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Allegations of rapes, beatings and killings of community members by Porgera Joint Venture (PJV) security forces have been prevalent for at least a decade. In 2007, the Akali Tange Association, a grass roots human rights organization and members of the Porgera Alliance, issued a report called “The Shooting Fields of Porgera Joint Venture.” This report documents incidents of killings (14, of which 11 were by shooting), torture, arbitrary arrest, and beatings by the mine’s security forces. In a news article of 2005 then-mine operator Canada’s Placer Dome admitted to 8 killings of community members by PJV security guards and police.
Early in 2006 Barrick Gold Corp. took over the mine when it acquired Placer Dome. There have been further allegations of killings by PJV security forces in 2007 and 2008.
A Papua New Guinea (PNG) government investigation established in 2006 heard witnesses report that the mine’s private security guards committed abuses but, to date, the government’s findings have not been publicly released. The terms of reference for the PNG government’s inquiry have been called prejudicial as they assume a link between the shootings and killings by Porgera Joint Ventures’s security forces and alleged unauthorized gold mining before such a link has been established in evidence.
On December 2, 2007, MiningWatch Canada filed a complaint with the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions regarding killings of residents of Porgera by PJV’s private security guards (tolerated by the government), PNG Police, and Mobile Unit Police at the Porgera Mine.
In March 2009 the Government of Papua New Guinea’s National Executive Council responded to a request by Member of Parliament Philip Kikala of Lagaip-Porgera by deciding to deploy military and police in a “call out” to address “law and order issues” in the vicinity of the Porgera Joint Venture gold mine.
On April 18, 2009, more than 200 troops including 4 mobile units, an air tactical unit and intelligence officials from the PNG Defence Force were deployed in Porgera in an operation named “Operation Ipili ’09.”
On April 27, 2009, at the Ungima village adjacent to the open pit mine, ‘Operation Ipili 2009’ had completely burnt down all the houses and evacuated the land. All of the houses of the Ungima village about 80 and 2 houses in Yokolama village were burnt and another 4 houses of Kulapi village were burnt. Villagers who spoke up to protect their homes were bashed and bruised. Others were detained.
Over the next three months – despite receiving condemnation from international NGOs such as Amnesty International and the Center for Housing Rights and Evictions – following landowners rebuilding homes in the area, the Ungima village was burnt down two more times over the next three months.