This past weekend, a coalition of indigenous groups and landowners in Papua New Guinea announced that they will shut down Barrick Gold’s Porgera Mine if the company fails to adequately respond to a petition issued by the landowners on Aug. 25, 2009.
The petition, which the landowners describe as a “boil over” from enduring years of deprivation and marginalization, addresses several immediate and long-standing concerns, including their inability to access fresh water from local creeks and streams, and the fact that company never fulfilled their promise to give them “great wealth, employment and luxuries”.
“We now find that we were being tricked to get our resource and land, the social wage promises have never had come”, explain the landowners. Further, “We are subsistence farmers, our life and our generation’s life depend on the land”, but “we cannot continue to live as subsistence farmers” because “Our land is being taken by the mine and destroyed by the waste tailings and dumps.”
“Moreover SML landowner population has increased over the eighteen years of mine operation. We are faced with over crowding and unhealthy livings. We are living as squatters in our own land. We cannot get bush materials to build our house and firewood for making fire. We can not get fresh water from our creeks and streams. We are made to suffer in our own land while Barrick and the National Government is enjoying benefits from our resource and land.”
Right now, the number one priority for the landowners is resettlement. In their petition, which gives Barrick and the PNG government “30 days” to respond, the landowners have requested an “immediate resettlement package” that the company should pay for out of its own pocket.
Overall, they want the following issues addressed:
1. Resettle Special Mining Lease Landowners out of the Special Mining Lease area.
2. Immediately cease construction of the fencing and divert the fund to resettle landowners.
3. Barrick must not construct any new major mine expansion projects.
4. And others:
4.1 Barrick must provide the mine plan to the landowners.
4.2 Barrick must restore Fly in Fly out agreement or compensate for the FIFO agreement.
4.3 Barrick must address the human rights abuse and death compensation issue connected from the mines operation.
4.4 The National Government must immediately released outstanding MOA funds of 800 Million Kina due to PDA.
4.5 The National Government must buy back 2.5% landowners shares in Mineral Resources Enga.
PHOTO: Catherine Coumans, via protestbarrick.net