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Paul York with Students Against Climate Change defends his recent action against Barrick chairman, Peter Munk


Statement by Paul York, Toronto anti-mining support group

For those who may be interested, I wish to state why I referred to "murder" and "rape" and said that "Peter Munk has blood on his hands" at the recent event at Indigos bookstore. "Murder" was understood by most people, but for those unfamiliar with Barrick's record, "rape" confused them.

Barrick Gold owns and operates the Porgera mine in Papua New Guinea, Enga province, where about thirty-two people have been shot by security guards hired by Barrick and their predecessor, Placer Dome. The same guards have gang-raped women of the nearby village. This is the testimony of three Papua New Guinea residents who were recently at the Barrick Gold AGM, and it also the testimony of villagers who appear in a documentary film on the subject. The Papua New Guinea delegation met with Barrick executives asking for an end to this but met with disappointment.

I have no reason to doubt the word of the Papua New Guinea residents or the testimony that these photographs provide, given that I've heard similar testimony of Barrick's callous disregard for human life from many other parts of the world. For example, Barrick Gold security has jailed and murdered several people in Tanzania, as noted in detail in this article. For these reasons Sakura and Natalie from ProtestBarrick.net recently went to an AMREF fundraiser and informed people there that "Barrick Gold kills Africans" (Barrick is a large funder of AMREF).

Barrick also harms people around the world in other ways other than point-blank murder: they deprive people of water in drought-stricken areas, contaminate water with arsenic, lead and cyanide, and deprive people of their traditional livelihoods (farming and traditional mining) by stealing their land. Whether at the point of a gun or more indirectly, through water contamination, murder is murder.

In the archives of http://protestbarrick.net/ you will find substantial evidence of Barrick Gold's environmental crimes and crimes against humanity, which they have been perpetrated for decades in poor countries with impunity. The devastation wrought by Peter Munk and Barrick Gold will continue for centuries at the sites of these gold mines. He is certainly a great philanthropist, but his most lasting legacy is murder. It is therefore highly disingenuous of Mr. Munk to feign injury and surprise when he is confronted in public regarding these matters. I am sure he knows full well what his company has done and is continuing to do. No matter how much money Mr. Munk gives away to this or that good cause, he is still personally morally responsible for these crimes since he started the company and brought it to fruition.

Many other open-pit industrial mining operations do the same thing (Goldcorp is a notable example), but this website and the activists who created it have focused on Barrick because it is the biggest gold mining corporation in the world, murdering people on nearly every continent, and because it claims to be "good corporate citizens" acting in a responsible manner. Yet since when is murder and rape considered "ethical"? I would submit to you that voluntary “corporate social responsibility” (i.e. building a school or hospital) does not excuse the great crimes that Barrick is guilty of.

It is true that Jantzi Research, which use a "best of sector" approach, lists Barrick as an ethical investment, but I would submit that Jantzi is not qualified to judge what is ethical if murder and rape is considered morally acceptable by them. According to these same criteria we could line up all the slave-labour camps of the world and say “this one over here is ethical because it kills fewer people than the others.” Murder is ethically wrong, no matter how you cut it, and shooting and raping men and women and poisoning their water supplies for centuries to come is clearly and indisputably wrong. Robbing almost 100,000 people of water on the Chile-Argentinean border (the infamous Pascua Lama mine) is no small act of corporate irresponsibility; to put it bluntly, it is crime against humanity in the making, which thousands are now protesting.

I often hear the opinion that we cannot shut down Barrick or Exxon or their ilk and we must be "realists" and accept them and encourage their "good corporate citizenship." Frankly, this is not true. These companies and those that founded them and run them are not immortal. They can be and should be stopped from further destruction. The Papua New Guinea villagers have shut down the mine before and they may do so again. Barrick has bought off their leaders but even they have lost their patience with Barrick and participated in the ProtestBarrick tour this year. Munk et al have acted in a criminal and morally contemptible manner for decades. The men who run this company have made themselves into gods and they must be taken to task for their crimes in the court of public opinion.

Other social and environmental activists have different remedies which they like to advance. The one I would like to see is an end to ALL open-pit industrial mining operations which waste and contaminates millions of litres of fresh water needlessly and destroys lives and entire communities. In other words, the end of industrial mining. With the end of the oil age up on us and cries for water justice around the world, this may happen sooner than you imagine. Until then, I and others like me will continue to contest this great evil, persistently and non-violently, in solidarity with the courageous people from the affected communities who have risked their lives and livelihoods to come to Canada to expose what Barrick is doing to their communities.

 

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