Barrick Gold (NYSE:ABX, TSX:ABX) has settled claims with 11 women from Papua New Guinea who had alleged acts of sexual violence against them, including rape, at the Porgera mine in PNG over the last two decades.
The settlement was reached through EarthRights International, an NGO that was representing the women, and “brings to a close all of the outstanding claims made by women, who were allegedly beaten, raped, and threatened by the miner’s security personnel and employees. Some incidents dated back to even before Barrick bought the mine via its takeover of Placer Dome in 2006,” Reuters reported on Friday.
Ninety percent of the claims, or 120 cases, had already been settled through the settlement framework, with EarthRights representing the remaining cases of sexual assault alleged against mine employees, according to Reuters. Violence has also stalked the mine in other ways; in 2013 two illegal miners were killed in a confrontation with police.
Adding to the controversy surrounding the mine, last month a group of landowners announced they have submitted a position statement to Barrick, and its subsidiary Barrick Niugini, outlining “irreparable losses” as a result of social, economic and environmental damages caused by the Porgera gold mine.
The alliance, called Justice Foundation for Porgera (JFP), claims property-owners’ subsistence and livelihoods were “catastrophically changed” as a result of the near doubling of the open-pit mining rate.They also argue that Barrick Niugini breached agreements pertaining to environmental standards, the relocation of displaced landowners and the number of fly-in, fly-out workers to the region.
In an emailed statement, Barrick said it has reviewed JFP’s submission, but believes it has no legal merit as determined by the State Solicitor of Papua New Guinea after analyzing a similar position statement issued in 2013.
Just before the announced legal action, Barrick included the Porgera mine among two of its properties (the other being the Cowal mine in Australia) it is considering putting up for sale in an effort to reduce net debt by at least $3 billion.
The mine, located in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, is 95 percent owned by Barrick, whose share of the combined open pit-underground operation was 493,000 ounces in 2014 at an all-in cost of $996 per ounce.