International human rights and environmental organization EarthRights International (ERI) and Canada’s Barrick Gold Corporation, the world’s largest gold mining company, released the following statement today:
Barrick Gold Corporation and EarthRights International (ERI) have negotiated a settlement of claims by 14 individuals from Papua New Guinea (“PNG”), represented by ERI, in relation to a variety of alleged acts of violence concerning the Porgera Mine in PNG. Eleven of these individuals are women with claims alleging acts of sexual violence, including rape. Pursuant to the terms of the settlement, the women will receive compensation under the Porgera Remedy Framework, and a payment in connection with their participation in the mediation process which led to the resolution of their claims. The remaining claims, which relate to alleged deaths, were lodged through the operational grievance mechanism at Porgera, and have also been resolved. All claimants are pleased with this resolution.
EarthRights International is not able to release any further information regarding the specific claims that are the subject of this settlement. The settlement means that ERI will not file litigation against Barrick on behalf of these 14 individuals.
Investigations by human rights organizations including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and legal clinics at Harvard and New York University law schools have documented years of abuse at Barrick’s Porgera mine, including systematic and brutal rapes by security guards. Due to the mine’s ever-expanding waste dumps, local women and girls have little choice but to enter the mine site to scavenge for gold or cross mine property to reach agricultural land, commercial areas, schools or other villages. Apart from the women in this settlement, at least 120 women have lodged claims of rape at the mine.
EarthRights International began its involvement in the alleged abuses at Porgera in 2011, serving as legal advisor on a complaint with the Canadian government filed by the Porgera Land Owners’ Association, local Porgeran human rights organization Akali Tange Association (ATA), and advocacy organization MiningWatch Canada. ERI has been working directly with the community in Porgera since 2012, exploring the possibility of a lawsuit against Barrick in the United States.
“We have been proud to represent the people of Porgera for the past three years,” said Marco Simons, General Counsel of ERI, which has litigated major human rights suits against companies such as Shell and Unocal. “Porgera presents one of the worst cases we’ve seen of human rights abuse associated with extractive industry.”
“Barrick’s hired security guards were responsible for widespread violence in and around the Porgera Mine, including countless incidents of rape and gang rape,” said Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada. “Barrick tried to push the problem under the rug for many years despite regular reports of human rights abuses committed by its security forces, documented by numerous researchers and human rights organizations.”
The ATA began warning Barrick about alleged abuses by mine security guards as early as 2005. They reported numerous incidents of rape and murder directly to Barrick at the mine site and at the highest levels of the company, but the company failed to respond. “Barrick has been raping our wives and daughters and killing our fathers, brothers, and sons for years.” said Jethro Tulin, Executive Officer of the ATA.
Few of the abuses have ever received a public, independent investigation. In 2006, the PNG government initiated an inquiry into the unusually high number of deaths near the mine, but the report was never released publicly. Local police have accused Barrick of hindering their investigations and obstructing justice.
Barrick finally acknowledged the problem of rape at Porgera and in 2012 created the Porgera Remedy Framework, a non-judicial process organized by the company to hear claims of sexual violence. ERI represented several dozen women in the Remedy Framework process.
In February of this year, the Columbia Law School human rights clinic initiated an interdisciplinary study of human rights and environmental impacts at Porgera. Thousands of people live adjacent to the mine, and report that their traditional livelihoods have been undermined by water contamination, erosion, and air pollution from the mine.
Barrick is now in the process of trying to sell the Porgera mine and exit Papua New Guinea.
Previous ERI Releases on Porgera