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Company-Funded Police Burn Homes, and Allegedly Rape and Beat Community Members.

Local human rights advocates have reported a fresh round of violence at one of the world’s most violent and abusive mines, the Porgera gold mine in Papua New Guinea – homes burned and allegations of rape and beatings.

ERI has been working on human rights issues around the Porgera mine for several years now. We worked with women who submitted claims to a remedial process established by Barrick Gold, the mine’s owner, for sexual violence perpetrated by Barrick’s security guards; in 2015, we brought fourteen claims of rape and murder by security guards and police to a settlement; and last year, we co-wrote a submission to the U.N. on abuses by Canadian mining companies abroad, including Barrick. Through this work we became aware of a history of raids on Wangima village, which lies at the edge of the Porgera mine, where residents’ houses have been repeatedly destroyed.

According to multiple local sources, this week Wangima village was burned again by police unit paid and housed by the Porgera Joint Venture (the mine’s operator, which is now jointly owned by Barrick and China’s Zijin Mining). One group, the Akali Tange Association (ATA), is reporting that girls were raped and boys were severely beaten during the raid, and houses were burned. The ATA also reported that three women were recently raped by mobile police around the mine’s waste dump.

These reports are a horrifying reminder that the long history of human rights abuses in and around the Porgera mine may not yet be over. For Wangima village itself, this is the third reported incident of a violent police raid burning down homes in this village, and abusing women and men. The first report is from 2009, and the second 2014. The mine contracts with local police to provide security for the mine, and provides support for the mobile police units.

The ATA has reported the recent abuses to Barrick, asking for an investigation into the allegations. They have also asked Barrick to press the PNG government to conduct an investigation; provide temporary shelters, clothes, cooking utensils and food for those displaced in the raid; and compensation for the victims.  In response, Barrick states that is has commenced an investigation, but also indicated that the eviction was authorized by the Porgera District Court without the knowledge of the mine site personnel.

Even if this raid had nothing to do with the mine, however, the responsibility of the Porgera Joint Venture – and Barrick – is clear. In accordance with the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, Barrick must “urge investigation and that action be taken to prevent any recurrence” of these abuses, should “actively monitor the status of investigations and press for their proper resolution, and ensure that “individuals credibly implicated in human rights abuses” do not “provide security services” for them.

ERI supports the local community in their request for independent investigations. The ATA recently submitted a letter to the Canadian government in support of the creation of an ombudsman office that would investigate allegations of human rights violations associated with the operations of Canadian corporations outside Canada. UN bodies have called on Canada to create an independent body to investigate such allegations, and the government should fulfill its obligations and investigate these allegations.

Our thoughts are with the people in Porgera and we will continue to support their fight for justice.