Indigenous leaders from Papua New Guinea and Chile traveled to Canada this week to attend the April 29 shareholders’ meeting of Barrick Gold. Here, they will confront Barrick about human rights abuses and environmental degradation on their lands.
Complaints include killings, rapes and arbitrary detentions of local village people in the Papua New Guinea highlands by Barrick security guards. For Barrick's Pascua Lama project on the border of Chile and Argentina, Barrick failed to consult the Diaguita Huascoaltinos Indigenous community, who hold title to the land of that proposed mine, as well as other areas that Barrick is exploring.
“Barrick Gold says that they want to help the poor, but we don't want their helping hand, we want their hands off our mountains,” says Sergio Campusano, president of the Diaguita Huascoaltinos Indigenous and Agricultural community who are struggling against Barrick Gold’s Pascua Lama mine and other exploration in the area. Barrick recognized Campusano as the legitimate leader of the Huascoaltino community until he asked Barrick to leave the area. Now the corporation is promoting Diaguita from other areas as legitimate leaders who will provide consent to the project.
In 2006, Sergio's community lodged a complaint against the State of Chile for the Pascua Lama project in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
According to Jethro Tulin, Executive Officer of the Akali Tange Association, a human rights organization in Papua New Guinea, “Barrick’s Porgera Mine is a textbook case of what can go wrong when large-scale mining confronts indigenous peoples, ignoring the impacts of its projects and resorting to goon squads when people rebel against it. This outrages the conscience of local Indigenous communities, especially when the mine is right next to our homes; my people are exposed to dangerous chemicals like cyanide and mercury; some of our people drown in the tailings and waste during floods; and fishing stocks, flora and fauna are depleted down the river systems, leading to indigenous food sources being threatened.”
As Mr. Tulin traveled to Canada to attend Barrick's AGM, the Papua New Guinea government sent 200 heavily armed troops to the Porgera area. This effective State of Emergency in Porgera was motivated by situation reports presented by Barrick (PNG) Limited, according to Laigap Porgera Member of Parliament Phillip Kikala. Reports and photos received from Porgera landowners this week testify that these troops have burnt down 80 houses in one village bordering the mine site and are now targeting houses in other nearby villages.
"Barrick Gold and the Government of Papua New Guinea must immediately start to address the catastrophic problem in Porgera pro-actively rather than over reacting with high level security installations and branding it as a law and order problem," Mr. Tulin explains. "Calling a State of Emergency is not the right method to fix these extensive and irreversible damages, the ordinary people are already victims of what as gone wrong."
Last year the Norwegian Pension Fund divested $230 million CAD from Barrick Gold for ethical concerns related to the Porgera Mine.
Photos and interviews with community leaders available upon request, contact: sakura.saunders[at]gmail.com
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