Tag Archives: violence against women

Claims of human rights abuses near a PNG goldmine

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

Dateline Pacific | Radio New Zealand | 7 April 2017

A Canadian mining giant is again under the spotlight following allegations of police brutality during the forced eviction of villagers near their gold mine in Papua New Guinea.

Barrick Gold claims to have taken steps to address an appalling record of decades of violence at the Porgera Mine.

But a spate of recent allegations has some asking whether it’s doing enough.

Jo O’Brien reports

There are conflicting accounts of the police operation at Wangima village near the Porgera mine in late March. Cressida Kuala from the Porgera Red Warra Women’s Association believes nineteen houses were burnt down in the early morning raid.

“Children and women woke up at around 4 o’clock in the morning. The police personnel who were hired by the company, Barrick PJV went up to the village and chased them out of the area.”

The chairman of the Akali Tange Association Langan Muri says up to 50 houses were destroyed in the village, where about 100 homes were burnt down in two previous raids. He says they’ve received allegations police raped at least three girls during the latest operation and assaulted others.

“Police freely walked into the houses while they were sleeping and they have raped. The victims are still coming everyday to report to us. Some schoolgirls have been raped inside the houses.”

Locals believe the raid was ordered by Barrick Gold, the co-owners of the Porgera Mine. The company has yet to respond to RNZ International’s request for comment, but in a letter posted on its website it’s denied any involvement or prior knowledge of the operation. The independent monitor of policing activities in the area Ila Geno backs up their claim that police conducted the raid under a court warrant after evidence of illegal activity was found there.

“The perception that the police are paid by the company and subsequently they are also ordered by the company to do those things. But from my independent observation point of view police are not commanded by the company to carry out operations.”

But Sarah Knuckey, the director of the Human Rights Clinic at Columbia Law School, says the exact nature of the relationship between Barrick Gold and police at the mine is unclear.

“There is apparently a written agreement between the government, police and the company but it’s never been made public and when you speak to police there, they say their accommodation, their food, their fuel is funded by the company. But it’s not easy to tell what the command structure is for the operations.”

 And for Catherine Coumans from MiningWatch Canada, Barrick’s denials are problematic.

“If the company really didn’t have any knowledge that this was going to happen then it clearly needs to question why this gross violation of human rights on the company’s mine lease area, without the company knowing about it. And if the company did know about it then the company needs to come clean and account for why it’s asking police to carry out these raids.”

In the past few years Barrick Gold has undertaken measures to address longstanding concerns about abuses at the mine. Compensation has been paid to more than 130 women for acts of sexual violence and gang rape committed by security guards and police. Cressida Kuala says that remedy for victims is not enough and not everyone has been compensated. But she says steps by the company to improve training of security personnel had been making women feel safer – until now.

“Barrick is trying its best to train its police and the security on human rights disciplines. And it looks like police are aware of the human rights laws and still they are going ahead to do these things. I don’t know why. The police said they were just doing their duties on Barrick’s order.”

Sarah Knuckey from Columbia Law Schools says steps Barrick has announced such as improving the training, monitoring and reporting structures of police have been good on paper. But she says they’re still seeing serious allegations of violence at the mine and there needs to be more transparency about what the company is actually doing to respond to them.

“Over the last few years we saw a noticeable improvement. People reported feeling safer. However recently there’s reports of the village burning as well as the accompanying physical and sexual assaults. There’s also another report of a different set of sexual assaults two weeks prior and of assaults last year that the company has never responded to.”

Independent policing monitor Ila Geno, whose position is financed by the Government and Barrick Gold, says he’s also very concerned about human rights. He says the company is addressing the issue but individual police officers must also take responsibility.

“Training is adequate but the individual police application, that’s an issue where individual competency of a police officer in complying with those instructions.”

But Tyler Giannini, a director of the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic, says much more needs to be done to stop the cycle of violence. He says divisions between the company and the community run deep and trust needs to be built.

“Any complaint mechanism that they create needs to actually address all of the problems that the community has faced not only sexual violence, but also killings, assaults and deeper environmental issues that have been longstanding in the community. Until that happens I think you’re not going to have a stable development situation in the area.”

Human rights advocates are calling for the relocation of the 50,000 to 60,000 villagers who live near the mine. Sarah Knuckey says people tell her they are living like dogs and pigs just a few metres away from its factories.

“People are frequently sitting in tailings waste from the mine. They drink water out of blue buckets. They’re full of mosquitoes and dust and leaves. In many villages all night long you can hear the sound of the trucks very loud. The children find it very hard to get to sleep.”

Ms Knuckey says everyone who lives at the mine feels the “injustice of being the original owners of the land and the gold underneath it and seeing it literally being flown out of the country” while they live in squalor. She says the Canadians who own Barrick Gold would never accept such terrible conditions for their own families.


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Canadian miner urged to condemn violent evictions in PNG

Radio New Zealand | April 6, 2017

A US human rights community says a Canadian mining company must condemn the violent eviction of villagers near its goldmine in Papua New Guinea.

A local human rights organisation, the Akali Tange Association claims police raped and assaulted villagers and burned down houses during an operation near the Porgera Mine.

The association has also accused the mine co-owners Barrick Gold of ordering the operation late last month.

The company has denied any involvement but Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic Director Sarah Knuckey said it must go further.

“The company Barrick Gold must immediately make a statement condemning the violent evictions and especially the practice of burning down homes and the alleged assaults. And then it should suspend its support for the police units involved,” said Sarah Knuckey.

Sarah Knuckey said their needs to be a truly independent investigation into the operation and its findings must be made public.


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Facts of police raid on village near PNG mine disputed

Photo: Supplied/ McDiyan Robert Yapari

Radio New Zealand | 31 March 2017

A human rights group in Papua New Guinea is sticking to its allegation that a Canadian mining company is behind a police raid near the Porgera gold mine last weekend.

The Akali Tange Association now says about 50 houses were burnt down in the operation and that police raped and assaulted villagers.

The mine co-owners Barrick Gold deny any involvement and dispute the number of homes that were destroyed.

Barrick says the operation was conducted under warrants issued by the Porgera District Court after drugs and evidence of other illegal activity was found there.

The company says police had notified individuals the temporary structures would be removed in advance of the operation.

It says its investigating the incident and encourages the Akali Tange Association to produce names of victims of abuse.

The association’s Chairman Langan Muri talked to Jo O’Brien.

LANGAN MURI: Barrick-hired police have burnt down the houses up there, around 50 houses almost. That same village has been burned down previously and it adds up to more than a hundred. We believe that area belongs to Barrick. Any operation or whatever happens in that area has to be reported to Barrick. Barrick is supposed to know in advance before the police operations in those areas. So that operation up there in Wangima village is illegal and it’s abuse by the police personnel and Barrick.

JO O’BRIEN: Barrick are now saying that 18 structures were removed and that they didn’t know anything about the police operation?

LM: They should say 18 but it’s like they want to cover up the previous houses burnt in that same village. And now the incident happened again, and the police broke into the area and they seem to be saying that the Magistrate of Porgera has given them an order but it’s nothing to do with PNG Government because that area is leased area of Porgera Joint Venture. And Porgera Joint Venture is supposed to be giving instructions to policemen to walk down into the area, to burn down, do any operation in there. But why should the Magistrate of Porgera giving orders to burn down that village. Barrick is giving us false information that it’s Government that’s doing it, but actually it’s not Government. I want Barrick to relocate the entire village living around the area. Let the mining activities go ahead, people and pets, children playing around the mine site and company seems to be saying illegally trespassing and police every now and then shooting people, raping people, burning down houses. And I strongly call on the national Government and Barrick to relocate the people living around the areas.

JO: Your association initially said there were 150 houses burnt down. Do you mean that was including previous operations as well or was that all on the weekend?

LM: Exactly total previous up to 150 plus.

JO: So you’re saying there were 50 houses burnt down at the weekend is that right?

LM: Exactly.

JO: The allegations about rape and violence, what can you say about that as to what happened over the weekend?

LM: Police walked into the houses while they were sleeping and they raped. The victims are still coming every day to report to us. Some school girls were being raped inside the houses while they were fast asleep.

JO: Do you have an idea of how many people were raped or beaten?

LM: Three have reported already to us, three school girls who have been raped. I couldn’t give you the exact number because  people are still coming and when I am finalised with how many people were assaulted and raped I will give you figure.

JO: Barrick are saying that they were not aware that this operation was happening. But how do you know then that they are responsible?

LM: Barrick seems to be saying that permission was granted from a Magistrate up at Porgera but that area is a special mining lease for Barrick. Police officers, mobile squad and they are hired by Barrick so they are living in Barrick camps. It’s believed that Barrick has done is given a command to these employees because they are hired, paid and they are sleeping in the camps and it’s like employee of Barrick.

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‘Hard to believe’ Barrick didn’t order police operation at PNG gold mine

Porgera mine. Photo: wikicommons / Richard Farbellini

Radio New Zealand | 30 March 2017

A mining watchdog says it’s hard to believe a Canadian mining company didn’t order a police operation near the Porgera Gold Mine in Papua New Guinea last weekend.

A human rights group, the Akali Tange Association said Barrick Gold ordered the raid in which a disputed number of homes were destroyed.

It said it had received reports of policing raping and assaulting villagers.

But Barrick Gold denies involvement and said the raid was conducted under a court warrant after evidence of illegal activity was found.

MiningWatch Canada spokesperson Catherine Coumans said those denials were hard to accept.

“The contrary would be that these police are just going off and doing this on their own, although they are actually there under a memorandum of agreement with the company. They are being paid by the company. They’re guarding the mine. So if the company’s not involved and is not ordering this then there is a real problem there because then the company is allowing this to happen.”

Catherine Coumans says the raid’s victims need humanitarian assistance.

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Call for people to be relocated after PNG’s Porgera mine raid

Photo: Supplied/ McDiyan Robert Yapari

Radio New Zealand | 30 March, 2017

A human rights group in Papua New Guinea is calling for 10,000 people near the Porgera mine to be relocated following a police operation last weekend.

The Akali Tange Association says 50 houses were burnt down in the police raid in a village where 100 houses have been destroyed previously.

The Association Chairman Langan Muri said three girls had reported being raped during the raid and more people were coming forward with complaints.

He said they believed the mine co-owners, Barrick Gold commanded the operation by police, who were employed by the company.

He called for Barrick and the government to take urgent action.

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

“They should relocate the entire village. Let the mining activities go ahead. People and pets, children playing around the mine site and the company seems to be saying illegally trespassing and police every now and then, shooting people, raping people, burning down houses.”

Barrick Gold denied involvement in the police operation and said only 18 structures were removed.


Filed under Human rights, Papua New Guinea

Did Papua New Guinea Police Commit Atrocities for Gold Company?

Telesur | 28 March 2017

This wouldn’t be the first time that Canada’s Barrick Gold has attempted to dodge responsibility while minimizing reports of home burnings and rape.

Human rights advocates in Papua New Guinea raised alarm following shocking accusations of violence leveled at police by villagers residing near the Porgera Joint Venture Gold Mine owned by Barrick Gold, the world’s largest gold mining company. The police stand accused of taking part in a pre-dawn operation Saturday where villagers said 150 houses were torched.

The Akali Tange Association claimed that the police mobile unit rampaged through the Wangima village in an early-morning attempt to forcefully evict residents. Eyewitnesses claim that no warning was given, nor were any eviction notices presented prior to the onslaught. Eight young school-aged girls were allegedly gang-raped during the raid, yet their whereabouts are presently unknown. Six men also faced harsh beatings during the raid.

Representatives of Barrick claim that the mine had “been advised that the police operation targeted illegal activities and was conducted under warrants issued by the Porgera District Court,” yet that they had received no prior warning of the police operation.

However, activists have expressed skepticism that the mining firm had no knowledge of the police raid, especially given the relatively frequent nature of house burnings in Wangima — which lies within Barrick’s mine lease area. Additionally, MiningWatch Canada noted in a statement that “police who guard the mine are housed, fed, clothed and paid by the mine which is 95 percent owned by Barrick (Niugini) Ltd., in turn, 50 percent owned by Barrick Gold.”

McDiyan Robert Yapari, the leader of Akali Tange Association, claimed that a local police officer revealed to him that the raid came under orders from Barrick. Yapari said the officer said, “The Company gave us orders and that we had no choice but to follow their directives. We are here working for money and if we don’t follow orders, we will not be paid our daily allowances.”

The weekend incident is far from the first time the Canadian mining firm stands accused of committing horrendous abuses against the people of the region. In 2009 and 2014, similar incidents were condemned by Amnesty International and the Coalition on Housing Rights and Evictions.

In 2013, protestbarrick.net editor Sakura Saunders underscored the systemic nature of police abuse in Papua New Guinea in a report on abuses connected to the gold mining company, “This is the true tragedy with Porgera. Here, abuses can’t be confined to a few isolated incidents, but a structure of impunity that terrorizes residents who resist it. Here, the crisis does not exist only in moments, but is tied to an environment that is over run with waste, toxic dust, landslides and tailings, creating hazards that take lives on a regular basis.”

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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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