MAC: Mines and Communities

Barrick Confronted by Indigenous Women from Papua New Guinea at Toronto AGM

Published by MAC on 2017-05-02
Source: National Observer, MiningWatch Canada, VICE News (2017-05-02)

Mining violence survivors demand justice in Toronto

For the first time Toronto, Barrick’s directors and shareholders heard directly from two women who have suffered sexual violence at the hands of mine security at the company’s massive Porgera Joint Venture mine in Papua New Guinea.

Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada accompanied Gaupe and Mandi at the shareholder's meeting and read their statements for them as they watched quietly, unable to speak. She equated the rejection of their proxy request — which she says was completed on time — to taking "away their voice."

See previous on MAC:

2016-07-10 PNG: Women accuse Barrick Gold of ignoring rape complaints

2013-03-25 Papua New Guinea: Abuse of rape victims at Barrick's Porgera mine

 

Sex assault survivors silenced at Barrick shareholders meeting

They say Toronto-based gold miner has yet to provide the compensation promised many of the more than 200 women and girl victims of sexual violence at Papua New Guinea mine.

https://nowtoronto.com/news/sex-assault-victims-silenced-at-barrick-gold-shareholders-me/

2 MAY 2017

As allegations of sexual violence continue to shadow Toronto-based Barrick Gold's mining operations in Papua New Guinea, two women among those victimized by the violence were in Toronto to address shareholders at the company’s annual general meeting last week.

But Everlyn Guape and Joycelyn Mandi were never given the opportunity to speak. Barrick senior vice-president of communications, Andy Lloyd, is chalking that up to a “misunderstanding.” Namely, a problem with papers filed by activists to allow the women to speak as proxies at the AGM. The Mining Injustice Solidarity Network says the necessary paperwork was filed on time.

After some confusion in which security attempted to move the women to the back of the meeting room, a representative from MiningWatch Canada ended up reading Guape's and Mandi's statements to Barrick shareholders.

Guape is among 119 women and girls who accepted compensation from Barrick (some $10,000 each) as part of a 2012 redress package. That, following allegations of widespread rape by security and police at Barrick’s Porgera mine. Eleven other women who refused the compensation package and threatened to sue the company received out-of-court settlements. Mandi is part of a second group of 80 women victims who have not received any compensation from Barrick.

Women who accepted the original compensation package say they have yet to receive some of what was promised, including school fees for their children and, in some cases, have yet to be contacted by the company. They’ve organized to demand fairer treatment and for Barrick to release them from a waiver they signed as a condition of their compensation.

Everlyn Guape

I live in the shadow of Barrick’s Porgera mine in Papua New Guinea.

This mine dumps all of its tailings and waste rock directly into the river valleys around the pit. Our villages are surrounded by mine waste. We have to cross this waste to get from one village to another, or to go to our vegetable gardens or schools.

How would you feel if your children had to walk through the stinking chemical waste of a mine?

The mine and the waste have destroyed our traditional livelihood. When we enter the waste to pan for gold for our new livelihood, the mine’s security guards and police attack us.

I was raped. Can you imagine a young girl being brutally beaten and gang-raped on the edge of a river of bright red chemical waste?

After years of denial, Barrick finally decided to give me and the other rape victims some remedy.

But we were not asked what we needed to repair the many terrible impacts of the rapes in our lives. Barrick’s consultants just told us “take it or leave it.” They told us we were powerless against the company. We had to sign legal waivers to get any remedy at all, so we cannot take legal action now.

We want an open dialogue about what we need to remedy the harm we have suffered, and we want to be able to include human rights experts we trust to support us in this dialogue.

Joycelyn Mandi

I was raped by mine security when I was a teenager. This happened in 2008, the same year that our fellow Porgerans came to this AGM in Toronto for the first time to tell about the killings and the beatings and the rapes that we were suffering [at the hands of] mine security and police guarding the mine.

I have never received any remedy for the harm that this rape has caused in my life. I am not alone; there are many other victims who have never received remedy. And the sexual violence is ongoing.

Barrick knows this because MiningWatch Canada and human rights clinics at Columbia and Harvard Universities have told about the many women who have never received remedy.

My case was brought to your grievance office in 2015 together with the cases of 80 other women.

We have case number 3936, but until today we have had nothing but excuses from Barrick about why our cases have not been addressed, and no one has spoken to us about our cases.


Mining violence survivors demand justice in Toronto

Elizabeth McSheffrey

http://www.nationalobserver.com/2017/04/25/news/mining-violence-survivors-demand-justice-toronto

April 25 2017

Everlyn Gaupe says she could have outrun their attackers but her little sister could not. She stayed behind. Both girls were beaten and gang raped.

Their assailants were security guards hired to patrol a gold mine in her community of Porgera in Papua New Guinea. Gaupe was 18 years old.

But time has not healed, and though the vicious attack was nearly 20 years ago, the experience brings her to tears today. Gaupe flew from Papua New Guinea to share the difficult memory with Barrick Gold — the Canadian mining giant that owns nearly 50 per cent of the Porgera gold mine.

She and another survivor of the violence at the mine, Joycelyn Mandi, attended the company's annual general meeting with shareholders on Wednesday to demand justice for more than 100 other women who have experienced similar trauma at the hands of Porgera's security guards. But they were denied the opportunity to speak by a member of Barrick Gold's staff, as a protest against its operations was underway on the streets of downtown Toronto.

In an interview with National Observer, Barrick Gold's senior vice-president of communications, Andy Lloyd, said it appears there was a problem with their arrangement to speak at the meeting through a proxy shareholder — a practice regularly used by activists to participate in such meetings, and permitted by the company.

Barrick Gold regrets the "misunderstanding," he said, and despite the protocol mishap, Lloyd said the women should still have been able to ask questions at the meeting. Barrick has offered to meet with Gaupe and Mandi privately to hear their concerns while they're still in Canada.

Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada accompanied Gaupe and Mandi at the shareholder's meeting and read their statements for them as they watched quietly, unable to speak. She equated the rejection of their proxy request — which she says was completed on time — to taking "away their voice."

"We've been doing this year after year, using this forum to allow people to have a voice in Canada and talk to the shareholders and directors directly," she told National Observer. "This year, they rejected almost all the proxies, and there was no reason given. The first thing that came to my mind is, 'silence is violence'... This is how you silence people."

A history of violence at Porgera mine

Gaupe and Mandi, who left Papua New Guinea for the first time in their lives just to make this presentation, were devastated.

"It's not only us," said Mandi, standing at the heart of a small protest outside the meeting. "We are representing the majority back home. It's not about us."

The Porgera gold mine in western Papua New Guinea has been the notorious site of gang rape, beatings, and other atrocities since it started operating in 1990. Detailed reports by Human Rights Watch and other industry watchdog groups describe disturbing cases of extreme violence at the hands of mine security personnel, some of whom threatened victims with arrest if they tried to complain to other authorities.

Most of the victims are villagers who scavenge for low-grade ore discarded in the company's waste rock piles, said Coumans of MiningWatch Canada, or women and girls who are crossing mine property to get to school, their jobs, or the market.

"This mine dumps all of its tailings and waste rock directly into the river valleys all around the pit," she told Barrick's shareholders, reading the presentation Gaupe intended to make. "Our villages are surrounded by mine waste. We have to cross this waste just to get from one village to another, or to go to our vegetable gardens or schools."

The mine is a joint venture of Barrick Gold, a Chinese producer called Zijin Mining Group, and Mineral Resources Enga, which divides its five-per-cent interest between the local provincial government and landowners. Barrick, the largest gold producer in the world, acquired its interest in the mine in 2006, which means much of the documented violence occurred before it became involved in the project.

Reports from the ground however, indicate that the company's efforts to contain violence at the hands of mine security guards since 2006 have failed: Beatings, rapes and attacks are still common, reports MiningWatch Canada. In March, a local human rights organization — the Akali Tange Association — also said a police raid on a village within the mine's lease destroyed 150 houses, and that villagers were beaten and gang raped.

In a letter to the Akali Tange Association, Barrick Gold acknowledged encouraged that the raid took place, but said no mine personnel were involved, nor were they aware the raid would take place. The company disputed the organization's numbers, encouraged it to present evidence to support a full investigation into the incident, and said the mine's operators would consider all requests for humanitarian assistance arising from the police operation.

"It’s an extremely complex environment, one of the most challenging environments to operate a mine in the world," said Lloyd of ongoing violence at the mine. “The mine and its owners will not be able to solve these challenges on its own. We need the government to be at the table, we need community leaders to be at the table."

Gender-based violence is an issue across Papua New Guinea, he added, not just at the mine site. To help with the problem, the company has brought in a global human rights training program for all of its employees that includes a focus on gender-based violence.

"Nobody, as far as I’m aware is calling for the mine to be closed, so the challenge is, how do we actually address some of these persistent issues that have been there for 20 years? They're not new and they're not easy to solve."

Dispute over compensation for survivors

According to Gaupe and Mandi, there's a simple solution to Barrick's conundrum.

"Maybe they should return to Canada and stay in Canada," said Mandi in an interview. "I think it is best to stop this big Canadian gold miner, Barrick, from mining in our home country."

Mandi, who was a school girl when she was raped by a group of Porgera mine security guards, is one of an untold number of women who have never received compensation from Barrick for their suffering. Ashamed of what had happened to her, she fled her village after the attack, she told National Observer.

She never heard that in 2012, the company launched a formal remediation program for female victims of sexual violence in the Porgera Valley. The first of its kind, it offered the women PGK50,000 (roughly $21,000) in compensation, and a promise that school fees and medical support would be provided for their children over the next three years.

But much of the latter has not been delivered, says Gaupe — one of 119 who did hear about the package and accepted it. When her husband found out that she had been raped, he abandoned her, leaving her alone to raise their children. She is now struggling to keep them healthy and in school, she says, as a single mother of four.

The remediation program has been widely criticized by industry watchdogs, who say many of the women didn't understand the documents they were signing, and were led to believe that if they didn't sign, they would get nothing. In accepting the package, the women also signed a controversial legal waiver that forfeited their rights to sue the company or seek further compensation for the same grievance.

In 2015, 11 survivors of sexual assault at the mine settled out of court with Barrick, for what was reportedly a much larger sum than was provided through the remediation package. In November last year, Gaupe — along with the other women who took that package — signed a letter seeking intervention from the officials at the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva in their quest to receive compensation to match the sum received by the women who settled out of court.

Those sums have been kept confidential and National Observer could not confirm the numbers.

No plans to re-open remediation program

On Wednesday, at the shareholder's meeting, Coumans of MiningWatch Canada demanded on their behalf that Barrick release them from the legal waiver preventing them from suing or seeking extra cash.

"Then at least the women can consider whether they have legal options," she said. "I don’t think it’s good enough for Barrick to say, ‘This is a difficult environment.' They are mining there, so they have a responsibility."

Lloyd said the company has given the women who accepted its remediation package a cash "top up" since 2012, but has no plans to reopen the program. He acknowledged that Barrick's own consultants identified problems with the program and how it was carried out, and that the violence experienced by the women is "completely unacceptable."

Broadly speaking however, he said the Porgera mine is a "very positive contributor to the community." It employs more than 2,000 people, and since Barrick Gold acquired its interest in 2006, the company has made substantial contributions to the Porgera District Women's Association and the family and sexual violence unit of the local police, and has provided funds for new women's welfare liaison officers, which provide an alternative avenue for women to report cases of abuse.

The efforts are of little comfort to Gaupe and Mandi. Mandi, who filed her complaint about her assault to the grievance office in Porgera and received a case number, hasn't heard from a mining official in a year.

“I should tell Canadians that Barrick is a bad company and it should stop mining," she said.

“No matter how long it takes, I will still keep on fighting until justice has been made," added Gaupe.

Incidents plague Barrick mines around the world

Barrick Gold reported weaker-than-expected quarterly earnings on Monday, the day before the shareholder's meeting. It also slashed its forecast for output and raised costs at its gold mine in Argentina, where a local judge is contemplating an order to shut it down.

The company had its third cyanide solution spill in 18 months at the Veladero mine in San Juan last month.

Responding to that incident, Lloyd said the company is confident it can operate the mine safely in the future and that the incident is "very disappointing." The company has committed to "completely overhauling" its operations there, he added, to ensure "world class" oversight.

The Toronto-based company has previously been hit with a record US$16.4-million penalty in Chile, where it was found guilty of 23 violations of its environmental impact agreement at the Pascua Lama gold project on the Chile-Argentine border. The convictions included building earthworks without approval, failing to prevent runoff from mineral acid, and failing to tell the whole truth when it came to such operational failures.

The North Mara mine in Tanzania, 64 per cent owned by Barrick, has also suffered from steady violence by security guards, similar to the Porgera mine. Last year, a Tanzanian government inquiry found that at least 65 people have been killed and 270 have been injured at that operation since 2006.

— with files from Riley Sparks


Barrick Confronted by Indigenous Women from Papua New Guinea at AGM

MiningWatch Canada

25 April 2017

(Toronto) Today, for the first time, Barrick’s directors and shareholders heard directly from two women who have suffered sexual violence at the hands of mine security at the company’s massive Porgera Joint Venture mine in Papua New Guinea.

The two indigenous Ipili women were chosen by fellow villagers living adjacent to the open pit gold mine and its vast waste flows to make the long trip to Canada. They spoke out about ongoing violence suffered by community members as a result of excess use of force by mine security and about the lack of access to equitable remedy for those who have been harmed.

Barrick’s directors and shareholders were alerted to criminal behaviour by mine security at shareholders’ meetings in 2008, 2009 and 2010, by local Ipili men who repeatedly made the trip to Canada. After years of denial the company finally accepted the need to provide limited remedy, but as Ms. Everlyn Gaupe and Ms. Joycelyn Mandi testified, the company’s response, between 2012-2014, has failed to address the ongoing violence against local villagers, and the remedy offered to only some women was not equitable.

“Barrick did not consult us 119 women on the remedy we needed for all the consequences we faced from the rapes” says Ms. Gaupe, “it was take it or leave it and Barrick’s consultants told us we were powerless against the company. Barrick needs to remove the legal waivers we had to sign and come back to have an open dialogue with us about what is fair remedy, or let us take our cases to court.”

As MiningWatch Canada, human rights clinics at Harvard and Columbia University and Barrick’s own consultants have found, Barrick closed down the remedy program after only 119 women were provided limited remedy, but many more women, including Ms. Joycelyn Mandi, failed to have their cases heard.

“I came to Canada to represent the many women who have been raped and gang raped by mine security and by police working for Barrick who have never received any remedy” says Ms. Mandi, “there are many of us who never knew about the remedy program because we left our villages out of shame after we were raped. Others did not trust the program, or want to go there because then everyone would know they had been raped.”

Ms. Mandi’s case, and that of many other women, has been provided to the mine’s grievance office but there has been no response for over a year.

“We are back to the days of denial” says Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada, “back to the need for people from Porgera to travel half way across the world to speak to Barrick’s directors and shareholders to signal that there is still a very serious problem. Barrick seems to have learned nothing from this shameful history. It is time for Barrick to stop using violent security and to provide equitable remedy to those who have been harmed.”

For more information and to reach Ms. Gaupe and Ms. Mandi contact: Catherine Coumans, MiningWatch Canada; catherine@miningwatch.ca;  613-569-3439

See also:


‘They like raping us, the security guards’

Women from Papua New Guinea bring rape complaints to Canadian mining company’s door.

Hilary Beaumont

https://news.vice.com/story/women-from-papua-new-guinea-bring-rape-complaints-to-canadian-mining-companys-door

Apr 26, 2017

Two women from Papua New Guinea flew half-way around the world this week to tell their stories of sexual assault at a Canadian mining giant’s shareholders’ meeting — but when they arrived at the meeting, they say they were told they couldn’t speak.

Everlyn Gaupe and Joycelyn Mandi allege they were raped years ago by security guards employed by the Porgera Joint Venture mine, which is co-owned by Barrick Gold and Chinese company Zijin Mining Group. The company has compensated about 130 women, including Gaupe, although she says her payment was not enough. Mandi also sought compensation, but didn’t receive any. The women claim that rapes, beatings, and environmental contamination are still happening at the mine’s dumping site today.

Mining Watch Canada paid their airfare and arranged for Barrick shareholders to appoint the women as their proxies so they could ask questions at the end to the meeting. But as they entered the AGM, the women said they were told their proxy shares weren’t valid. Instead, a Mining Watch Canada activist read prepared statements for them.

“They said no, they told us we were not going to speak, we don’t know why,” Mandi told VICE News inside the meeting. “We followed every rule to come in to speak. We don’t know. Something’s going wrong.”

Jacob Sternberg confirmed to VICE News that he appointed Mandi as his proxy holder so she could speak in his place at the meeting. Rachel Small confirmed that she appointed Gaupe as her proxy. That the women were given the impression they couldn’t speak was “disrespectful, to put it mildly,” she said. The company said while the women were told their proxies were invalid, no one told them they couldn’t speak. Barrick knew a week in advance that the women were coming.

Although they didn’t get to read their statements, the women said they felt proud and happy that their voices were heard inside the meeting. “I am feeling lighter now,” Gaupe said after the meeting. “Barrick and the world have heard us and we are satisfied.”

The women’s visit to Canada comes amid new reports of violence near the mine, and renews questions about the accountability of Canadian mining companies operating overseas — something the Liberal government is facing pressure to address.

Trade minister François-Philippe Champagne is “a little pre-occupied with Trump these days” so the mining file isn’t getting much attention, Liberal MP John McKay told VICE News. However the government is actively considering creating a mining ombudsman’s office that would investigate serious complaints overseas, he said. “I have a sense that they do want to get this done. I have a sense they don’t want to be answering these questions come next election.” 

Champagne’s office said the minister, who was appointed to his position in January, is engaged in the file. He met with Canada’s existing Corporate Social Responsibility Counselor to evaluate how to strengthen the counselor’s role, and has also met directly with the mining sector at the annual Prospector’s and Developers Association of Canada conference in Toronto in March, according to his press secretary.

On March 25, local police funded by the mine entered a settlement in Porgera, Papua New Guinea and burned down a number of houses. During the raid, police allegedly gang raped women and assaulted men, according to a local human rights group the Akali Tange Association. The company disputes that any sexual assault or beatings happened during the raid.

Days before the shareholders meeting, the ATA’s executive officer McDiyan Robert Yapari said he was arrested and charged with reporting false news about the March 25 raid. He said his phone was confiscated and he was accused of tarnishing the reputation of the police.

The company confirmed the raid took place, but said only 18 structures were burned down — not 150 houses as McDiyan had reported — and the whole operation was conducted legally with warrants. However the company did not provide those warrants when VICE News asked to see them.

In interviews with VICE News, Gaupe and Mandi explained that the mine has drawn a large population into the valley around it in search of wealth, and so the valley is crowded with people living in slum-like conditions, making it difficult if not impossible for them to farm and produce food as they used to. Instead, they say the only way to survive is to go to the mine dump site every day to pan for gold, which they can exchange for money to buy rice.

But Barrick security considers this illegal mining and trespassing, so they chase the miners off the site, threatening them with guard dogs and shooting them with rubber bullets, according to the women.

“When they run and catch us, they do whatever they want,” Gaupe told VICE News. “They beat us brutally. …They arrest us too, and for the women we are likely to be raped.”

“It’s happening now, while I’m talking. They like raping us, the security guards,” she continued. “Two weeks ago, we heard three women were seized up by security personnels and they were raped.”

Company spokesperson Andy Lloyd told VICE News the company was aware of another rape report in the last two weeks, but that no claims had been submitted to the company.

“We absolutely condemn sexual assault, it’s a horrific crime and we don’t support it,” Lloyd said following the meeting. “It’s unacceptable and it’s not something we want to see happening on any mine or around any mine that we operate.”

“There is no question that sexual assault is a huge problem in this part of the world,” he added. “We’ve seen surveys where 80 percent of the women in the community have said they have been sexually assaulted by a family member, by members of the community, so it’s a pervasive problem, it’s not a mine problem.”

Mandi said she had submitted a claim to the company’s grievance process in 2014, but had not heard anything from the company since then.

Lloyd explained that the grievance mechanism takes a long time, and is not set up to address serious human rights violations like sexual assault. If someone does submit a sexual assault claim through the grievance process, it gets put aside into a legal claims process, he said. If it’s found to be valid, the mine “would discuss a remedy.” He was unable to say whether any sexual assault allegations had been resolved through this process.

He said there were a large number of claims submitted together in one batch, and there were “issues with documentation” of some of those claims. “I have no idea if her claim was one of those, but that may be a reason for why it has taken some time to actually pursue.” In 2015 alone, the company says it received 805 complaints through its grievance mechanism, although the company would not say how many of those were complaints of sexual assault versus resettlement requests, employment grievances and other claims.

In some cases, local human rights groups will bring grievances forward on behalf of people who say they were wronged by the mine, and Lloyd said the company must do its due diligence to ensure those groups are authorized to represent the complainant.

“The commitment from [President Kelvin Dushinsky] today was to follow up with her and to understand what her claim was, and whether there is anything we can do to help move it along, I think that’s something we’re happy to do,” he said of Mandi’s claim.

The company has no plans at the moment to re-open its remedy framework that previously compensated women for alleged sexual assaults.

Other than the grievance process, women can report sexual assault allegations to a human rights observer in the valley, or to the police, Lloyd explained, although police themselves have been accused of raping women.

Lloyd said the company “has tried to be a positive force” in the dialogue around sexual assault, training police and employees on human rights, funding a police sexual violence response unit and has brought the anti-gender violence NGO White Ribbon to several of its mine sites to raise awareness about the issue.

Gaupe said the company had promised to pay school fees for her children and medical fees, and set up business for women living in the valley. “Empty promises, it didn’t happen,” she said. 

Cover: Joycelyn Mandi and Everlyn Gaupe in Toronto/VICE News

 

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