After years of denying reports that local women were being gang-raped by Barrick Gold employees at their mine in Porgera, Papua New Guinea, the company finally acknowledged the problem existed in the fall of 2011. The controversy ensued when company chairman and founder, Peter Munk, was quoted in the Globe and Mail dismissing the company from the responsibility for the actions of its employees, especially in a country where gang-rape is a “cultural habit”.

Phase Two of this controversy comes with a recent announcement from Barrick Gold of a remedy program for the victims of rape at the Porgera mine. Mining Watch Canada reports that in order to qualify for the remedy program, women must agree to “not pursue or participate in any legal action against PJV, PRFA [Porgera Remediation Framework Association Inc.] or Barrick in or outside of PNG [Papua New Guinea]. PRFA and Barrick will be able to rely on the agreement as a bar to any legal proceedings which may be brought by the claimant in breach of the agreement.”

Catherine Coumans of Mining Watch Canada expresses the outrage that many social organizations share in response to this announcement. “We do not believe women should have to sign away rights to possible future legal action in order to access the types of remedy Barrick is offering these victims of rape and gang rape; this requirement is not best practice in cases of non-judicial remedy.” The remedy program includes proposals to offer psychosocial and trauma counselling and access to health care, but only to those who have been violated by Barrick employees. This remedy offer excludes those who have been attacked by police Mobile Guards that are housed and fed on the mine site property and are present to protect the interests of the mine.

Barrick Gold is the largest gold mining company in the world, with headquarters in Toronto. The extraction industry often refers to Barrick as being an industry leader and a corporate example that smaller companies should imitate, but there is also widespread opposition to Barrick mines around the globe.

Another Barrick project in the recent news is the Pascua Lama project that sits on the mountainous border of Chile and Argentina, adjacent to the largest glaciers on the continent. In the fall of 2012, the government of Chile forced the company to temporarily halt all construction due to health concerns for workers. In Argentina there has been mass mobilisation against the project in its entirety for fear of the potential impacts on the already strained glacial system in the country and for lack of consultation with local communities.

In Canada, employees of Barrick have been criticized for lobbying members of Prime Minister Harper’s staff and other politicians. Uncomfortably close relations are also developing between the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and Barrick Gold as the former has promised large financial support for a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) project near Barrick mine sites in Peru.

Check out past CMA columns in Arthur for more details on each of these stories. Also see protestbarrick.net for the most extensive coverage of Barrick Gold’s actions and impacts of the company worldwide.

Canadians for Mining Awareness meets every second Monday from 5:30 p.m. To 6:30 p.m. Our next meeting will be on February 18. If you want to get involved please email us for information regarding meeting location: [email protected]