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Porgera Burns: 200 houses razed, expat attacked in retaliation over raid on local miners

by Johnny PoiyaPost Courier (PNG) (via PNG Mine Watch)
June 9th, 2014

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.


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