The Porgera mine is 95% owned by Barrick Gold of Canada. Barrick Gold acquired the mine in 2006 when it took over the previous owner, Placer Dome. The mine is one of the most controversial in Papua New Guinea.

 

Controversy

Environmental degradation and human health impacts

The Porgera mine empties millions of tons of tailings and mountains of waste rock directly into the nearby 800 km-long river system. The waste enters the Porgera River, which drains into the Lagaip River then into the Strickland River and eventually into the Fly River before reaching the Gulf of Papua. The upper reaches of the river system are fast flowing and steep while about 200 km downstream the river enters an extensive flat floodplain where it meanders. Dumping into this major river system began in 1992 and has continued ever since - source.  

The extreme damage this mine waste disposal method is causing, as well as concerns about likely environmental toxicity from metals in the mine waste, has been well-documented - source 

Barrick Gold dropped by Norwegian Government Pension Fund

In February 2009 Norway’s Government Pension Fund announced it had dropped its shares in Canada’s Barrick Gold as a result of Barrick’s operations at the Porgera Mine. Based on an in-depth assessment of Barrick’s operations in Porgera, the pension fund’s Council of Ethics concluded that investment in Barrick amounted to “an unacceptable risk of the Fund contributing to serious environmental damage.” The Council added “the company’s assertions that its operations do not cause long-term and irreversible environmental damage carry little credibility. This is reinforced by the lack of openness and transparency in the company’s environmental reporting.” - source

 

Violence perpetrated by mine security forces

Allegations of rapes, beatings and killings of community members by mine security forces have been prevalent for at least a decade. In 2005, a grass roots human rights organization established by indigenous community members of Porgera, Akali Tange Association Inc., issued a report called “The Shooting Fields of Porgera Joint Venture.” This report documents incidents of killings (14, of which 11 were by shooting), torture, arbitrary arrest, and beatings by the mine’s security forces. In a news article in 2005 then-mine operator Canada’s Placer Dome admitted to 8 killings of community members by PJV security guards and police. 

Armed robberies in the mine area

In February 2010 a National court judge said that although the Pogera gold mine had put more money into the hands of local people, the increased movement of people and the absence of a bank has increased the incidence of armed robberies to an unacceptable level. He threatened severe penalties for anyone caught - read more

 

 

Relocation

Mining Watch Canada reports that because of all the problems created by the mine many of the 10,000 indigenous residents living within the mine lease area are seeking to be relocated. However, Barrick seems reluctant to undertake a full relocation. While it is known that Barrick hired consultants to review the relocation possibilities little information about the findings of these consultants is being shared by Barrick. Barrick is now seeking to relocate smaller groups of people only as their safety becomes directly affected by the mine’s operations. 

Loss of food security

Mining Watch Canada reports as the open pit has expanded and its massive waste rock dumps have grown, local residents have lost most of their spaces for “gardens,” as they refer to plots to grow subsistence foods. As people have been relocating to steeper territory uphill from the mine they cannot farm the steep slopes. 

Public safety concerns

Mining Watch Canada reports as the mine expands in the centre of a mountainous inhabited area it is continuously encroaching on people’s homes. There is little to keep people out of the mine, or away from the dangers of its mountainous waste dumps, and rivers of mine tailings. There are numerous documented and anecdotal cases of people, including children, falling into the open pit, being buried by rock slides on the waste dumps and drowning during flooding in tailings rivers. Although Barrick has recently installed a fence around the open pit itself the pit, waste dumps and river streams remain accessible.

 

Mercury exposure

Mining Watch Canada states that public health concerns from other contamination sources apart from the tailings are also prevalent in Porgera. Many residents, including children, face exposure to mercury. Mercury is used by residents engaging in small-scale alluvial mining, which includes gold extraction from the waste streams of the mining operations. Many residents turn to this practice of mining as a means of supplementing their incomes. Residents can readily purchase mercury from stores and community members report children as young as six years old handle raw mercury as they help their families with the small-scale mining. Residents report that their need to gain income from alluvial mining has increased as the mine’s encroachment on their land has made it more difficult to grow subsistence foods. There is very little being done by the government or by PJV to raise public awareness of the dangers of exposure to mercury and to keep people way from the mine’s waste streams. 

 

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