By Jane Goldsmith
BARRICK Gold has been hit by allegations of “irreparable” social, economic and environmental change as it flags intentions to offload a majority stake in the iconic Porgera mine, north-western Papua New Guinea (PNG).
Porgera landowners representative the Justice Foundation for Porgera (JFP) is seeking billions in compensation from Barrick Gold and its subsidiary Barrick Niugini, alleging that the venture breached agreements relating to environmental standards, the relocation of displaced landowners, and the number of fly in, fly out workers in the area.
In late February, Barrick and Barrick Niugini released a statement of intention to sell its PNG interests, which could offload any pending legal claims from landowners to potential buyers.
Mineral Resources Enga holds a 5 per cent share of Pogera in trust for the landowners with the Enga Provincial Government.
MRE chairman and director Kurubu Ipara said that Barrick intended to sell its interests without proper notice.
“[It will] exit PNG, leaving the landowners with a new owner who will not provide restitution for the damage left behind, or that MRE, the landowners or citizens of PNG will be left with an insurmountable bill to remedy the social and environmental damage,” he said.
The allegations against Barrick date back to 2011, after a Human Rights Watch report found Barrick Niugini mine guards had detained women found trespassing on the mine site and “gave them a choice of submitting to gang-rape or going to prison”, Mr Ipara said.
“Barrick has responded with dismissive hostility to concerns about its human rights record at Porgera,” the report stated.
MRE is a subsidiary of the government-owned Mineral Resources Development Company, which has battled allegations of corruption and mismanagement of its own.
Barrick’s move from PNG is a part of a greater debt reduction plan, which also includes the sale of assets in Australia.