In 2011, the Founder and Chairman of Barrick Gold, Peter Munk, infamously dismissed charges of gang rape by his own security guards at the Porgera Joint Venture mine by claiming that gang rape was a "cultural habit" in Papua New Guinea.
The horrendous statement arrived just a few short months after Human Rights Watch released a report confirming the long-standing allegations of rape.
Just prior to the release of the report, Human Rights Watch showed their findings to the company during a meeting at the company's Toronto headquarters. In doing so, Barrick acknowledged for the first time that the allegations were real. The company promptly opened an internal investigation at the mine in Porgera, which confirmed the reports findings.
Local police also opened an investigation, which led to the arrest of several men who were implicated in sexual assaults against women and other serious crimes; all of whom had since been fired by the company.
Prior to this sweeping action, Barrick Gold routinely denied that any women were being raped by their employees. The company also went to great lengths to discredit anyone who even so much as tried to raise the issue.
For the past two years, the situation in Papua New Guinea has been very quiet. The allegations of rape and other abuses stemming from the Porgera mine no longer make headlines. Barrick Gold, meanwhile, has worked double-time to repair its tarnished image, going so far as to launch a new corporate social responsibility advisory board.
That was then; This is now.
A new Chapter has emerged in this morally-debased saga. According to a joint press statement by MiningWatch Canada, Rights & Accountability and EarthRights International, Barrick Gold is now implementing a treatment program for women who have been raped by the company's employees.
In order to receive a treatment package, the statement reads, "women must enter into an agreement in which 'the claimant agrees that she will not pursue or participate in any legal action against PJV, PRFA [Porgera Remediation Framework Association Inc.] or Barrick in or outside of PNG. 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.'"
In other words, in order to receive treatment for being raped, the rape victims have to sign away their rights.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 30, 2013
Rights & Accountability in Development
Ottawa – Washington, D.C. - Oxford – January 30, 2013. Following years of denial, Barrick Gold is implementing a remedy program for victims of rape by employees of its Porgera Joint Venture (PJV) mine in Papua New Guinea (PNG).
In order to receive a remedy package, women must enter into an agreement in which “the claimant agrees that she will not pursue or participate in any legal action against PJV, PRFA [Porgera Remediation Framework Association Inc.] or Barrick in or outside of PNG. 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.”
Included in the remedy options offered to women are “access to phychosocial/trauma counseling” and “access to health care.” “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,” says Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada, “this requirement is not best practice in cases of non-judicial remedy.”
"We are also concerned that Barrick is not offering remedy to those women who have been raped and gang raped by members of police Mobile Squads who are being housed, fed and supported by PJV on PJV property" says Tricia Feeney, Executive Director of Rights & Accountability in Development.
"Barrick appears to be rushing women through the claims process," says Rick Herz, Litigation Coordinator for EarthRights International, which has brought several transnational lawsuits in U.S. courts against extractive companies for similar abuses. "Women should not be coerced into giving up their legal rights and, at a minimum, Barrick should allow women to keep the remedial offers made to them open long enough for them to seek legal counsel and evaluate their options."
MiningWatch Canada, Rights & Accountability in Development and EarthRights International are currently engaged in mediated discussions with Barrick Gold as a result of a complaint filed with the Canadian National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines. The information and related documents provided in this release were obtained outside of that process.
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For more information contact:
Catherine Coumans, MiningWatch Canada, (+1) 613-569-3439, firstname.lastname@example.org
Patricia Feeney, Rights & Accountability in Development, (+44) (0) 1865-436-245, email@example.com
Rick Herz, Litigation Coordinator for EarthRights International, (+1) 860-233-4938, firstname.lastname@example.org