PNG: Villagers' Houses Burnt Down Again Near Barrick Gold MinePublished by MAC on 2014-06-11
Source: Statement, Post Courier, Radio Australia (2014-06-11)
Previous article on MAC: PNG: State of Emergency at Porgera gold mine
Villagers' Houses Burnt Down Again Near Barrick Gold Mine in Papua New Guinea
Repeat of 2009's Gross Human Rights Violations Follow Failed Resettlement Negotiations
MiningWatch Canada statement
11 June 2014
While local Porgera leaders were tied up in fruitless negotiations with the company, Barrick actually got a restraining order to keep them from coming to the aid of their own people.
Ottawa - In a pre-dawn raid on Friday, June 6, Papua New Guinea (PNG) police Mobile Units evicted residents from Wingima village near Barrick's Porgera gold mine and burnt down some 200 houses, according to reports from eye witnesses in Porgera as well as from local Member of Parliament Nixon Mangape. Victims said they had no warning and were not given eviction notices in advance of the attack.
In a repeat of house burnings in 2009, MiningWatch has been informed that this raid was also accompanied by Mobile Unit police violence against villagers and the rapes of at least ten women and young girls.
The Tiene clan of Wingima, which was also targeted in 2009, are the traditional local landowners. People who have now lost shelter and the contents of their houses are Tiene landowners or relatives who can only live in the village at the invitation of the Tiene.
Barrick's Porgera Joint Venture (PJV) mine houses, feeds, and financially supports units of PNG's infamous Mobile Units, in spite of their reputation for violence and their previous involvement in hundreds of house burnings in the mine's lease area, as documented by Amnesty International.
Following the 2009 house burnings, the Porgera Landowners Association (PLOA) reportedly obtained an order from the National Court of Papua New Guinea restraining the State from burning down more houses. However, reportedly, following a request by Barrick (Nuigini) Limited, the National Court removed the restraining order, arguing that the police has ultimate power to execute such operations under the terms of a State of Emergency (SOE).
In April, a State of Emergency was called by the Government of PNG, leading to the deployment of additional Mobile Units to the Porgera Valley, to supplement those already supported there by the PJV mine. One reported goal of the SOE was to crack down on unauthorized scavenging of ore by residents living around the mine. Barrick Gold has not managed to stop dangerous incursions into the pit and across its massive waste flows of desperate people eking out a living. The mine and its uncontrolled waste flows have destroyed agricultural land and traditional subsistence activities.
The raid took place while the leadership of the PLOA were away from the Porgera Valley. They had reportedly travelled to Kokopo, East New Britain, for a meeting with PJV's Community Affairs Manager and representatives of the National Government, and the Provincial Government of Enga Province, where the mine is located. The meeting was an attempt to come to agreement on terms for a new Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for the operation of the mine. The meeting reportedly broke down on Tuesday June 3. On the 5th of June, Barrick (Nuigini) Limited won a court order restraining the PLOA and its President, Mark Tony Ekepa, from interfering in the operations of the mine (attached). The raid started the morning of June 6th.
One of the issues to be discussed in the context of a new MOA was the long-standing question of re-settlement. Porgera landowners affected by the mine's operations have long sought to be resettled away from the mine, as life has become untenable for the local indigenous communities who find themselves surrounded by the pit and its massive waste flows. This request for resettlement was most recently made by PLOA through a complaint to Canada's National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines. Barrick has consistently turned down requests for resettlement of all landowners living in the mine lease area in favour of moving small groups when the mine's needs encroach directly on their land or when the waste flows and mine operations have made the ground they live on "geotechnically unstable."
"It is simply unconscionable that Barrick is turning its back on the obvious need to resettle these communities away from the mine, but continues to house and financially support PNG Mobile Units that have a history of human rights abuses, including house burnings, in those communities," says Catherine Coumans, Asia-Pacific Program coordinator at MiningWatch Canada. "It is unacceptable that violence is being used to manage the very serious problems associated with this mine and its negative impacts on the ability of local people to live healthy lives and to sustain themselves."
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For more information contact - Catherine Coumans, 613-569-3439, Catherine[at]miningwatch.ca
See the 2011 OECD Complaint filed by MiningWatch Canada and Porgeran organizations regarding the house burnings, violence against local men and women by security guards and police, environmental concerns and the need for resettlement away from the mine, at: http://www.miningwatch.ca/sites/www.miningwatch.ca/files/oecd_request_for_review_on_barrick_in_porgera.pdf
See the report by Amnesty International regarding the 2009 house burnings of: Amnesty International. 2010. Undermining Rights: Forced Evictions and Police Brutality Around the Porgera Gold Mine, Papua New Guinea, at: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA34/001/2010/en
See the 2011 report by Porgera Alliance demanding resettlement at: http://www.porgeraalliance.net/2011/10/indigenous-landowners-release-report-demanding-urgent-resettlement/
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Papua New Guinea: Police set hundreds of homes ablaze near Porgera gold mine
Amnesty International press release
10 June 2014
Police officers in Papua New Guinea (PNG) involved in burning more than 200 homes to the ground close to a gold mine must be investigated and those found responsible for human rights violations prosecuted, said Amnesty International.
The homes were set ablaze during an early morning raid on Friday 6 June in Wingima village, close to Porgera gold mine in central PNG, according to community leaders.
The mine is majority-owned and operated by Canadian mining giant Barrick Gold Corporation.
"These illegal and dangerous actions endangered lives and have left scores of families homeless," said Kate Schuetze, Pacific Researcher at Amnesty International.
"Destroying people's homes and livelihoods in this way violates international laws against forced evictions. All those responsible must be prosecuted. Any response to illegal mining or other unlawful activities must be proportionate and meet international standards. Setting ablaze a village is a blatantly excessive response."
Amnesty International further calls on the Papua New Guinea authorities to provide emergency assistance to those whose homes were destroyed and to guarantee them access to effective remedies.
Community leaders have alleged the police were acting in an effort to end unauthorized mining activities.
In 2010 Amnesty International published a report, Undermining Rights, which exposed forced evictions and police brutality linked to mining activities in the region.
Last month, local government officials declared a State of Emergency in the region, in an attempt to address ‘law and order issues'. Last December, there were reports of violent clashes between locals and private security guards linked to the mine, which reportedly left five people dead.
Allegations of rape and sexual assaults by the mine's private security guards against locals were documented by Human Rights Watch in 2010.
200 houses razed, expat attacked in retaliation over raid on illegal [unauthorised] miners
MORE than 200 houses were burnt to the ground in Porgera by security personnel in the call-out operation during an early morning raid on Friday.
There have been claims that the houses, belonging to landowners of the special mining lease area, have accommodated illegal [unauthorised] miners.
Angry locals from Wingima village, where the raid was conducted, in retaliation attacked and injured an Australian man trying to take pictures of the burning houses.
Though police sources said only 20 houses built from bush materials were burnt after they were reported to be harbouring illegal [unauthorised] miners who entered the open pit and underground mines, local MP Nixon Mangape and several local leaders said more than 200 houses, some of them permanent, were razed to the ground.
They called on Barrick and the Government to compensate the landowners immediately for this operation and the previous operations or they would take legal action.
The leaders said Wingima was a permanent settlement for the Tiene tribe, who are the landowners of the mine and not illegal [unauthorised] miners.
Many families were displaced and lost all their properties, including eating utensils, mattresses, money, and domestic animals worth thousands of kina as their houses were burnt as early as 5am when they were sleeping.
Mr Mangape said the police did what the developer Barrick wanted them to do but it was not right as it left thousands of families, including mothers and children, homeless.
He said Barrick must relocate the special mining lease landowners immediately as burning down villages like Wingima was a short term fix that does not address the increase in illegal [unauthorised] mining.
"This is the second time this village (Wingima) was burnt down. The first one was done during the first state of emergency call out operation some six years ago which never solved the problem," Mr Mangape said.
"Why is Barrick not looking at long term solutions like relocating the people out of the special mining lease area? Burning houses in a particular village in the special mining lease area will not solve the illegal mining problem. It's adding more fuel to a burning fire."
‘Operation Mekim Save', which began last Wednesday, is the second phase of the call-out after a month of awareness during the first phase.
Throughout the raid, security personnel confiscated a large number of hammers and dishes used by the illegal [unauthorised] miners as well as rock dusts collected to be cleaned by mercury to remove gold.
Two people were arrested while most of the illegal [unauthorised] miners fled into the mountain ravines, leaving genuine landowners behind.
The security forces pounded on Wingima village from three different directions.
Mining watchdog claims landowners ignored in Porgera
13 June 2014
A mine watchdog, Mining Watch Canada, says the operators of the Porgera gold mine in Papua New Guinea have ignored the advice of their own consultants on resettling villagers near the mine for the last seven years.
It accuses Barrick, which has its headquarters in Canada, of taking out a restraining order against landowners, shortly before PNG's notorious police mobile squads allegedley burnt down 200 homes near the mine last week.
Barrick Gold has confirmed it has an injunction against the Porgera Landowners Association but says it's unrelated to the recent raid. It says the injunction is in response to threats to close down the mine made during the review of the Memorandum of Agreement. Barrick says that agreement is only between the state of PNG and Porgera landowners.
Presenter: Richard Ewart
Catherine Coumans, Mining Watch Canada