Around 150 homes were burned to the ground during police raids on Saturday, March 25, in the Wingima village beside a mine in Papau New Guinea (PNG) owned in part by Barrick Gold, according to the Akali Tange Association, a PNG-based human rights organization.
The executive director of the Akali Tange Association, McDiyan Yapari, wrote in an email release that during Saturday’s raid by PNG Police Mobil Squads, eight young women were allegedly raped, and six young men beaten.
In a statement released two days later, Barrick, downplaying the 150 burned homes count, alleges “that approximately 18 structures were removed.”
The village was also burned down in 2009 (reportedly multiple times) and again in 2014. In one 2009 raid, Barrick claimed the number of homes destroyed was 50, whereas an Amnesty International investigation put the number at 130 or more.
Toronto-based Barrick Gold owned 95% of the mine (Porgera Joint Venture) from 2006 to 2015, and now owns 47.5%. China-based Zijin owns 47.5% after partnering with Barrick.
Yapari claims to have asked local police for the rationale for Saturday’s raid, and quotes an un-named policeman as saying, “The Company gave us orders and that we had no choice but to follow their directives.”
Barrick spokesperson Andy Lloyd denies the company gave the order.
“It is simply incomprehensible that Barrick does not publicly condemn house burnings by police occurring on the mine’s lease area, by all accounts by police funded and directed by Barrick, as these are gross violations of human rights,” says Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada, “Does Barrick think it is appropriate to send police to remove people from where they sleep and burn down their houses and possessions?”
Earlier this month, the Akali Tange Association had written Justin Trudeau asking the Canadian Prime Minister to establish an ombudsman to hold Canadian miners to account. At the time, Yapari commented on Barrick’s behaviour in PNG to Radio New Zealand, saying that "it is going from bad to worse now despite several attempts to hold the company accountable for its previous human rights abuses and harm that it has done to the local community here in Porgera. Barrick is continuously abusing human rights."
Over 137 women have alleged being raped or otherwise sexually assaulted at the Porgera mine by security and police. Nearly all of them have been paid compensation by Barrick through a “remedy framework” set up by the company. Eleven other rape survivors sought independent legal counsel, avoided the remedy framework, and received compensation several times larger than the others.
In addition to trouble with unequal compensation, MiningWatch Canada reported in April 2016 that, “the remedy process is not reaching all victims, is not equitable, and is not meeting victims’ needs”. Families of men killed by mine security are among those left out of the company’s remedy framework.
An investigation of the recent eviction by fire and other physical violence is being conducted by the Independent Observer of Porgera police operations, Ila Geno.
Barrick Gold holds its Annual General Meeting on April 25th in downtown Toronto.