“It Did Not Go Well” – Barrick Continues Pressure on Papua New Guinea Government While Ignoring Human Rights

Information received by MiningWatch Canada indicates that Barrick Gold (Barrick) continues to play hardball with the government of Papua New Guinea, while ignoring responsibility for a long history of un-remedied human rights abuses at its former Porgera Joint Venture mine in the highlands of Papua New Guinea (PNG).

“Barrick is aware of the human rights abuses Porgerans have suffered because of the mine’s operations,” says James Wangia, of the local human rights group Akali Tange Association. “Barrick’s own consultants, BSR, noted the 940 cases we have brought to the mine. There are victims of rapes and killings by mine security, house burnings, chemical burns and more. In 2018, BSR recommended that Barrick work with us to create a grievance mechanism to provide remedy to the victims and their families. But Barrick has not even taken the first of the recommended steps and the victims continue to suffer.”

In March of 2020, the application for renewal of the mine’s lease was turned down by PNG authorities, in part as a result of the mine’s problematic “legacy issues.” Barrick commenced legal action in PNG courts and, in July, initiated international arbitration. Barrick CEO, Mark Bristow, has made numerous visits to the country, including in October and November, in the effort to reverse the decision not to grant Barrick a licence renewal.

Barrick’s legal pressure on the PNG government appears to have compelled the government to continue negotiations on the mine. Information received by MiningWatch Canada indicates that Barrick is offering to pause legal proceedings upon signing of a framework agreement, but will not withdraw legal proceedings until final agreements are signed. Other positions Barrick is reportedly taking in these negotiations are problematic for the PNG government, leading a lead negotiator to report back to Prime Minister Marape that “it did not go well.”

The following are among the reported points of difference:

1. On August 25, 2020 the Government of PNG granted a Special Mining Lease (SML) No. 11 to Kumul Minerals Holdings Ltd. (KMHL) for a period of 20 years covering some 2135 hectares of land in Porgera. Barrick reportedly will not accept that the mine lease of its subsidiary Barrick Niugini Limited (BNL), SML No. 1, has ceased to be valid and that the lease was legitimately granted to KMHL.

2. The Government of PNG reportedly maintains that BNL owes $191 million in back taxes. Barrick is reportedly making resolution of legacy tax issues conditional on reaching a new agreement.

3. The Government of PNG is offering Barrick fiscal stability, but Barrick is reportedly insisting on regulatory stability and that other legacy issues be resolved before an agreement is signed.

“It is remarkable that Barrick is acting as though the Government of Papua New Guinea does not have the right to decide not to renew a mine lease with it,” says Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada, “I am also concerned about clauses that may find their way into an agreement that have proven to be detrimental to developing countries, for example, on transfer pricing, which can result in loss of tax revenues by the PNG government, regulatory stability clauses that restrict the PNG government’s regulatory authority, and clauses linking an agreement to international arbitration (ISDS) in extra-territorial proceedings that are critiqued as biased towards corporations.”

For more information contact: Catherine Coumans, MiningWatch Canada, [email protected]

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