Papua New Guinea Government to sue Barrick for Billions of dollars for Years of Neglect

Statement from the PNG Chief Secretary (unedited)  

' I intend to advise the National Government to initiate legal proceedings against Barrick Gold on account of years of environmental neglect and sustained human rights abuses.

Barrick, as the former holder of the Special Mining Lease (SML) for the Porgera Gold Mine has consistently failed in its obligations under the Mining Development Contract (MDC).

There has been ongoing and severe environmental damage caused as a result of the operation of the mine, along with a failure to uphold the fundamental human rights of local landowners and workers.

Barrick has failed to fulfil its obligations in regard to resettlement of landowners for 30 years, instead choosing to attack the very people they are obligated to resettle when they seek access to their traditional lands.

Simply put, Barrick have failed the people of Porgera and Enga Province, and rather than accept responsibility they have pursued a strategy of denial in the hope that the Government will reverse the decision not to grant a renewal of the SML to them.

Having consulted local and external legal counsel, I have received advice that the State could have high prospects should it seek to pursue damages from Barrick in the Courts. This advice suggests that Barrick could be held to account for Billions of dollar in damages.

The fact is, Barrick have a track record when it comes to abusing their corporate obligations. Indigenous landowners in Chile, Argentina and Tanzania have all in recent times initiated large scale court actions against the company for failing to adhere to obligations under the law.

“This is a company with a track record when it comes to disregard for the rights of others and the environment and the Government is watching each of these court actions with keen interest”.

With regard to the current status of the Porgera Gold Mine, the facts are clear.

Barrick with its Join Venture partner sought to renew the SML. The Government, acting on the advice of the regulator, refused that request. As a matter of law, the previous SML ceased, as it had expired. Barrick, along with Kumul Mineral Holdings (KMHL) then made application for a new SML.

“A decision was made and the new SML was granted to KMHL. As a result, KMHL are now the licensee, and can exercise their right to re-open the mine”.

Despite this, the Government has been hampered in its efforts by the actions of Barrick, who, rather than adhering to their obligations under the MDC have instead pursued multiple legal actions as a deliberate strategy to force the Government to revisit its decision on the SML.

They are also pursuing arbitration through the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) despite the fact that the same matter has been dealt by the jurisdiction in our country.

“My advice to the Government is not to be intimidated by these actions”. We are sovereign country, we have a vibrant judicial system, and we expect everyone to abide by the law and show due respect”.

The fact is the Government, through our good Prime Minister the Hon. James Marape, MP has sought to negotiate in good faith with Barrick to resolve issues under the MDC and to work towards the re-opening of the mine.

But, it is clear that Barrick have no intention to engage constructively, instead relying on corporate strength to fund futile legal proceedings that will only, in the long term, cause more pain and suffering to the people of Porgera. This, from a company that asserts it has always looked after the rights of the people.

“Actions speak louder than words”.

KMHL must now work to exercise their rights to re-open the mine without delay and the interests of the people and the environment must be put ahead of corporate interest.

“I appeal to all our leaders to engage in this matter sensitively and constructively, and to be mindful of the situation that the Government faces on account of the conduct of Barrick”.

The State Negotiation Team stands ready to provided briefings as needed.

I am confident that justice will prevail with regard to the long standing failures that have taken place.

Next : PNG Govt to investigate the operations of four Mines in the country

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