Indigenous Women from Papua New Guinea Appeal to Government of Canada for Help Obtaining Remedy for Ongoing Human Rights Abuses at Barrick Mine
(Ottawa) Two women who have suffered sexual violence at the hands of mine security at Barrick’s massive Porgera Joint Venture mine in Papua New Guinea appealed directly to the Government of Canada today. They seek help in accessing equitable remedy for the mining-related harm they and other villagers are suffering.
The indigenous Ipili women were chosen to make the long trip to Canada by fellow villagers living in close proximity to Barrick’s open-pit gold mine and its vast waste flows. They are speaking out about ongoing violence suffered by local men, women and children as a result of excess use of force by mine security and by police paid by the mine to guard its assets. The women particularly highlight lack of access to equitable remedy for women who are raped and gang raped by mine security.
The Government of Canada was made aware of human rights abuses at the mine in a complaint filed to Canada’s National Contact Point (NCP) for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises in March 2011. The complaint covered numerous ongoing human rights abuses including periodic house burnings by police paid by the mine, environmental destruction by uncontrolled mine waste disposal and excess use of force by mine security. Despite mediation under the auspices of Canada’s NCP in 2012 and 2013, none of these issues have been adequately addressed and violence by mine security is ongoing.
“I am one of the 119 women who received some remedy from Barrick,” says Ms. Everlyn Gaupe. “But Barrick did not consult us on the remedy we needed for all the consequences we faced from the rapes, and did not give us the remedy promised to us. What we received was ‘take it or leave it’ and Barrick’s consultants told us we were powerless against the company. Barrick made us sign waivers we did not understand, so we cannot even take our cases to court now”
“I am one of the many women who missed out on Barrick’s short term remedy program” says Ms. Joycelyn Mandi. “There are more than a hundred of us who have never received any compensation for our rapes and gang rapes by Barrick’s security guards. We have filed our claims with the mine’s grievance office since 2015, but until now we have no response. We are appealing to the Government of Canada to help us, because Barrick is a Canadian company.”
“This case highlights a pervasive problem faced by people living around the world who suffer abuses related to mining” says Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada. “It is well known that it is very difficult for poor, marginal and often illiterate people to access justice in many countries where Canadian mining companies operate. This case highlights that we also cannot rely on companies’ own remedy mechanisms to provide equitable compensation in such serious cases. It is high time for Canada to step into this remedy gap by creating an effective remedy mechanism in Canada.”
MiningWatch Canada is a member of the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (CNCA) and is calling for the creation of an effective human rights ombudsperson for Canada's international extractive sector.
For more information and to reach Ms. Gaupe and Ms. Mandi contact Catherine Coumans, MiningWatch Canada, email@example.com. (613) 569-3439
- Statements to the Parliamentary Press Gallery by Everlyn Gaupe and Joycelyn Mandi, below.
- Background brief on this issue, below.
- Complaint filed to Canada’s National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, March 2011.
- Video presented by Porgeran rape victims at the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in November 2016.
- Request for assistance from Porgeran rape victims to the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights presented in November 2016.
Parliamentary Press Gallery Statements, May 9, 2017
My name is Everlyn Gaupe. I am an indigenous Ipili woman from the Highlands of Papua New Guinea. I live in the shadow of Barrick Gold’s Porgera Joint Venture mine.
This mine dumps all of its tailings and waste rock directly into the river valleys all around the pit.
Our villages are surrounded by mine waste. The mine and the waste have taken up almost all of our land. My village was buried under the Anawe waste dump. We lost all our land and our agricultural gardens. Now we people around the mine are squeezed into small areas of land that are like islands in the surrounding waste. And we are pushed higher up the steep slopes of the mountains. We have lost access to bush materials and to clean water. We have to wait for rain for our water to drink.
And we have to cross this waste, just to get from one village to another, or to go to our vegetable gardens or schools.
I am sure many of you here have children. How would you feel if your children had to walk through the stinking chemical waste of a mine to go to school?
The mine and the waste have destroyed our traditional livelihood. When we enter the waste to go from one place to another, or to pan for gold for our new livelihood, the mine’s security guards and police who work for the company attack us.
For decades now these guards and police have been raping and gang raping us local women, even young school girls, like I was when I was raped.
Can you imagine a young school girl being brutally beaten and gang raped on the edge of a river of bright red chemical waste from the mine?
After years of denial, Barrick finally decided to give me and 118 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 what we would get, it was “take it or leave it” and they told us we were powerless against the company.
The remedy we received was not fair. All 119 have agreed about that, and we have filed a complaint to the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights. But we had to sign legal waivers to get any remedy at all so we cannot even take legal action now.
For us poor and mostly illiterate victims of Barrick’s mine security, it is impossible to get justice through our PNG courts. But we have also learned that we cannot rely on the company to give us real justice.
Therefore, we are asking the Government of Canada to help us. Barrick is a Canadian company. Please implement an independent mechanism in Canada where we can bring our human rights grievances and that can help us get fair remedy for the great harm we have suffered through Barrick’s security guards.
My name is Joycelyn Mandi. I am an indigenous Ipili woman from the Highlands of Papua New Guinea.
Like Everlyn, I too live half a world away in the shadow of Barrick’s Porgera Joint Venture mine in Papua New Guinea, surrounded by the waste from the mine.
And like Everlyn, I was raped by mine security when I was still a teenager. This happened in 2008, the same year that our fellow Porgerans came to Canada for the first time to tell Barrick’s shareholders and directors about the killings and the beatings and the rapes that we are suffering because of mine security and police guarding the mine.
Unlike Everlyn, I have never received any remedy for the harm that this rape has caused in my life. And I am not alone, there are many other victims of rape by mine security who have never received remedy and the sexual violence is ongoing.
Barrick knows this because MiningWatch Canada, and the Human Rights clinics at Columbia and Harvard Universities have told Barrick about the many women who have never received any remedy.
My case was brought to Barrick’s grievance office at the mine in 2015 together with the cases of 80 other women who have never received remedy.
We have a 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 personally about our cases.
I am appealing to the Canadian government to help us. We need a place where we can go to file a complaint against Barrick Gold for the harm that is being suffered by our people. We need help to get true and fair remedy so that we can rebuild our lives in a good way. We cannot trust Barrick to help us and our PNG courts will not help us poor people. Please create this ombudsperson in Canada so that we can receive fair remedy.
Catherine Coumans, Ph.D.
May 9, 2017
Addressing the Canadian government, two indigenous Ipili women from Papua New Guinea spoke out today about years of excess use of force, including beatings, killings and sexual violence, against local men, women and children by private and public security guarding Barrick Gold’s Porgera Joint Venture mine in Papua New Guinea.
Barrick’s directors and shareholders were alerted to violence by mine security as early as 2008, when indigenous Ipili men travelled to Canada to speak out at Barrick’s Annual General Meeting. For years these allegations of human rights abuses were met with denial by Barrick.
Finally, in 2012, Barrick started to implement a remedy program at the mine with a narrow focus only on victims of sexual violence, and only on those victims that had been raped by private mine security, excluding those who had been raped by police guarding the mine under an MOU between the company and the Papua New Guinea state. Under the provisions of the MOU Barrick’s local subsidiary houses, feeds, clothes and pays the salary of PNG police guarding the mine.
By the time Barrick closed the remedy program, in 2014, 119 women had been given limited remedy worth some 20,000 kina (approximately 8,500 CAD). In return for this they had to sign legal waivers. The women who participated in the mine’s remedy program did not have the benefit of effective independent legal counsel. Shortly after Barrick’s remedy program ended, 11 rape victims represented by lawyers from EarthRights International received settlements from Barrick that are widely reported to be worth 200,000 Kina. As a result of subsequent pressure from the 119 claimants of the remedy program, Barrick arbitrarily provided these claimants with a subsequent “top up” of an additional 30,000 Kina (approximately 11,500 CAD), more than doubling the original cash payment.
The 119 rape survivors were not consulted on the level or kind of remedy they received. Barrick’s remedy program was repeatedly critiqued by MiningWatch Canada as it was being implemented and has also been thoroughly critiqued by human rights clinics at Harvard and Columbia Universities.
Everlyn Gaupe, a teenager when she was raped by mine security, was chosen by the 119 women who received unfair remedy from Barrick to represent these women in Canada. At Barrick’s AGM on April 25, 2017 she asked Barrick to open a dialogue with the 119 women, and human rights experts of their choice, to achieve a just remedy that will address the individual harms these women have endured and provide remedy that will allow them to rebuild their lives.
These women have also presented their case via a video at the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva in November 2016. And they have filed a formal complaint with the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights.
Joycelyn Mandi, also a teenager when she was raped by mine security, was chosen to travel to Canada by a large number of women who have suffered sexual violence by private and public mine security at the Porgera Joint Venture mine, but have never received remedy from the company, even though their cases have been brought to the mine’s grievance office. She is one of 80 women who have received a claim number (3936) from the grievance office over a year ago, but have heard nothing since. Other women’s cases have also gone to the grievance office without response. At Barrick’s AGM this year Joycelyn asked Barrick to address all of these cases in an open and transparent process that will consult the women about the remedy they need to address the harm they have endured and allow them to be supported by human rights experts of their choice.
In addition to calling for equitable remedy from Barrick for all sexual assault victims, these women are making an urgent plea for the violence against local men, women and children by mine security to end. They note that even as they were preparing to come to Canada new rapes and shootings by mine security were being reported. “It is always ongoing” they say.
Recognizing the fundamental contradictions inherent in relying on the perpetrator of serious harm to provide equitable remedy for its victims, as well as the difficulties poor and remote villagers have in accessing judicial remedy in their home country of Papua New Guinea, Ms. Gaupe and Ms. Mandi call on the Government of Canada to implement an effective remedy mechanism in Canada for people who have been harmed by the operations of Canadian extractive companies operating overseas. They support the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability’s (CNCA) call for the creation of a human rights ombudsperson for international extractive sector in Canada.