Tedi mining limited says everything will be discussed in Waigani after which they would strictly ensure monies owed to the people under various areas will be “unlocked.”

Mr AwiYoto says despite giving so much to the country the province has been failed by so many governments over the past years and is confident there is certainly a positive journey ahead.

Around 17,000 people gathered to welcome the prime minister at the Kiunga Township on Friday.

Mr Marape grew up as a child in Western province where his father was a Seventh Day Adventist pastor.

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Intl. Media Expose Human Rights Abuses by Security at Barrick Gold’s North Mara Mine in Tanzania

Villagers search for pieces of gold contained in discarded waste rock from the North Mara mine. Photograph- Trevor Snapp:Bloomberg

MiningWatch Canada  | June 19, 2019

Yesterday news outlets in several countries simultaneously released the results of investigations by a consortium of journalists into human rights and environmental abuses at Barrick Gold’s North Mara gold mine in Tanzania.[1] This exposé by, among others, Canada’s Toronto Star, UK’s Guardian, and Switzerland’s Tagesanzeiger confirm findings of six years of investigations, reported on yearly by MiningWatch Canada, into assaults on men, women and children by the mine’s private security and by police contracted by the mine.

The consortium also highlights attacks on journalists who have tried to report on human rights abuses at the mine, and exposes the way the gold from this mine is refined in India and Switzerland before being sold to, among others, international electronic companies.

Systemic Security Abuses at Barrick Gold Mines

The security related human rights abuses at Barrick’s North Mara mine are not unique, however, as very similar assaults by public and private mine security against local indigenous men, women and children at Barrick’s Porgera gold mine[2] in the remote highlands of Papua New Guinea have been reported on since 2006 by MiningWatch Canada, the Harvard Human Rights Clinic, and the Columbia University Human Rights Clinic.

At both the North Mara mine in Tanzania and the Porgera mine in Papua New Guinea, the mines’ security arrangements include the use of secret agreements between the mines and the countries’ police forces. (MiningWatch was able to obtain the 2010 agreement between the North Mara gold mine and Tanzanian police only because it was disclosed as a result of legal action in the UK. Newer versions have not been made public. The agreement between the Porgera Joint Venture mine and Papua New Guinea police forces has never been disclosed.)

Also, at both mines, victims of assaults by mine security have been processed through grievance mechanisms set up by the mines themselves, which have deepened harm by rejecting many cases, providing inequitable remedy to others, and in many cases requiring the victims to sign waivers preventing them from taking – or even participating in – legal action.

In March of this year, MiningWatch documented the history of security related human rights abuses at both Barrick mines in a 20-page report to the United Nations Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries and provided recommendations including that: companies and governments should not contract police to serve as an ongoing component of mine security; companies need to take all necessary steps to ensure that mine security who are accused of serious human rights abuses are turned over to the police for investigation and possible prosecution; companies and governments should make public any existing agreements that authorize the use of police as a component of mine security.

[1] Barrick owns 63.9% of Acacia Mining, the company that owns 100% of the North Mara gold mine.

[2] Barrick owns 47.5% of the Porgera Joint Venture gold mine in Papua New Guinea, down from 95% prior to 2015, but remains the operator.

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Canada falling behind on corporate accountability

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Penelope Simons* | The Guardian | 12 June 2019

Earlier this year, Canadians were given a behind-the-scenes view on attempts by the Liberal government to ensure that SNC-Lavalin would escape potential criminal liability under the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act. What may be less clear is that the government’s stance in this case is reflective of its broader approach to corporate accountability.

The Liberal government’s tendency to overlook corporate malfeasance threatens to sink an innovative initiative – the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) – with the potential to make real change.

Canadian companies are implicated in credible allegations of wrong-doing worldwide. In addition to charges of corruption, the Canadian private sector is linked to human rights abuses and environmental destruction.

The extractive sector is of particular concern. Canada hosts a majority of the world’s largest exploration and mining companies, and a significant number of medium and large-sized oil and gas companies, many of which operate overseas. These companies raise billions of dollars on Canadian stock exchanges. They have also been implicated in grave human rights abuses perpetrated by their security forces in many countries around the world, including Sudan, Papua New Guinea, Eritrea and Guatemala, among others.

A study by the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project at Osgoode Hall Law School found that between 2000 and 2015, 28 Canadian extractive companies had been associated with 100 incidences of violence in Spanish-speaking Latin America.

In 2017, the UN body charged with promoting respect for human rights by the private sector visited Canada to assess compliance with a set of guiding principles endorsed by the Canadian government. The UN experts expressed concern that Canada lacked a coherent policy framework to fulfil its legal duty to protect against business-related human rights abuses. They raised concern that the victims of human rights abuses struggle to obtain adequate and timely remedies against Canadian businesses.

It appeared that the Trudeau government would begin to address these serious shortcomings with its announcement in January 2018 of CORE, a ground-breaking complaint mechanism charged with investigating allegations of harm caused by Canadian extractive and garment corporations operating abroad. The government committed to equipping the independent office with robust powers – including the power to summon witnesses and compel the production of documents.

What’s happened since then?

The Order in Council (OIC) that formally established CORE, created its mandate, and appointed Sheri Meyerhoffer to the position, was released this past April. It shows that the government has not only backtracked significantly on its original promise, but it appears to have established instead a slightly modified version of the toothless and now defunct Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor. Notably, the government has so far failed to grant CORE the investigatory powers it needs. At the press conference, Minister Carr stated that he was “seeking external legal advice” on “the appropriateness” of giving the ombudsperson powers to compel witnesses and documents under the Inquiries Act and that the decision on this issue would be announced in June.

The government has also charged the office with investigating parties who allege corporate wrong-doing – in other words, investigating the victims of alleged human rights violations and/or those supporting victims in bringing a complaint.

This surprising inclusion will surely make it more difficult for victims to have legitimate complaints of corporate-related human rights abuses heard. It is also likely to place human rights defenders, whose physical integrity is often at risk, in even greater peril.

In April, two years following his mission to Canada, the chair of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, Surya Deva, returned to this country. He warned that Canada is falling behind other countries, such as France and Switzerland, that are passing laws to hold their companies to account when they cause harm overseas. Dr. Deva cautioned that Canada’s international reputation would be damaged if it failed to provide the ombudsperson with real investigatory powers.

While the Trudeau government may position itself as a champion of human rights and the rule of law, its new complaint mechanism speaks a different narrative. More important than the reputation of the government, however, is the fact that the lives and livelihoods of individuals and communities in other countries are at stake. This will remain the case until the Canadian government takes meaningful steps to incentivize Canadian companies to change the way they do business abroad.

* Penelope Simons is an associate professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa.

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Porgera Mine Owners Meet New PNG Government About SML Extension

GlobeNewswire | June 4, 2019

Barrick President and Chief Executive Mark Bristow, along with Zijin Executive Director and Senior Vice President George Fang, met today with Papua New Guinea’s new Prime Minister James Marape and reaffirmed the company’s commitment to working with the PNG government and local communities to ensure that the Porgera gold mine continues to deliver value to its stakeholders past the expiry of the current Special Mining Lease on August 16, 2019.

While in the country, Bristow also held meetings with Enga Governor Sir Peter Ipatas, Porgera landowners, and other stakeholders. 

Since pouring its first gold in 1990, Porgera has paid more than Kina 3.6 billion (US$1.1 billion) in taxes and Kina 1 billion (US$297 million) plus Kina 600 million (US$178 million) in equity cash payments and royalties respectively to the provincial government and customary landowners. This represents a significant contribution to the country’s economy, as well as a substantial amount to the landowners on whose properties the mine is located. An application to extend Porgera’s special mining lease for a further 20 years is currently in progress.

Bristow said Porgera was an important long-term asset for PNG as well as the mine’s owners, Barrick Gold Corporation and Zijin Mining Group.

“The proposed extension to its lease will allow the mine to remain productive for at least another 20 years.  To sustain mine operations, however, it will require a significant capital injection, and it is difficult to justify that kind of investment without the security of an extended mine lease,” he said.

“Barrick believes in true partnership with our host countries, sharing both the responsibilities and the benefits that come with mining. We are engaging with the government to breathe new life into our long-standing partnership, so that Porgera continues to deliver value to all its stakeholders. In our meeting with the Porgera landowners, we invited our stakeholders to join us in continuing to improve the quality of life, security and welfare in the Porgera valley.”

Porgera is a joint venture between Barrick and the Zijin Mining Group, which each owns 47.5% with the remaining 5% interest being held by Mineral Resources Enga (owned equally by Porgera Special Mining Lease Landowners and the Enga Provincial Government). The mine is operated by Barrick (Niugini) Limited.

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Academic Urges Govt To Revisit Tax Regime

Post Courier | May 28, 2019

The recent political tussle in PNG has emerged due to inconsistent resource development policies, mainly the disagreements on local fiscal contents associated with the extractive sector, explains an academic.

Senior Lecturer Dr Ken Ail Kaepai of PNG University of Technology said from Lae that PNG needs to critically revise the minerals taxation regimes to develop sound policies and innovative ways of capturing a significant share of the mineral wealth without placing tax burdens on the industry.

“The political tussle between the government and opposition is not new. During the mineral boom periods, Australia had its share of high political turnovers due to arguments over resource rent tax and royalty policies.”

“The idea of national ownership of resources has been People Progress Party’s (PPP) policy platform for maximizing the mineral wealth for PNG.

However, PPP has not pursued it for a policy shift. Currently, the political mindset thinks that equity participation is one way to accommodate national interests com- pared to allowing 100 per cent foreign ownership of PNG’s mineral resources,” he said.

He said that the lack of capital for exploration and project developments restrict the national ownership of mining, oil and gas. The State and landowners do not have the equity capital for procuring equity interests in resource projects.

Dr Kaepai explained that given the limitation, the State has agreed to acquire 22.25 per cent interests in the Papua LNG through a deferred payment of the equity capital, which includes the landowner’s 2 per cent interest.

“The State will bear landowner’s financial burden of their equity interest through KPHL. It means that the landowners will be free-riders at the expense of the State and the society at large.”

“Under this arrangement, the dividends will be delayed over more extended periods required for allowing the State to repay the equity capital sourced from external lending institutions or will enable the investor to recoup its equivalent equity capital cost internally using future positive cash flows from the project.”

Dr Keapai said that the deferred payment of the equity capital shifts the financial burden of providing the upfront capital cost of equity to the investor.

The State’s market capitalization of equity participation in minerals, petroleum and LNG is not clear, and landowner equity participation has been problematic,” he stressed.

Dr Kaepai said that the Panguna was the only mine that consistently paid equity dividends until its premature closure in 1988.

“Local equity participation in Porgera and Lihir gold mines have been problematic and unsustainable, while free-carried interest was offered to OK Tedi landowners under exceptional circumstances associated with the riverine tailings disposal system.”

Dr Kaepai said that a former mining minister, the DMPGM and the MRA misled the GoPNG to take the 30 per cent equity in the failed Nautilus Minerals’ under-sea mining development.

“It is a significant loss of public funds that could have been used to develop the deteriorating health and education infrastructures in rural PNG.”

“It appears that the GoPNG provides tax holidays as compensation for equity participation, and at the pretence of attracting foreign direct investment. “This strategy causes a fiscal dissipation where both tax concession and equity participation could lead to wasteful resource extraction.

“The State and landowners need to critically assess the financial viability of equity participation in Papua LNG, Wafi-Golpu and Frieda projects.

This includes the renegotiation of the Porgera gold mine on a case by case basis.

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