In response to appeals from MiningWatch and many other groups, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has issued an opinion regarding the framework of remediation initiatives developed by Barrick Gold Corporation for women who have been victims of sexual violence by security personnel at the company’s Porgera mine in Papua New Guinea. The opinion makes some important positive contributions but also raises some serious concerns. Here’s the OHCHR opinion, and our letter in response.
Since January, 2013, MiningWatch Canada hasÂ raised concern about the fact thatÂ Barrick Gold is seeking legalÂ immunity from victims of rape by mine security guards at the companyâ€™s Porgera Joint Venture Mine in Papua New Guinea (PNG). If these rape victims accept an individual remedy package they must sign a waiver that assures Barrick that they will never sue the company in PNG or anywhere else in the world. We have raised this concern in public letters to the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights (UNHCHR) onÂ March 19 andÂ April 2, 2013. On May 14, 77 global organizations sent aÂ letter to the UNHCHR expressing their deep concern over this. For more background, seeÂ Barrick Seeks Immunity from Rape Victims at its Porgera mine in Papua New Guinea.
Under pressure, Barrick posted aÂ note to its web site on April 16, 2013, stating that there is a new â€œversionâ€ of the legal waiver that â€œcontains much narrower terms.â€ We have repeatedly asked for a copy of the new terms to be made public but none has been released by Barrick to date. We therefore sentÂ another letter to the UNHCHR on May 14. She, or rather her office (theÂ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights), has responded. The OHCHR’s opinion makes some important positive contributions but also raises some serious concerns. Here’s the opinion, and our letter in response.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Porgera Land Owners Association (PLOA), in partnership with the Porgera Alliance released a report today detailing the case for the urgent resettlement of their people away from Barrick’s Porgera mine. The report covers the health hazards associated with living close to the mine, as well as enumerating the human rights abuses caused by mine security. The report also recounts the history of the mine’s agreements with the local community, revealing a pattern of neglect of the community’s free, prior and informed consent at nearly every stage of the mine’s development.
This report follows investigations and reports published by Amnesty International, Harvard Law, Human Rights Watch, and the Norwegian Government all detailing the dangerous conditions near the Porgera mine. However, this report stands out as a comprehensive look at the history of the Porgera mine, from the perspective of the landowners who have led negotiations with the company.
for background, see:
Norwegian Pension Fund Full Report on Divestment Decision: http://www.protestbarrick.net/downloads/recommendation_barrick.pdf
Harvard Law Report on Porgera: http://www.reports-and-materials.org/Harvard-testimony-re-Porgera-Main.pdf
Amnesty International Report on Forced Evictions: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA34/001/2010/en/2a498f9d-39f7-47df-b5eb-5eaf586fc472/asa340012010eng.pdf
Human Rights Watch report confirming gang rapes by Barrick Security Forces: http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/png0211webwcover.pdf
The Asia Pacific caucus statement at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues urged the Special Rapporteur to investigate the human rights crisis near Barrick’s Porgera mine.
Whilst the Special Rapporteur has not yet visited the Indigenous peoples of Papua New Guinea for a country report, on 19 August 2008 a special communication was made by the Special Rapporteur regarding the situation concerning Mr. JethroTulin, the CEO of a NGO based in Porgera that has been documenting human rights violations associated with a Gold Mine there. Mr. Tulin had travelled to Canada to express concerns about the mine and on his return in August 2008 was attacked, told not to return to Canada and received further anonymous threats. The Special Rapporteur wrote to the Government of Papua New Guinea, but there was no reply. A formal complaint on other human rights violations was also filed with the Human Rights Commission by Barrick Gold of Canada who also the sought ordinance with the Special Rapporteur last year. Despite these actions, reports of gross human rights violations at the mine continue.
Read full Asia Pacific Caucus statement here.
Landowners appeal to United Nations for support
A recent landmark decision of the National Court that gives Porgera Joint Venture Company exclusive rights of occupancy to its Special Mining Lease (SML) could affect thousands of landowners living in major resource development project areas throughout the country. Meanwhile, landowners from Porgera have traveled to the United Nations to advocate for the humane resettlement of the people still living within the SML.
Continue reading “Customary Land Rights in Papua New Guinea loses to Mining Rights in National Court Decision”
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 a news article in 2005 then-mine operator Canadaâ€™s Placer Dome admitted to eight killings of community members by PJV security guards. 1 Early in 2006 Barrick Gold took over the mine when it acquired Placer Dome. There have been further allegations of killings and rapes by PJV security forces since 2006. Most of these cases have never been investigated. Continue reading “Background – Issues Related to Barrick Goldâ€™s Porgera Joint Venture Mine in Papua New Guinea May 2011”
Download this letter from the Government Mining Minister demanding apologyÂ from Peter Munk for his statement about gang rape being a “cultural habit”Â in PNG.
The following is the Porgera Alliance’s response the official response of Barrick’s Gary Halverson to the outrage cause by Peter Munk’s insensitive comments.
Gary Halverson, Barrick Asia Pacific President’s response to public outcry over Peter Munk’s statement was shortÂ sighted and bad taste (Post Courier Monday 28 2011). The factsÂ surrounding the rapes cases at the Porgera mine site reflects aÂ pattern of continuous human rights violations at Porgera and it wasÂ not surprise for Mr. Halverson to say Mr. Munkâ€™s comments taken out ofÂ context.
How can a man of Munks standing globally, a chairman of the worldâ€™sÂ largest gold producer says â€œGang Rape A Cultural habitâ€ in PNG andÂ yet, one of his deputies defend him saying he was taken out ofÂ context. We understand that Munk is a no nonsense man and he meantÂ what he said.
Porgera Landowners Association through Porgera Alliance rang the bellÂ on Barrick, exposing such in-humane activities in Porgera and demandingÂ accountability for the crimes.
We stand with the Minister for Mining and the Government of Papua NewÂ Guinea in demanding an apology, but we deserve more than thatÂ from Peter Munk and Barrick. Rapes and other forms of human rights abusesÂ are the culture of Munk and Barrick pattern of operations globally.Â The Government of Papua New Guinea must act now to hold BarrickÂ accountable for the crimes instead of just an apology. Evidence ofÂ transnational crimes has surfaced and the government of PNG mustÂ not shy away with a shallow defensive apology from Halverson to saveÂ Munk’s ass.
Cash for land deals by transnational under pretext of social wages canÂ be accepted but not with the kind of taste that we have experienced soÂ far with Barrick in Porgera.
Ipilis, Engans and PNG in general were a civilized society beforeÂ western civilization. We had rules and laws guiding our way of life,Â far better than Munks way of business and life. Rape or Gang rape isÂ unheard until recent times around our so-called urban centers and weÂ do not promote or tolerate such crimes in our rural society.
Mark Tony Ekepa
Barrick Gold Corporation
Attention: Peter Munk
Subject: Gang Rape A â€œCultural Habitâ€?
We write to seek clarification of the terminology you used in the Globe and Mail saying that Gang Rape is a â€˜Cultural Habitâ€™ in Papua New Guinea, and we urge you to prove with facts and evidence of your statement.
The indigenous population of Papua New Guinea is one of the most heterogeneous in the world having diverse culture. Papua New Guinea has several thousand separate communities, divided by language, customs, and tradition etc. Some 800 languages spoken in PNG reflect the diversity.
Porgera is an ancestral domain where indigenous people interact to sustain life and lived in good peace and harmony by solving problems and conflicts the customary way. Young women were kept pure to deserve a bride price while young man undergoes cultural initiation to mark strength for future challenges. We promote preserving our culture as a source of pride and prestige for our future generation.
Your Barick Gold Corporation extracting gold in Porgera in the Enga Province of Papua New Guinea is bringing wealth and luxury for your betterment alone at the expense of deaths, rapes and beatings of local indigenous people in the pretext of development. Your mining impacts have brought pain, disunity, poverty and cultural conflict induced by your way of operation.
You are aware that our plea for justice and relief was expressed broadly and was even presented annually by us at your AGM in Toronto since 2008, where you were present.
Rape is not tolerable in Porgera/Enga and PNG. It is subject to a high traditional penalty of compensation or the offender may be imprisoned for a maximum term of life through a court of law.
A Gang Rape is a new phenomenon to us since your mine arrived and is only practiced by criminals as in western cultures. The practice of gang rapes in the mine at Porgera is reflecting your criminal paramilitary type goon guard security operation system.
You have just violated the rule of law and our customary practices by introducing gang rape through the Porgera Joint Venture mining in Porgera in Papua New Guinea and you must know that gang rape is against our culture and is a serious offence with the highest penalty in the court of law in Papua New Guinea.
We anticipate receiving a favorable response from you soon.
Mark Tony Ekepa
Chairman â€“ Porgera Alliance & Porgera Landowners Association
Ottawa) A report released today by Human Rights Watch confirms allegations of gang rapes and other human rights abuses by security guards of Barrick Goldâ€™s Porgera Joint Venture (PJV) mine in Papua New Guinea (PNG). This important report represents but the latest attempt to raise public awareness about these long standing abuses at the mine. Until now, Barrick and the personnel of the PJV mine have responded to numerous credible attempts to alert the company to the abuses of its security personnel with denial and, frequently, by attempting to discredit those who raised the issues.
â€œWe already alerted Barrick in 2005 to serial killings being perpetrated by PJVâ€™s security guards before Barrick took over the mine from Placer Domeâ€ says Jethro Tulin of Akali Tange Association, a local human rights group. â€œWe sent Vince Borg and Grey Wilkinson of Barrick Gold a letter and deposited our report called â€˜The Killing Fields of Porgera Joint Ventureâ€™ in the office in Port Moresby so that Barrick would know what was going on.â€ Pressure by members of Akali Tange Association and Canadian media attention, among others, contributed to an investigation by the PNG government of the alleged killings in 2006, but that report has never been released.
Since 2008, Jethro Tulin has been travelling to Canada yearly to speak in front of Barrickâ€™s board of directors and shareholders at the companyâ€™s annual general meeting. At these meetings Mr. Tulin has consistently raised the alleged killings and rapes by the mineâ€™s security guards, only to hear Barrickâ€™s directors assure shareholders that these allegations are false. Mr. Tulin has been accompanied in Canada by Mr. Mark Ekepa, the chairman of the Porgera Landowners Association for landowners living within the mineâ€™s lease area. Mr Ekepa too has repeatedly challenged the local mine management and Barrick Gold to acknowledge abuses perpetrated by the mineâ€™s security forces and take action on behalf of victims. Both men have met with senior Barrick executives in Toronto on two occasions.
In response to a letter in May 2008 from Mr. Ekepa to Barrickâ€™s then-President and CEO Greg Wilkins, the Porgera mine manager responded to Mr. Ekepa saying, â€œwe found your public allegations of our employees â€˜gang rapingâ€™ Porgera Land Ownersâ€™ women to be most distasteful, to say the least, as you know these allegations to be untrue.â€
â€œI have done what I could for many years to raise the abuses by the mineâ€™s security forces with Barrick Gold executives, shareholders, and Canadian civil servants and members of parliament and my own government officials,â€ says Mark Ekepa, â€œAs recently as June 5th 2010 I wrote to the mine manager about the rapes of three young girls by PJV engaged members of mobile squads.â€
While Barrick denounced allegations by local Porgeran leaders, the company also declined to investigate the activities of its security forces, even in the face of a three year investigation into the alleged killings and rapes by senior researchers from human rights institutions at Harvard and New York Universities. These researchers testified about their findings before a Canadian parliamentary committee in 2009 and 2010, and filed a substantial report in 2009.
â€œBarrick has chosen for many years to ignore the urgent warnings the company has received in both written and verbal form about serious human rights problems associated with its security forces at the Porgera mine,â€ says Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada. â€œThis new report by Human Rights Watch appears to have finally moved Barrick to take some actions that may prevent abuses in the future.Â We hope that Barrick is now also prepared to consider reparations for people who have been harmed by its security guards and will be more open to dealing with other environmental and human rights concerns at the Porgera mine.â€
Coumans further notes, â€œThe Canadian government has also ignored information it has received about the human rights and environmental concerns at Barrickâ€™s operations in PNG. Porgerans have met with civil servants of CIDA, Foreign Affairs, and Trade a number of times starting in 2008 and raised these issues directly with them. Nonetheless, in 2010 CIDA provided $158,241 for a Barrick reforestation project in Peru, with more payments to come. With the defeat of Bill C-300 the Canadian government can continue to ignore complaints about human rights abuses and reward tax payer dollars to projects at the mine sites of Canadian companies against whom serious accusations have been made.â€
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For more information contact:
Catherine Coumans, MiningWatch Canada, catherine(at)miningwatch.ca tel: 613-569-3439
Jethro Tulin, Akali Tange Associaiton, Papua New Guinea, jctulin(at)gmail.com tel: 675 72817336
Mark Ekepa, Porgera Landowners Association, Papua New Guinea, emarktony(at)gmail.com tel: 675 71234467
For a copy of the Human Rights Watch report see: http://www.hrw.org/node/95776
For a copy of the Harvard and New York University report see: http://www.business-humanrights.org/Documents/CanadaParliamentarytestimonyreBarrickPJV/
Date of Incident: January 19, 2011
Name of Victim: Elssie Kumbi of Anawe village Porgera, Enga Province Papua New Guinea
Location of incident: Mines Lime plant site, Kumbipara,
Nature of Incident: Brutality and torture in an attempt to rape causing severe internal and external damage to body
Incident: In the evening of January 19, 2011, Helsy Kumbi aged 26 years went into the bush near the mines lime plant area to collect native vegetables that creep by the waters. All of a sudden a Barrick Security Guard on duty at the mines lime plant ran after her as she ran for help into an abandoned home. However there was no one there to help her. She was forced to have sex, and she refused and the offender kidnapped her and burnt her genital areas with hot rods repeatedly.
The offender is arrested and in jail, medical report obtained, police report yet to be obtained.
Information/evidence gathered by David Mandi â€“ Chairman ATA and preliminary report by Jeffery Simon