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MEDIA RELEASE: Indigenous Leaders from Papua New Guinea, Chile Raise Serious Human Rights and Environmental Concerns Around Barrick Gold Operations

Mining Watch Canada
Contact: For more information and photos contact:
Jethro Tulin - Executive Officer, Akali Tange Association, jctulin@gmail.com

Sergio Campusano - President of the Diaguita Huascoaltino Agricultural Community, huascoaltinos@yahoo.es

Catherine Coumans - MiningWatch Canada, catherine@miningwatch.ca or (613) 569-3439

May 6th, 2009

(Ottawa) Even as houses near Barrick's mine in the highlands of Papua New Guinea are being burned down in a joint military and police action, Jethro Tulin is in Canada to address shareholders and government officials, whom he considers complicit in the suffering of his people as a result of Barrick's Porgera Joint Venture mine.

“For years now the mine's security guards have targeted men and women from the villages near the mine, killing and beating some and raping others” says Tulin, who leads a grassroots human rights group. “Now, even as these villagers are asking for fair compensation to be moved out of the Special Mine Lease area, their houses are being torched and they are being assaulted.”

At the controversial Pascua Lama project on the border of Chile and Argentina, Barrick's failure to consult the indigenous Diaguita Huascoaltinos, who hold title to the land that a large part of the proposed mine would occupy as well as other areas that Barrick is exploring, has caused Sergio Campusano to travel to Canada.

“The Chilean State has failed to ensure the respect of our ancient rights over the lands where Pascua Lama is located in Chile,” says Campusano, President of the Diaguita Huascoaltinos Agricultural Community. “We were not considered in the assessment process of the project and there has been no respect for our right to self determination. Together with other actions, we decided to take the case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and sue the State of Chile for approving the development of Pascua Lama without our consent.”

In addition to allegations of human rights abuses and failure to consult indigenous landowners, both Tulin and Campusano highlight the extreme existing and potential environmental impacts of both the Porgera Joint Venture (PJV) mine and the proposed Pascua Lama mine.

The PJV mine dumps massive volumes of mine waste directly into an 800 km-long river system in Papua New Guinea, contaminating large stretches with heavy metals and silt. As a result of this waste disposal practice the Norwegian Pension Plan recently divested over 200 million Canadian dollars worth of Barrick shares.

Exploration at the proposed site of the Pascua Lama mine in Chile has already degraded the glaciers that cover the gold deposit and raises serious concerns about water availability for the downstream agricultural communities should the mine be allowed to go ahead.

“Both in the case of Papua New Guinea and Chile, these mines are considered desirable investments for cash strapped governments,” says Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada. “This makes it very hard for indigenous peoples from affected communities to have their complaints heard. They are forced to come to Canada in the hope of being heard here.”

Civil society groups who work with communities affected by Canadian mining companies, such as MiningWatch Canada, are hopeful that a private member's bill currently being studied by a Parliamentary committee - Bill C-300 - will soon provide these community members with a meaningful way to launch human rights and environmental complaints in Canada.

 

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