While Barrick Gold has decided to push ahead and build
the Pascua Lama mine atop the Andean glaciers straddling Chile and
Argentina, it is dealing with headaches on the ground in the highlands
of tropical Papua New Guinea.
The Toronto-headquartered gold major is having to fend off complaints
from some Papuans regarding its joint-venture mine site in the country.
Papuans are saying police are brutally evicting them from their homes
near Barrick's joint-venture mine in Enga province.
Photographs published recently on the internet of huts in flames near
Barrick's Porgera gold mine, 600 km northwest of Port Moresby, have
become an irritant for the gold major.
Reportedly, police are burning down the homes of illegal miners living near the mine.
Jethro Tulin, executive officer of the Akali Tange Association, a
Porgera land-owners group, travelled to Ottawa last week to protest the
police action at Barrick's annual general meeting.
It has been reported that the police increased their presence in the
area in late April to deal with illegal artisanal mining in the area
and related social problems in the communities around Porgera including
crime and drug and alcohol abuse. Authorities also issued an alcohol
ban in the area.
"It is our understanding that the police tore down approximately 50
temporary shacks that were illegally occupying part of the mining lease
as part of an effort to address the illegal mining problem and curb
associated violence and drug and alcohol abuse," explained Vince Borg,
Barrick's executive vice president of corporate communications.
Since the Porgera mine went into production in the early 1990s,
internal migration to the area has resulted in a population explosion
from about 4,000 to 5,000 people to roughly 40,000 or 50,000, Barrick
says. (Barrick acquired its interest in the mine from Placer Dome in
Borg also explained that police are faced daily with armed men and some
women who illegally invade the Porgera mine to steal gold.
"In the middle of the night hundreds of individuals will climb down the
face wall of the open pit, which is quite steep, and steal ore," he
said. "Most of them are armed with machetes and they take the ore and
then go and process it offsite."
Borg also argued that Tulin of the Akali Tange Association who flew to
Canada to protest the evictions before Barrick's annual general
shareholder meeting last week, leads a group of largely non-local
people who have moved to the area and illegally established shanties on
Porgera's mining lease at the edge of the operating mine.
"He is trying to extract compensation for people who now wish to be
paid to move off the mining lease despite the fact that they have never
had title to the land in question," he says. "Mr. Tulin is representing
them for a portion of any settlement they may get -- that is, for
profit. That is not exactly a "grass roots human rights activist" in
most people's minds."
In 2008, Barrick's share of production from Porgera was about 627,000
oz. gold at cash costs of US$417 per oz. The company's share of proven
and probable mineral reserves at Dec. 31, 2008 was estimated at 7.8
million oz. gold.
This year Barrick expects Porgera will produce 550,000 ounces to 600,000 oz. gold at cash costs of US$500-$525 per oz.