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News Release

Indigenous Papua New Guinea Leaders Protest Ongoing Abuses at Barrick’s Porgera Mine

(Ottawa, May 5, 2011) For the fourth year in a row, Indigenous Ipili leaders from Porgera in Papua New Guinea (PNG) are in Canada to protest ongoing severe environmental impacts and human rights abuses associated with Barrick’s Porgera mine.

“We are here to say that the human rights abuses by Barrick’s security forces and by the PNG troops that Barrick is housing and feeding are still ongoing in spite of damning reports from Amnesty International in 2010 and from Human Rights Watch this year,” says Jethro Tulin, of grass-roots human rights group Akali Tange Association.

Alleged rapes, beatings and killings by Barrick’s security forces at the Porgera Joint Venture mine have been documented by a research team from Harvard University and New York State University, as well as by Human Rights Watch. Abuses by PNG troops that are housed, fed and supplied with fuel by the Porgera mine have been documented by Amnesty International.

Barrick still does not seem to understand the gravity of the concerns being raised. “We were shocked to hear the statement of Chairman Peter Munk in the Globe and Mail. He said that in Papua New Guinea ‘gang rape is a cultural habit.’ Barrick must stop blaming us, the messengers, or blaming our people, the victims, but rather get serious about providing remedy to those who have been harmed by the mine’s security guards,” says Tulin. Papua New Guinea’s Mining Minister, John Pundari, has demanded an apology from Barrick Gold.

Additionally, the serious environmental and social impacts of the Porgera mine’s waste disposal into an 800 kilometre-long river system are ongoing. In March and April three young people from nearby villages drowned in the mine’s waste as they tried to cross the rushing waste flows. “Barrick needs to stop dumping the mine’s waste into our rivers,” says Mark Ekepa, Chairman of the Porgera Landowners Association, representing traditional landowners living in the Special Mine Lease area. “It is environmentally unsustainable, and also a very real threat to the health and safety of our people,” says Ekepa. “Barrick needs to finally acknowledge that we cannot keep living around the pit and the waste dumps; we need to be resettled away from the mine.”

In 2008 the Norwegian Government Pension Fund announced that it had divested from roughly CAN$230 million worth of Barrick shares as a result of the disposal of waste into rivers at the Porgera mine.

“We contend that Barrick’s Porgera mine is not being operated according to international best practice standards, or the OECD Guidelines endorsed by the Government of Canada,” says Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada. “Unfortunately, there are no consequences for Barrick for this failure: it is the unfortunate people of Porgera who suffer the consequences.”

On March 1, 2011, the Akali Tange Association, the Porgera Landowners Association and MiningWatch Canada tabled a complaint against Barrick for breaching the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

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For more information contact:
Catherine Coumans, MiningWatch Canada, tel: 613-569-3439, e-mail: catherine(at)miningwatch.ca
Mark Ekepa, Porgera Landowners Association, e-mail: emarktony(at)gmail.com
Jethro Tulin, Akali Tange Association, e-mail: jctulin(at)gmail.com

See also:
•    Request for Review of the Operations of Barrick Gold Corp. at the Porgera Joint Venture in Papua New Guinea. Akali Tange Association, Porgera Landowners Association, MiningWatch Canada, March 1, 2011.
•    Gold’s Costly Dividend: Human Rights Impacts of Papua New Guinea’s Porgera Gold Mine. Human Rights Watch, February 1, 2011.
•    Legal Brief. International Human Rights Clinic of the Harvard Law School and the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice of New York University School of Law. November 16, 2009.
•    Undermining Rights: Forced Evictions and Police Brutality Around the Porgera Gold Mine, Papua New Guinea. Amnesty International, January 2010.
•    The Porgera Mine – Papua New Guinea. Norwegian Council on Ethics, 2008.

Barrick Gold’s Porgera Joint Venture’s Anjolek waste dump winds its way between the villages of Kewai and Apalaka.

Fast running waste in Barrick Gold’s Porgera Joint Venture’s Anjolek dump.