Barrick Gold: Porgera Joint Venture, Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea is a multi-party democracy that offers constitutional protection of human rights. They have ratified multiple international initiatives including the ICCPR, ICESCR, ICERD, CRC, and the CEDAW.[1] Barrick Gold’s Porgera gold mine, located in PNG’s Porgera valley, is a joint venture between Barrick Gold (95%) and the state-owned, Mineral Resources Enga (MRE, 5%). Barrick Gold is accused of violating several OECD Guidelines, sustainable development guidelines, environmental standards, and the human rights of the local community in a number of ways at this site. Barrick initially denied these allegations.

The original approvals given to Barrick for mining in the Porgera valley allowed for the daily production of 8,500 tons of ore and 64,000 tons of waste rock. However, these contracts were revised in the mid-nineties, increasing the ore-processing rate to 17,700 and 210,000 tons per day, respectively. These revisions were made without prior consultation to local communities and have had devastating impacts on the region.[2]

Health and safety standards within the mine area are very low. There are several reports of people drowning in the mine’s tailings dams.[3] People have also reported instances of abuse and violence (including sexual violence) committed by PJV security staff.[4] Due to these factors, as well as to increases in birth defects, food shortages, and deaths since the mine’s inception, local communities have come to generally support the idea of resettlement.

Investigations into the alleged human rights abuses of the local population revealed the existence of human rights abuses such as killings, beatings, and rapes (including gang rapes) committed by Barrick employees and/or hired security staff.[5] The researchers of Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinics and New York University School of Law’s Center for Human Rights and Justice produced a Legal Brief outlining the atrocities occurring within and around the mine against the local population. This document includes medical records, photographs, and interviews summarizing the grave human rights violations occurring at Barrick’s PJV mine. The brief also examines these violations against OECD guidelines and existing international laws, norms, and standards that Papua New Guinea has ratified for such offences. This research originally accompanied a reform bill designed to strengthen regulations on mining companies like Barrick. The bill, however, was narrowly outvoted and failed to pass in the Canadian Parliament.[6]

Members from three organizations, (Porgera Landowners Association, Akali Tange Association, and MiningWatch Canada), ultimately submitted an OECD complaint against Barrick to the Canadian NCP in March 2011 citing these and other severe human rights abuses.

After performing its own investigation, Barrick acknowledged the existence of some of these problems. They released and implemented a remediation framework aimed at women that were sexually assaulted in and around their mine. Upon review of the program specifications, MiningWatch Canada discovered many program details that seemed solely aimed at protecting Barrick’s interests but took little care for the interests of the victims. They released a statement against Barrick outlining the program’s pitfalls in January 2013.[7] Such program shortfalls  included: (1) making victims sign away their rights to legal recourse in order to receive program assistance, (2) Barrick not claiming responsibility for crimes committed by contracted workers (including security guards), (3) vagaries involving victim confidentiality, and (4) not consulting prominent local civil society groups during the program’s development.[8] MiningWatch Canada provided a comprehensive list of their concerns, complete with suggestions and recommendations based on successful remediation programs that are generally considered by all stakeholders to be just and fair.

Barrick currently denies the existence of any program deficiencies. Their statement can be accessed here.

MiningWatch Canada, Rights & Accountability in Development, and EarthRights International were involved in mediated talks with Barrick concerning the remediation program guidelines and the allegations that Barrick currently faces. However, Barrick’s failure to implement the agreed-upon reforms drove MiningWatch Canada to withdraw from talks. MiningWatch Canada criticized Barrick’s grievance mechanisms, particularly those regarding women raped by PJV employees on mine property, and condemned the company’s practice of requiring women to agree not to take legal action against the company in order to receive treatment.[9]

 

Update 1 March 2015:

In March 2015 rumours went that Barrick sought selling the Porgera Mine in PNG and another mine in Australia to raise funds to reduce their debts. Credit Suisse is said to facilitate the sale.[10]

Update 4 April 2015:

In April 2015, 11 women who had refused compensation payments by Barrick and had been advised by EarthRights International to issue a lawsuit against the company for sexual assaults and rapes when they were between 14 and in their 80s , settled their cases in an out-of-court agreement. Under the Porgera Remedy Framework, they will receive compensation payments. The terms of the agreement also mean that these women will not file litigation against Barrick.[11] 

 


[1] Request for Review Submitted to the Canadian National Contact Point Pursuant to the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises Specific Instance Regarding:, The Operations of Barrick Gold Corp. at the Porgera Joint Venture Mine on the Land of the Indigenous Ipili of Porgera, Enga Province, Papua New Guinea (Canadian National Contact Point March 1, 2011). Retrieved February 20, 2013, from http://oecdwatch.org/cases/Case_210.

[2] Simon, J. (2011, October). Landowners in Progera Demand Urgent Resettlement. (P. A. Ekepa, Ed.) Retrieved February 20, 2013, from Pergora Alliance: Porgera Alliance & Porgera Landowners Association Mark Tony Ekepa http://www.porgeraalliance.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Urgent-Resettlement-Porgera-web.pdf.

[3]See Supra Note 2

[4]Amnesty International. (2010, January). Undermining Rights: Forced Evictions and Police Brutality Around the Pergora Gold Mine, Papua New Guinea. Retrieved February 20, 2013, from Amnesty International: http://www.amnesty.org.nz/files/PNGasa340012010.pdf

[5]International Human Rights Clinic Harvard Law School;Center for Human Rights and Global Justice New York University School of Law. (2009, November 16). Legal Brief . Retrieved February 20, 2013, from MiningWatch Canada: http://www.miningwatch.ca/sites/www.miningwatch.ca/files/harvard-testimony-re-porgera.pdf

[6]Hill, L. (2010, October 28). Canadian lawmakers vote down controversial Bill C-300. Retrieved February 20, 2013, from Creamer Media’s Mining Weekly: http://www.miningweekly.com/article/canadian-mps-vote-against-bill-c-300-2010-10-28

[7] MiningWatch Canada. (2013, January 30). Rape Victims Must Sign Away Rights to Get Remedy from Barrick. Retrieved February 20, 2013, from MiningWatch Canada: http://www.miningwatch.ca/news/rape-victims-must-sign-away-rights-get-remedy-barrick

[8] See Supra Note 7

[9] OECD Watch (2013): MiningWatch Canada et al vs. Barrick Gold Corporation: oecdwatch.org/cases/Case_210 (accessed 10.09.2013)

[10] Topf, A. (2015, March 1): Barrick rumored to sell gold mines in Australia, PNG: Mining.com; http://www.mining.com/barrick-rumored-sell-gold-mines-australia-png-13557/?utm_source=digest-en-mining-150301&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=digest

[11] McVeigh, K. (2015): Canada mining firm compensates Papua New Guinea women after alleged rapes; The Guardian, 3 April; http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/03/canada-barrick-gold-mining-compensates-papua-new-guinea-women-rape;

Miningwatch Canada (2015): Barrick Settlement on Rapes and Killings in Papua New Guinea Proof that Victims Need Independent Legal Counsel, 3 April; http://www.miningwatch.ca/news/barrick-settlement-rapes-and-killings-papua-new-guinea-proof-victims-need-independent-legal-cou

Feneley, R. (2015): 200 girls and women raped: now 11 of them win better compensation from the world’s biggest gold miner; Sydney Morning Herald, 4 April; http://www.smh.com.au/world/200-girls-and-women-raped-now-11-of-them-win-better-compensation-from-the-worlds-biggest-gold-miner-20150403-1m7ibq.html

Case location
Porgera, Papua-Neuguinea
Papua New Guinea


Affected topics
  • Human and Labour Rights
  • Environmental and Climate protection
Affected norms and standards Directly and indirectly (through shareholding) involved companies Indirect investors through shareholding

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