Gold's Costly Dividend

Photographs by Brent Stirton

This details the story of Papua New Guinea’s rich and controversial Porgera gold mine. Ninety-five percent owned and fully operated by Barrick Gold, a Canadian company that is the world’s largest gold producer, the mine has long been a boon to PNG’s national treasury. But its impact on local communities has been far more complicated. Gold’s Costly Dividend: Human Rights Impacts of Papua New Guinea’s Porgera Gold Mine describes how some private security personnel employed by the Porgera mine have allegedly engaged in brutal gang rapes of local women as well as other violent crimes. It also sets out longstanding environmental and health concerns about the mine’s operations— especially its practice of dumping 16,000 tons of liquid waste into the nearby Porgera river every day – and Barrick’s response for many years to disclose only the minimum of relevant data.
Based on interviews with local community members, victims of human rights abuses, company and government officials, police personnel and others, the report shows how Barrick failed to take appropriate action in relation to allegations of serious abuses around the mine. But in response to Human Rights Watch research, the company has taken meaningful steps to address the inadequacies —including supporting a criminal investigation of its own personnel. The company has also undertaken to disclose key environmental data for the first time. Playing an absentee role in all of this is the Canadian government. Canada is home to more than half of the world’s international mining and exploration companies, but the government does virtually nothing to oversee or regulate their conduct overseas. The longstanding problems at Porgera show why there is an urgent need for the Canadian authorities to play a more constructive role in guiding and overseeing the human rights practices of Canada’s corporate citizens abroad.