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Papua New Guinea: Homes burnt to the ground to clear way for gold mine

    Thursday, August 21, 2014 - 08:46
    Dwellings near the Porgera mine in Papua New Guinea burn after being set on fire during forced evictions in April 2009. Forced evictions have continued, and more homes were burned down in June 2014. Photo: © Private
    Dwellings near the Porgera mine in Papua New Guinea burn after being set on fire during forced evictions in April 2009. Forced evictions have continued, and more homes were burned down in June 2014. Photo: © Private

     

    "I didn't steal gold and I didn't do anything wrong. Why are they burning my house?"

    By Tara Scurr
    Business & Human Rights Campaigner, Amnesty International

    On June 6, during an early morning raid, state police forces burned more than 200 homes and structures to the ground in the village of Wingima. The homes, located near the Porgera gold mine in central Papua New Guinea, belong mostly to mine workers and artisanal miners and their families. The mine is majority-owned and operated by Canadian mining giant Barrick Gold Corporation.

    "I didn't steal gold and I didn't do anything wrong. Why are they burning my house?"

    On June 10, Amnesty International issued a public statement calling on the authorities to provide assistance to the families left homeless and to ensure their access to effective remedy. Calling the police actions illegal and its response to illegal mining or unlawful activity as excessive and out of step with international standards, Amnesty International's Pacific Researcher Kate Schuetze said, "these illegal and dangerous actions endangered lives and have left scores of families homeless...Destroying people’s homes and livelihoods in this way violates international laws against forced evictions. All those responsible must be prosecuted."

    Amnesty International has called on Barrick Gold and the PNG government to ensure that any relocations of residents are carried out in compliance with international human rights standards.

    Community residents believe the police were acting in an effort to curb unauthorized mining activity in the region. In the spring of 2014, local government officials declared a State of Emergency in the region, in an attempt to address ‘law and order issues’.  Last December, there were reports of violent clashes between locals and private security guards linked to the mine, which reportedly left five people dead.

    The situation is eerily similar to events documented by Amnesty International in its 2010 report, “Undermining Rights: Forced evictions and police brutality around the Porgera Gold Mine, Papua New Guinea”. Between April and July, 2009, police forces burned down 130 structures near the Porgera mine. Amnesty learned that the police Mobile Squad, which carried out the raids and evictions within the Porgera ‘special mining license’ area, received food, accommodation and vehicles from the Porgera Joint Venture (the PJV is 95% owned by Barrick Gold and 5% owned by PNG';s NMineral Resources Enga). 

    It is of critical importance that individuals or communities who have experienced human rights abuses associated with the operations of a company have meaningful access to an effective remedy for the harms they have endured.  Parent companies should be held responsible for human rights abuses arising in their global operations - and people who have been harmed by the activities of Canadian companies overseas should have access to remedy in Canada.
     

    TAKE ACTION

    Amnesty International Canada and the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (a coalition of nearly 30 Canadian civil society organizations) are urging the Canadian government to ensure that Canada is “Open to Justice”. Please sign our online letter .