Tag Archives: violence against women

Human Rights Advocates Unite for Porgera Women

Ramcy Wama | Post Courier | January 26, 2018

Four human rights groups have complied with Canadian gold miner Barrick Gold’s request to unite to seek redress for atrocities committed against women in the past 20 years at Porgera gold mine in Enga Province.

Akali Tanga Association, Human Rights Inter Pacific Association, Porgera Red Wara Women Association and 118 Indigenous Women Association announced their unity in Porgera last Friday

The four had been separately fighting against the negative human rights impacts caused by the Porgera Gold Mine since the mine started its operation in 1989.

They claim to represent victims who were allegedly poisoned from the chemical waste, women and girls who were raped and sexually assaulted by mine workers and related social problems affecting the landowners as a result of the mining operation.

The Barrick Gold Corporation, the joint owner company of Barrick Niuguini Limited (BNL) that currently operates Porgera Gold Mine, asked for the four advocates to unite and claim for the remedy for the victims because of duplicity in separate claims.

Barrick Gold chief sustainable officer Peter Sinclair, in an email on October 29, 2016, had asked the advocates, Akali Tanga Association and Human Rights Inter Pacific to make one claim for all the victims for the company to evaluate and approve.

“Given the serious nature of these allegations, and the volume and nature of the claims presented, significant time will be required to complete an evaluation of each claim, which may include consultations with external stakeholders.

“Be assured that we will use our influence as an equal shareholder of BNL to emphasise the critical importance of BNL management adhering to its own human rights policy, including a commitment to investigate and respond to allegations of negative human rights impacts that BNL may have caused or contributed to in a fair and effective manner,” Mr Sinclair said.

Human Rights Inter Pacific chairman Karath Mal Mawa said yesterday that the human rights groups had agreed to make a united submission on abuses at the mine.

“We have fixed each claim of the individuals and are ready to launch for remedy payment,” Mr Mawa said.

Some of the victims presented about 30 pigs in appreciating the four human rights uniting to press for redress.

In April 2015 Barrick Gold settled 11 claims of atrocities committed against women at Porgera.

The settlement in Canada was reached with EarthRights International, a non-governmental organisation, that was representing the women, bringing to a close all of the outstanding claims made by women, who were allegedly beaten, raped, and threatened by the miner’s security personnel and employees.

Some incidents dated back to even before Barrick bought the mine via its takeover of Placer Dome in 2006.

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January 26, 2018 · 12:43 pm

Guatemalan women take on Canada’s mining giants over ‘horrific human rights abuses’

Irma Yolanda Choc Cac in her community of Lote Ocho. The women link the violence to the nearby Fenix mine, and the Guatemalan subsidiary controlled by Canda’s Skye Resources. Photograph: Alexandra Pedersen

A group of indigenous Maya Q’eqchi’ women has launched a precedent-setting legal challenge that could cast a chill over Canada’s vast mining interests

Ashifa Kassam | The Guardian | 13 December 2017 

On the 20th floor of an office tower in the heart of Toronto’s financial district, Irma Yolanda Choc Cac’s bright pink embroidered blouse and handwoven skirt contrasted with the suits of the lawyers around her as she detailed the hardest day of her life.

It was the first time Choc Cac had ever left Guatemala. But the story that she and 10 other Maya Q’eqchi’ women had come to tell is at the heart of a precedent-setting legal challenge pitting indigenous people against a transnational corporation – and which has cast a chill over Canada’s vast mining industry.

The case centres on allegations dating back to 2007, when the women say hundreds of police, military and and private security personnel linked to a Canadian mining company descended on the secluded village of Lote Ocho in eastern Guatemala.

A few days earlier, security personnel had set dozens of homes ablaze in a bid to force the villagers off their ancestral lands, according to court documents.

But on 17 January, the men were out in the fields, tending to crops of corn and cardamom, and the women were alone. The 11 women say they were raped repeatedly by the armed men. Choc Cac – three months pregnant at the time – was with her 10-year-old daughter when she was seized by the men, some of whom were in uniform. Twelve of the men raped her, she said. She later suffered a miscarriage.

The women link the violence to the nearby Fenix mine – one of the largest nickel mines in central America – and the Guatemalan subsidiary that was overseeing its operations. At the time, the subsidiary was controlled by Vancouver-based Skye Resources. In 2008, Skye was acquired by Toronto’s Hudbay Minerals, who sold the mine to a Russian company in 2011.

A team of Toronto lawyers seized on the Canada connection, filing civil lawsuits that argue that the Canadian parent company, later acquired by Hudbay, was negligent when it came to monitoring the actions of its Guatemalan subsidiary.

The lawsuits may offer a legal means of addressing a longstanding obstacle for human rights campaigners: the perceived legal disconnect between multinationals and the local subsidiaries who carry out their operations abroad.

“These are some of the first attempts in Canadian legal history to try and bring some accountability to a Canadian mining company for horrific human rights abuses in another country,” said Cory Wanless of Klippensteins Barristers and Solicitors, the Toronto law firm representing the women.

The novel approach scored its first victory in 2013, when a court in Ontario dismissed an application by Hudbay to throw out the case. The decision marked the first time in Canada that foreign claimants had been granted access to the courts in order to pursue Canadian companies for alleged human rights abuses abroad.

The Guatemalan women last month travelled to Toronto for the case’s discovery phase, fielding hours of questions from lawyers for the company.

“It’s difficult to sit down and face them,” said Choc Cac, speaking through a translator because she only speaks Qéqchi’. “To sit down in front of those who caused this pain to me and my community.”

The Qéqchi’ women at the lawyers’ office in Toronto. Photograph: Grahame Russell

At one point during the questioning, she fainted. “Because to remember it all is like living through it all over again,” she explained, tears rolling down her face.

The women’s lawsuit is one of three the community has filed against Hudbay in Ontario. The other two link the company to the 2009 death of a local activist, Adolfo Ich Chamán, as well as a shooting that left a 28-year-old man paralysed.

None of the allegations has been proved in court.

Hudbay has disputed the allegations, pointing out on its website that the evictions were carried out before their involvement with the mine. The court-ordered, state-sponsored evictions were carried out peacefully and security personnel representing the mine were not present, according to the company.

In a statement to the Guardian, Hudbay added:

“The lawsuits assert very serious allegations, which don’t reflect how we operate.”

The sensitive nature of the allegations may make it hard for some to reserve judgment, it said.

“However, we hope that people will accept the facts are in dispute, the matter is before the courts and we can trust our legal process to deliver a just decision based on the actual evidence and testimony.”

The case is being closely watched across Canada, home to more than 50% of the world’s publicly listed exploration and mining companies. In 2013, these 1,500 companies held interests in 8,000 properties in more than 100 countries around the world, according to the Canadian government.

“All the important corporate, investor and political decisions that resulted in these very serious harms and violations were taken in Canada. This is our problem. It’s a very Canadian problem,” said Grahame Russell of Rights Action.

A 2014 report by the Washington-based Council of Hemispheric Affairs estimated that Canadian mining corporations control 50 to 70 percent of the mining industry in Latin America, putting them at the forefront of a sector that has been linked to breaches of indigenous rights and a disregard for nature reserves.

The United Nations has also singled out Canadian mining companies and called on authorities to better regulate the sector.

The lawsuits against Hudbay are unlikely to reach court for years, said Wanless.

But they have already paved the way for similar cases, including a legal challengethat links a Vancouver-based company to allegations of modern slavery. “We’re really hopeful that this is the beginning of a trend,” said Wanless.

The strength and courage of the 11 women behind the lawsuit had given rise to a new precedent that could shift corporate behaviour around the world, he said.

“The good thing about that is that it sends a message to all other mining companies: if something like this happens on your watch, you can be sued. These Guatemalans came to Canada and changed our law for the better.”

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Women as change makers in Papua New Guinea

Alluvial miner on the Watut river

Immaculate Javia* | Earthworks | December 11, 2017

Women around the world have been applauded for breakthroughs in male dominated fronts and for fighting for gender equity. Yet there are others who silently occupy male dominated settings, performing tasks executed by men while also fulfilling their own responsibilities as a woman, as a mother, and as a sister.

Immaculate with a group of miners

In the small-scale mining industry and beyond, women have not been adequately recognized, appreciated and supported for their contribution to economic development as their male counterparts, husbands, sons and brothers. For generations, they have been subjects of abuse, mistreatment, and unfairness, yet they have stood tall in order to make a change in their family circles.

I live in a community where much of the artisanal small-scale gold mining activity in Papua New Guinea (PNG) is concentrated. For the past 7 years, I have trained small scale miners around the country. As the only female professional in this industry, I feel I have a responsibility to represent women miners in PNG, to improve their mining activities and to help address the problems they face.

Women small-scale miners make up 40% of a population of one hundred thousand artisanal small-scale miners in PNG, and 15 million artisanal small-scale miners around the world. Women are a significant portion of the overall workforce and therefore deserve special attention from concerned governments. Even more importantly, female small-scale miners are essential to achieve a more environmentally responsible small-scale mining industry in PNG.

Although under recognized on the national and global fronts for their contributions, women have been important players in a male dominated, male oriented and in a highly controversial industry. These women, many of whom are illiterate, have a special and a very powerful, albeit tiny place of recognition and respect among their male folk.

While small-scale mining supports female miners and the livelihood of many rural communities, the consequences and destruction, often caused by men who have an upper hand, also greatly affect them. Women and children fall victims to:

  • Health and Safety Issues – They are exposed to dangerous and hazardous working environments and conditions such as landslides, floods, waterborne diseases, theft and harassments in work places. They are subjected to using contaminated water from large scale mine effluents, lubricants and mercury from small operations, silt and sediment filled rivers and destroyed water. Sources, which gives rise to water borne diseases like diarrhea, dysentery, cholera, skin diseases, and many others.
  • HIV/AIDS and other Sexually Transmitted Illnesses – Many women fall victims of HIV/AIDS after their husbands contract it. Usually men go into town and cities looking for good markets and end up using money from the gold for illicit activities. Women are always at home fending for their children and often miss out on the benefits of their hard work.
  • Environmental Destruction – Many women walk distances to fetch water, collect firewood or make gardens because of environmental destruction. Many lose homes to landslide, floods, or conflicts over land. Clean water sources are impacted and access to services are denied because public infrastructure such as bridges and roads are destroyed. Women have less opportunity and influence when it comes to speaking out against the destruction of water sources or nearby forests.
  • Women have limited access to capacity building programs because of their illiteracy rates. There is no tailored training to suit many of these illiterate women miners.

Women endure a great deal of negativity in this sector yet they provide for their families and in the process and generate millions in revenue for the government. It is beyond human comprehension that any sane government would deliberately ignore a very significant and important player of economic development.

We believe that women can transform the artisanal small-scale mining industry into a more responsible and environmentally friendly industry. Through a legal framework to regulate the small-scale artisanal mining sector, women will harness their power and voice to advocate for environmental improvements and to encourage change amongst their male relatives. 

It is high time that governments develop specific legal frameworks to give space for women miners to voice the issues affecting them and to be compensated for their tireless contributions to revenue generation from mining activities, often earned at the expenses of their health and families. 

* Immaculate Javia, IREX Community Solutions Program Fellow from Papua New Guinea. Immaculate works to train and empower and women small scale miners in her home country. She has spent the last four months working with Earthworks in our Washington D.C. office. 

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Women in Porgera impacted with violence

Grace Auka Salmang | Post Courier | June 22, 2017

Family Sexual Violence is one of the most critical issues that women in the extractive area of Porgera are faced with.

Chair of Family Sexual Violence Action Committee (FSVAC) of Enga  and  founder of Voice for Enga Women Association Everlyne Sap revealed this when speaking on the sub theme: Leadership, gender equality and women empowerment for equitable service in extractive resource areas: Porgera in Enga Province at the Consultative Implementation & Monitoring Council (CIMC) National Development Forum yesterday at Crowne Plaza Hotel in Port Moresby.

According to Ms Sap, Porgera is a district of about 65,000 people and 50 percent of women about half of the population are impacted by mining activities just like in any other extractive resource areas in PNG.

“Of the many direct and indirect issues related to mining, Family Sexual Violence or Gender Based Violence is one major issue affects the lives of women and families at different degrees.

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ExxonMobil employee held hostage in PNG’s Hela province

Extractive industries bring upheavals to Papua New Guinea communities: earth-moving underway for the ExxonMobil-led Liquefied Natural Gas project in Hela Province. Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

Radio New Zealand | June 5, 2017

A scientist working for ExxonMobil in Papua New Guinea was held hostage last week by armed tribesmen in Hela Province who wanted police to release a local warlord.

The men, who were carrying home-made firearms, abducted the woman from the vicinity of the Komo airfield on Friday as they were on their way to the Tari police station to demand the release of their kinsman.

The police commander for Hela province Michael Welly said the woman was held for two hours at the most before being released.

“The hostage takers went into the camp, got this female employee and held her hostage and demanded that police release the suspect so my men had to give in to their demand and release the suspect who initially had the home-made firearm on him,” said Superintendent Welly.

“We know those suspects involved in the hostage situation. We know their identity. We will have them arrested soon.”

Superintendent Welly confirmed that the woman, an employee of Exxon Mobil, is an environmental scientist with the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project and that she was from coastal PNG.

LNG Project facility, Hela Province, Papua New Guinea Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

Exxon Mobil praised the police handling of the incident.

“Exxon Mobil is taking very seriously the abduction of one member of its staff in the vicinity of Komo airfield on Friday,” said an ExxonMobil spokesperson.

“We are relieved to say that the incident was resolved quickly and that all our staff are safe.”

The company said the issue was not directly related to PNG LNG activities.

“We continue to encourage constructive dialogue as the means to resolving tensions.

“Exxon Mobil PNG is committed to maintaining a positive relationship with landowners, the government and the wider community,” said the company spokesperson.

PNG security forces parade at the launch of the election security operation in Mt Hagen. Friday 26 May 2017. Photo: PNG EMTV online

Michael Welly said it was an isolated incident and not related to the upcoming national elections, which have prompted a beefing up of security in the province in recent months.

He said there were strategies in place to deal with aniticipated security issues in Hela during and after polling which starts on 24 June and is scheduled to run over two weeks.

“I am hoping that the response unit that is going to be deployed into Hela province is done soon enough so that I can strategically locate them in the hot spot areas that I think we need to maintain for the smooth running of the elections,” said Michael Welly.

Mr Welly said the response unit had been gearing up in Mt Hagen over the weekend in preparation for deployment from Tari.

He said he was hoping to get two police mobile squads and two platoons of defence force personnel for the election period.

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Allegations of Human Rights Abuses at the Porgera Mine – Village Burning, Forced Eviction, Assault, Rape

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Sex assault survivors silenced at Barrick shareholders meeting

Evelyn Guape (left) and Joycelyn Mandi are among more than 100 women victims of sexual violence at Toronto-based Barrick Gold’s mine in Papua New Guinea. (Allan Lissner/MISN)

They say Toronto-based gold miner has yet to provide the compensation promised many of the more than 119 women and girl victims of sexual violence at Papua New Guinea mine

NOW News | May 2, 2017

As allegations of sexual violence continue to shadow Toronto-based Barrick Gold’s mining operations in Papua New Guinea, two women among those victimized by the violence were in Toronto to address shareholders at the company’s annual general meeting last week. 

But Everlyn Guape and Joycelyn Mandi were never given the opportunity to speak. Barrick senior vice-president of communications, Andy Lloyd, is chalking that up to a “misunderstanding”. Namely, a problem with papers filed by activists to allow the women to speak as proxies at the AGM. The Mining Injustice Solidarity Network says the necessary paperwork was filed on time. 

After some confusion in which security attempted to move the women to the back of the meeting room, a representative from MiningWatch Canada ended up reading Guape’s and Mandi’s statements to Barrick shareholders. 

The women are among 119 women and girls who accepted compensation from Barrick (some $10,000 each) as part of a 2012 redress package brokered by the Harvard and New York University legal clinics, MiningWatch Canada, Amnesty International, ProtestBarrick and Human Rights Watch. That, following allegations of widespread rape by security and police at Barrick’s Porgera mine. Eleven other women who refused the compensation package and threatened to sue the company received out-of-court settlements.

Since then, women who accepted the original package say they have yet to receive any money from the company or, in some cases, even to be contacted. They’ve organized to demand fairer treatment and for Barrick to release them from a waiver they signed as a condition of their compensation. 

Everlyn Guape 

I live in the shadow of Barrick’s Porgera mine in Papua New Guinea.

This mine dumps all of its tailings and waste rock directly into the river valleys around the pit. Our villages are surrounded by mine waste. We have to cross this waste to get from one village to another, or to go to our vegetable gardens or schools.

How would you feel if your children had to walk through the stinking chemical waste of a mine?

The mine and the waste have destroyed our traditional livelihood. When we enter the waste to pan for gold for our new livelihood, the mine’s security guards and police attack us.

I was raped. Can you imagine a young girl being brutally beaten and gang-raped on the edge of a river of bright red chemical waste?

After years of denial, Barrick finally decided to give me and the other rape victims some remedy. 

But we were not asked what we needed to repair the many terrible impacts of the rapes in our lives. Barrick’s consultants just told us “take it or leave it.” They told us we were powerless against the company. We had to sign legal waivers to get any remedy at all, so we cannot take legal action now.

We want an open dialogue about what we need to remedy the harm we have suffered, and we want to be able to include human rights experts we trust to support us in this dialogue.

Joycelyn Mandi 

I was raped by mine security when I was a teenager. This happened in 2008, the same year that our fellow Porgerans came to this AGM in Toronto for the first time to tell about the killings and the beatings and the rapes that we were suffering [at the hands of] mine security and police guarding the mine.

I have never received any remedy for the harm that this rape has caused in my life. I am not alone; there are many other victims who have never received remedy. And the sexual violence is ongoing.

Barrick knows this because MiningWatch Canada and human rights clinics at Columbia and Harvard Universities have told about the many women who have never received remedy.

My case was brought to your grievance office in 2015 together with the cases of 80 other women.

We have case number 3936, but until today we have had nothing but excuses from Barrick about why our cases have not been addressed, and no one has spoken to us about our cases.

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