Tag Archives: violence against women

PNG group says mining ombudsman ‘last hope’

Porgera mine. Photo: wikicommons / Richard Farbellini

Radio New Zealand | 13 March, 2017

A human rights group in Papua New Guinea says it would be a great relief if Canada agrees to appoint an ombudsman to monitor PNG’s mining sector.

The Akali Tange Association has written to Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, as part of a wider global campaign calling for the appointment.

The group said Canadian-owned Barrick Gold had employed security guards at Porgera who had committed killings, assault, and rape.

Its executive officer, McDiyan Robert Yapari, said an ombudsman would finally provide some justice for victims as well as holding mining companies to account.

“Now we don’t have any choice but only our prayers – our only hope now lies with the Canadian Prime Minister, if he sets up this Canadian extractive human rights ombudsman – that would be a great relief for us,” said McDiyan Robert Yapari.

Mr Yapari said the situation at Porgera Mine was getting worse and an ombudsman was the community’s last hope.

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Large-scale mining not PNG culture driving the spread of HIV/Aids

A recent mining boom has financially advantaged local and travelling men, who are driving an increase of sexual concurrency, transactional sex and inflation of bride price payments.

A recent mining boom has financially advantaged local and travelling men, who are driving an increase of sexual concurrency, transactional sex and inflation of bride price payments.

‘Good culture, bad culture’: polygyny, cultural change and structural drivers of HIV in Papua New Guinea

Patti Shih, Heather Worth, Joanne Travaglia & Angela Kelly-Hanku | 16 February 2017

Culture is often problematised as a key structural driver of HIV transmission in Papua New Guinea. Official HIV programmes, as well as church teachings, tend to focus on customary marital practices of polygyny and bride price payments as ‘harmful traditions’. This focus can oversimplify the effects of current and historical nuances of cultural, political and economic change on sexual concurrency and gender inequality.

Community-based healthcare workers in Southern Highlands Province explain that customary marital practices are now highly reconfigured from their traditional forms. A recent mining boom has financially advantaged local and travelling men, who are driving an increase of sexual concurrency, transactional sex and inflation of bride price payments.

Healthcare workers suggest that the erosion of important social relationships and kinship obligations by the expanding cash economy has caused an intensification of individual male power while enhancing the vulnerability of women. Yet without the means to challenge the effects of uneven economic development, healthcare workers are left to target ‘culture’ as the central influence on individual behaviours.

A commitment to address structural inequality by political leadership and in HIV prevention programmes and a careful contextualisation of cultural change is needed.

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Porgera’s sexual assault survivors plead for UN action against Barrick Gold

Indigenous survivors of sexual violence at the Porgera Mine in Papua New Guinea demand justice from Toronto-based mining giant, Barrick Gold. Photo courtesy of MiningWatch Canada.

Indigenous survivors of sexual violence at the Porgera Mine in Papua New Guinea demand justice from Toronto-based mining giant, Barrick Gold. Photo courtesy of MiningWatch Canada.

Elizabeth McSheffrey | National Observer | November 17 2016

Nearly 120 sexual assault survivors at a Canadian mining giant’s joint operation in Papua New Guinea are pleading their case to the United Nations and asking for an intervention in their pursuit of justice.

On Wednesday, a massive group of Indigenous women who live near Barrick Gold’s Porgera mine submitted a letter to officials at the fifth annual UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva, where they demanded fair remedy for their grievances from the Toronto-based corporation.

“The company’s guards raped us,” said Everlyn Gaupe, one of the women who says she was harmed by staff at the mine, in a press statement. “The company ignored us for years. When the company finally created a remedy program, we 119 women went to it. But the remedy was not fair.

“We did not get everything that we were promised. We call for the support of the UN because Barrick Gold is ignoring our call to pay us equal compensation.”

No plans to offer extra compensation, says Barrick

Barrick Gold is the largest gold producer in the world and owns nearly 50 per cent of the southwestern Pacific Porgera mine. The other majority stake belongs to a Chinese producer called Zijin Mining Group and five per cent of the mine is owned by the local provincial government and landowners.

In an interview with National Observer, senior vice-president of communications Andy Lloyd recognized the “horrific” nature of the victims’ experiences, but said the company was not considering reopening the remedy process for them at this time.

“I’m not aware of anything that wasn’t delivered upon,” he said over the phone. “The individuals who brought forward those claims, at the time of acceptance of those remedies, essentially accepted that the remedy that was offered met their expectation, and they acknowledged that the claim had been addressed.”

The Porgera Mine, which produced nearly 500,000 ounces of gold in 2015 alone, has been the notorious site of gang rape, beatings, and other atrocities since its the start of its operations in 1990. Detailed reports by Human Rights Watch and other industry watchdog groups describe disturbing cases of extreme violence at the hands of mine security personnel, some of whom threatened victims with arrest if they tried to complain to other authorities.

Barrick Gold acquired its interest in the mine in 2006, and in 2012, started its a formal remediation program for female victims of sexual violence in the Porgera Valley. Many of the cases, said Lloyd, occurred before Barrick Gold became involved, but the company has worked hard over the years to end a pattern of sexual violence and domestic abuse not only at the mine, but in the community at large.

The Toronto-based mining giant, Barrick Gold, owns roughly 50 per cent of the Porgera Mine in Papua New Guinea, pictured here. Photo courtesy of Barrick Gold.

The Toronto-based mining giant, Barrick Gold, owns roughly 50 per cent of the Porgera Mine in Papua New Guinea, pictured here. Photo courtesy of Barrick Gold.

Mining in “complicated environments”

“There is a broader issue of sexual assault and violence against women that is unfortunately very pervasive in that region, and it’s something we’ve also tried to work on,” he explained. “We now have a global human rights training program and all of our employees participate. We’ve done gender-based violence for employees from Zambia to Papua New Guinea to the United States.

“We’ve really tried to use our influence to try to make a difference on this issue and some positive contribution.”

In Papua New Guinea specifically, he said, the mining company has made substantial contributions to the Porgera District Women’s Association, the Family and Sexual Violence Unit of local police, and has provided funding for new women’s welfare liaison officers, which provide an alternative avenue for women to report cases of abuse.

Barrick Gold operates in some of the most “complicated environments” for mining in the world, Lloyd explained, and often inherits those properties from others. It’s not an excuse, he said, but adds some context to the criticism of industry watchdogs and international NGOs.

While MiningWatch Canada, for example, has supported the calls for extra cash compensation for victims, he said, an independent human rights consultant that reviewed Barrick’s remediation framework for survivors of sexual violence found that cash remediation often exposed claimants to re-victimization through theft or further abuse from family members. In that review, the consultant noted that the Porgera Remedy Framework Association (PRFA) supported this conclusion, and unanimously expressed:

“… Payment of cash compensation, especially as a lump sum, would (i) subject the women to a severe risk of re-victimization at the hands of their families, and (ii) ultimately leave the women in no better position vis-à-vis their families and communities because the money would very quickly be disbursed to others at the expense of the claimants themselves.”

In an email to National Observer, MiningWatch Canada’s Catherine Counmans said she recognized that Barrick was advised against cash payments, but her own experience interviewing victims at the Porgera mine told her that they frequently asked for cash to be part of their settlements, along with education, housing, and other resource supports. The NGO has documented cases of human rights, safety, and environmental violations at Barrick’s mines all over the world for years, and those of its subsidiaries.

“We reported that, because rights-compatible remedy should take into consideration the wishes of the victims and Barrick wasn’t going to give them any cash,” she explained. “However, we never advocated for what Barrick eventually did, which was to largely abandon individually tailored remedies in favour of a near uniform dump of cash.”

Sexual violence survivors near the Porgera Mine in Papua New Guinea are demanding fair compensation from Barrick Gold at the fifth annual UN Forum on Business and Human Rights on Wed. Nov. 17, 2016. Video courtesy of MiningWatch Canada.

Indigenous women demand more

Indeed, according to the letter penned by the Indigenous women to the UN on Wednesday, Barrick’s efforts have been wildly inadequate. Through the remediation program, they each received PGK50,000 (roughly $21,000) and a promise that school fees and medical support would be provided for their children over the next three years.

But much of the latter has not been delivered, they argued, demanding additional compensation equal to what Barrick Gold has provided other Porgera sexual abuse victims who took a legal route to address their grievances rather than participate in the remediation program. In 2015, 11 survivors of sexual assault at the mine settled out of court with Barrick, for what was reportedly a much larger sum than was provided through the program.

Those sums have been kept confidential and National Observer could not confirm the numbers.

“For the women, this is another step in what has been a long process over many years fighting for their right to remedy for brutal sexual assaults by mine guards,” said Coumans. “These are strong women who are fighting for justice against the largest gold mining company in the world.”

She confirmed that survivors of abuse at the Porgera Mine have not sought compensation from other stakeholders, including Zijin Mining Group in China, and criticized Barrick Gold for including a stipulation in their remedy program that requires women who participate to sign away their right to sue the company for the abuse.

Lloyd said the program was run by some of the country’s leading women’s rights advocates, but Barrick knew it could have been improved.

“I think we will take from that experience and hopefully we never have to implement a program like that,” he told National Observer. “We want other companies to look at our experience and potentially improve upon the program that we tried to put together in good faith. Our hearts go out to the women who are victims of sexual assault.”

Since 2005, the company has come under international criticism for similar incidents of violence at its mine in Tanzania, and a wide array of environmental and safety violations in Argentina and Chile.

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Canada Accused of Complicity in Mining Companies’ Abuse of Women and Girls

women_abuse

Abuses were documented in Papua New Guinea, Tanzania, Colombia, and Guatemala. (Image: Humphrey King/flickr/cc)

New report calls on Canada to stop financing and supporting companies that abuse and discriminate against Indigenous women living near mines abroad

Nadia Prupis | Common Dreams

The Canadian government is failing to protect women against human rights abuses by supporting and financing mining companies that are involved in discrimination, rape, and violence abroad, according to a new report submitted to the United Nations on Monday.

The report (pdf), written by EarthRights International (ERI), MiningWatch Canada, and the Human Rights Research and Education Center Human Rights Clinic at the University of Ottawa, states that the Canadian government continues to support these corporations instead of holding them to account, despite its obligations to do so as a member of the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Canada’s complicity in the abuse is especially noteworthy because it is home to a majority of the world’s mining company headquarters, which operate at more than 8,000 sites in over 100 countries.

In one case outlined in the report, Indigenous women and girls living near Papua New Guinea’s Porgera Joint Venture (PJV) gold mine accused security personnel at the site of engaging in a decades-long campaign of sexual violence, including gang rape. The companies that run PJV—Barrick Gold and Placer Dome—also reportedly allowed environmental devastation and other forms of violence against men and women, as well as forced displacement, extrajudicial killings, and arbitrary detention, the report states.

The community has been fighting for redress since 2005. Although Barrick Gold established a so-called “Remedy Framework” in 2010 to compensate victims, less than half of the women who filed claims received remuneration, and those that did say it was not enough to “reflect the gravity of the harm suffered,” the report states.

Similar abuses, and lack of accountability, occurred in Tanzania, Colombia, and Guatemala, the groups continue. At the Fenix nickel mine near El Estor, Guatemala, women were reportedly gang raped by police, military, and security personnel during a forced eviction. Despite these and other abuses, the Canadian government continued to provide support to the owners of the mine. In a leaked email between the Canadian embassy and the mine’s then-owner, Skye Resources, the native community is referred to as “invaders” and a property conflict is described as “an anarchic free-for-all land grab.”

“The allegations against Canadian corporations are not isolated incidents,” said Marco Simons, general counsel at ERI. “There is a systemic pattern of reported abuses associated with Canadian extractive sector companies operating outside Canada.”

Under CEDAW, Canada is required to do all it can to eliminate discrimination against women by any corporations that work in foreign countries, including through prevention and punishment measures. It is also obligated to compensate victims.

As Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada summed up,

“Despite calls from civil society, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, individual members of parliament, and numerous U.N. treaty bodies to take proper legislative action to regulate its corporations, ensure accountability for involvement in harm and access to a remedy for victims of corporate related abuse, Canada has failed to do so.”

Salvador Herencia-Carrasco, director of the Human Rights Clinic, said,

“With this submission, our organizations hope that Canada and other home states implement mechanisms to assure that private extractive companies respect environmental standards and the human rights of women.”

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Claims Barrick and Zijin failing to address abuses at Porgera mine

porgera protest June 2016

Porgera is an industrial hellhole and villagers are adamant they need to be relocated

Radio New Zealand | July 15, 2016

Human rights groups are accusing an international mining venture in Papua New Guinea of failing to adequately address hundreds of claims of violence against security personnel.

They say violence is continuing at the Porgera gold mine, while victims of historic cases of shooting, rape and injury are still demanding justice.

The Akali Tange Association says it’s had no response to a claim it lodged last September with Barrick Niugini on behalf of 256 victims. The association’s executive officer McDiyan Yapari says the cases span more than two decades from 1990 to last year.

MCDIYAN YAPARI: Ninety people have been shot dead just for trespassing. Eighty-eight people sustained injuries, either they were injured, tortured or illegally detained at the hands of security personnel. The remainder, 78 of them have been missed out, they were women rape victims who have missed out from the remedy.

The remedy was a grievance mechanism introduced by Barrick in 2012 to deal with allegations of violence at the gold mine in Enga Province. The company, a Canadian-Chinese joint venture, says some of the 256 claims were dealt with by the mechanism or by the mine’s previous owners. But Catherine Coumans from Mining Watch Canada says the mechanism, was too narrow in scope, as it only covered women raped by Barrick security guards.

CATHERINE COUMANS: So the Papua New Guinea police who are at the mine site through a memorandum of understanding between Barrick and the state, are actually guarding the mine, they -are being paid by Barrick, but in all of the cases where they were the perpetrators, those cases were bracketed out of this programme.

The Akali Tange Association says it held a protest last month in frustration at the lack of action on its claim. But in a statement Barrick says:

BARRICK MINING STATEMENT: It will take a significant amount of time to evaluate each claim given the volume and seriousness of the allegations. We carry a commitment to respond to allegations of negative human rights in a fair and effective manner.

Barrick goes on to say that it has also sought to verify the Akali Tange Association is authorised to act on behalf of the claimants, citing a consultant’s report that found the association has previously shown insensitivity to the vulnerability of sexual violence survivors. Catherine Coumans says there is no evidence for that allegation.

CATHERINE COUMANS: It’s very problematic that the company is trying to basically shoot the messengers. They should really focus on dealing with the complaints and not try to divert attention away from the victims.

McDiyan Yapari says despite Barrick’s claims it is addressing human rights violations at the mine, the violence has not stopped.

MCDIYAN YAPARI: Human rights abuses here in Porgera is still continuing. This very last time three men have been held up by security guards and they were forced to have sexual intercourse and then one claimed that he was an HIV victim.

Catherine Coumans says in another recent case two women were raped. She says conditions at Porgera still leave people vulnerable to assault, as villages are squeezed between the mine pit and waste flows from the mine.

CATHERINE COUMANS: They have to cross these waste flows, and as soon as they do that they are officially trespassing and that makes them vulnerable to attack from security guards and the police who threaten them and say that they’re trespassing. What we often heard from women when we were interviewing the women was that they would say ‘ok we are going to arrest you or we are going to rape you, which do you want’.

Catherine Coumans says Porgera is an industrial hellhole and villagers are adamant they need to be relocated.

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Deadline looms for Porgera mine owners over violence claims

Landowners gather for a protest at Porgera in October 2015

Landowners gather for a protest at Porgera in October 2015

Radio New Zealand | July 7, 2016

A Papua New Guinea human rights group says it has received no response to its call for compensation for more than 200 cases of violence allegedly committed by a mining company’s security forces.

The Akali Tange Association lodged a claim with the Porgera Gold Mine’s owners last September in relation to 256 victims it said had been shot dead, injured or raped between 1990 and 2015.

The association’s executive officer McDiyan Yapari said they had given the Canadian mining company, Barrick Gold, until Friday to respond to their demands for compensation and remedy.

He said he was worried about what would happen if it did not respond by the deadline.

“I don’t know what is going to happen because the Association has been carrying the frustration, anger from the members and we can not keep on holding on this. The only possibility that we will be looking at is one to sue them in a court, or I think people might retaliate,” McDiyan Yapari said.

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Porgera women accuse the world’s biggest gold mining company of ignoring rape complaints

porgera protest June 2016

Hilary Beaumont | Vice News | July 2, 2016

Six months after new allegations of rape and violence surfaced at a mine in Papua New Guinea, locals and human rights advocates are accusing the largest gold mining company in the world of using “delay tactics” to ignore their claims.

One woman alleged she was shot in the stomach with a rubber bullet and her house was burned to the ground, three men said they were forced to perform sex acts at gunpoint — even though one of them was HIV-positive — and two women claimed police drove them to a secluded area and sexually assaulted them.

But Barrick Gold, the Canadian mining giant that co-owns the mine in Porgera, insists the allegations are being taken “very seriously.” The company financially supports government police forces in the area and employs its own mine security, who have been accused of similar violent acts in the past.

“It does take time to investigate,” Chief Sustainability Officer Peter Sinclair told VICE News on Tuesday. “Sometimes they can take extended periods of time.”

About 150 locals and human rights advocates marched to the mining company’s office in Porgera last week, demanding an immediate response.

“They just assure us that they will do this and do that and relocate us and they will pay compensation, but after all that they never do,” one of the activists told VICE News.

About 150 locals marched to Barrick's mining office in Porgera last week to voice their concerns. (Photo by Langan Muri)

About 150 locals marched to Barrick’s mining office in Porgera last week to voice their concerns. (Photo by Langan Muri)

Complaints against the mine in Papua New Guinea, a country that has one of the highest rates of sexual violence in the world, are not new. Human Rights Watch and other organizations have documented in detail allegations of violence and abuse at the gold and silver open pit mine, which opened in 1990 and was acquired in 2006 by Barrick. In response to the violence, Barrick created a mechanism for people to lodge complaints in 2012, and if they can be substantiated the company says it compensates the victims. About 130 women have received financial compensation from Barrick, although some have complained it is too little, and has been unevenly distributed.

In 2015 alone, the Porgera Joint Venture mine — which is now co-owned by Barrick and Chinese company Zijin Mining Group — received 805 complaints, a Barrick spokesman told VICE News. About 315 of those complaints were requests for the mining company to resettle people who live near the mine — where gold extraction has created a population influx in the impoverished country, and violence near the mine has increased with this influx. An additional 200 complaints involved employment, contracting and procurement issues. The company would not say the nature of the remaining 290 complaints and declined to disclose any other details due to confidentiality.

Not all grievances are resolved the same year they’re lodged, according to Barrick. The company would not say how long on average it takes to resolve a complaint.

Barrick sold off half of its stake in the mine in response to financial turmoil and since August 2015 it and Chinese company Zijin Mining Group hold a 47.5 percent interest, while a local landowners group holds the remaining five percent. But Sinclair said Barrick is still accountable for what happens on-site and at the hands of its security.

“I don’t think it diminishes our responsibility,” he said of the joint venture model.

VICE News reached out to Zijin for comment but the company did not respond.

Related: Raped by Canadian Gold Mine Guards, These Women Are Looking for Justice

About 70 percent of the world’s mining companies are based in Canada. But Canada does very little to regulate mining companies that operate abroad, meaning complaints of human rights abuses in developing countries continue to stack up against them.

Barrick’s mine in Papua New Guinea is not alone in attracting criticism. Activists crashed the company’s AGM in April to question its president about a cyanide spill at its Veladera mine in Argentina, which leaked into the local river system.

Women at the Papua New Guinea mine have complained of unequal compensation for the rapes they experienced, which Columbia University human rights lawyer Sarah Knuckey called “some of the most vicious assaults that I’ve investigated anywhere in the world.”

At its AGM in April, Barrick president Kelvin Dushinsky said the company has accepted responsibility for the human rights abuses at both mines, which he called “completely unacceptable.” He called the remedy mechanisms “very successful.”

While some complainants have been compensated, others are still waiting for a resolution.

In December, VICE News interviewed the men who alleged nine guards carrying assault rifles arrested them on the Porgera mine property and forced them to perform sex acts on each other. One of the men told the officers he had HIV, “but they insisted and forced [him] to have sex with the two of us,” one of the complainants said.

Sinclair, who visited the mine along with other Barrick officials in June, said the local mine office investigated the claim but found no evidence that its security forces were involved. Police were the appropriate authorities to investigate, he said.

According to Knuckey, the human rights lawyer who visited the mine in January, in Papua New Guinea it’s “very, very difficult” to access justice for rape complaints through the court system. That’s why people turn to the company’s remedy mechanism when they experience violence connected with the mine.

In a Skype interview with VICE News last week, a woman living near the mine alleged mine security shot her in the stomach with a rubber bullet in December 2015.

She was at home at the time, when a man she believed to be an illegal miner ran into her house. Locals often trespass at the mine site to illegally pan for gold, prompting security to crack down. Two security guards chased after the man and shot a rubber bullet into the house, which hit her, the woman said through a translator.

The house a woman says was burned down by Porgera mine security guards. (Photo by Sarah Knuckey)

The house a woman says was burned down by Porgera mine security guards. (Photo by Sarah Knuckey)

“They shot two times. One caught the house on fire, the other one shot me in my stomach.” She said they also fired a teargas canister into her house, which burned the house down.

She showed photos of her heavily bruised stomach after the incident.

The woman, who did not want to be named, went to the mine’s medical centre, and then took her complaint to the company’s grievance office, where they gave her a number. They told her to follow up, which she says she has done about 20 times since the incident, but her complaints “fall on deaf ears.”

Sinclair declined to comment on her case, saying it was his understanding that the company’s local office is still investigating.

In another case, also in December 2015, two women were allegedly sexually assaulted by members of the government police force after they accepted a ride home from them. The allegations were documented in January by Knuckey’s team of lawyers. They sent a letter outlining this claim and the other two claims to Sinclair and three other Barrick managers on April 21, and shared the letter with VICE News.

Sinclair said he was unaware of the story of the two women.

Related: Three Men Claim They Were Forced to Perform Sex Acts on Each Other at Canadian-Owned Mine

While police forces are normally government-funded, Barrick has agreed to provide support to the police, including food, accommodations and transport, so the police forces will secure the mine area.

Sinclair said it was “quite common” for mining companies to reach a deal with government forces to secure volatile mine sites like the one in Porgera.

“This was something that was an absolute requirement of the community and for the protection of the health and safety of the community and the employees of the mine,” he said, adding that the company trained the police forces.

He said the agreement was outlined in an MOU between the company, which makes Barrick’s support of the government forces contingent on continued upholding of human rights. VICE News asked to see the MOU but the company declined to make it public

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