Statement of Mark Ekepa, Chairman of the Porgera Landowners Association at Barrick’s Annual General MeetingApril 28th, 2010
My name is Mark Ekepa . I have come from Papua New Guinea with my fellow Ipili to speak at this meeting. I hold a proxy from Mr. David Wurfel.
I am the chairman of the Porgera Landowners Association. I represent the traditional owners of the land that is now affected by Barrick’s Porgera Joint Venture mine. But more than that, I and my fellow landowners are part-owners of this mine – I represent Barrick’s partners in the joint venture. And I am here to tell you all that this mine has brought us massive environmental devastation and gross violations of the human rights of the people of Porgera.
My place is very remote. We are indigenous people. For many years we struggled alone to protect our place and our people. But we are not alone anymore!
In 2009, the Norwegian government recognized that the mine’s toxic waste disposal into our 800-kilometer long river system is causing massive and irreversible environmental damage. As a result, the Norwegian Pension Plan divested itself of its shares in Barrick.
In 2009, Tyler Giannini from Harvard University spoke in front of a Canadian parliamentary committee about the serious human rights abuses associated with the mine’s security forces including rapes, gang rapes, physical assault and killings.
Last year, while some of us were here to speak out at this meeting, Barrick’s Porgera mine was hosting a military invasion of our villages that led to the burning of more than 300 houses of landowners living within the mine lease area. The houses of my friends and family were burned down. My own house was burnt down and I had to flee. But now this is all written up in a damming report by Amnesty International. I hope you shareholders will read this report.
Two years ago I was also in Toronto and I met with Peter Sinclaire and other Barrick executives after Barrick’s AGM. At that time Mr. Sinclaire said that he would set up a dialogue to address all these issues. But there was no dialogue set up, instead our houses were burned down and we were forcibly evicted.
Mr. Munk – you know that we cannot live on our traditional land anymore, it is contaminated, unhealthy and unsafe. You know that for many years we have been asking to be resettled away from the mine. But you tell us that Barrick cannot afford to resettle us. And then we come here and we find out that Barrick has just given 35 million dollars to Toronto University. That wealth comes from our land, our gold, but you let us rot while you look good to Canadians.
My questions are:
1) Will Barrick comply with Amnesty International’s recommendation and call for an investigation into the forced evictions and police violations against us in Operation Ipili last year, including the prosecution of those responsible and the provision of remedy to those affected?
2) Will Barrick finally agree to resettle all of the landowners in the mine lease area so that we can have a chance at healthy futures for our children?
3) We are tired of travelling to Canada and talking to you executives at your Annual General Meeting. We want to open up a genuine dialogue with you. Will you meet with us here in Toronto to start that dialogue?