Background: Indigenous Ipili Women Speak Out at Barrick AGM 2017

Catherine Coumans Ph.D., Research Coordinator and Asia-Pacific regional program coordinator.

Barrick’s directors and shareholders heard first-hand about excess use of force by private and public mine security guarding the Porgera Joint Venture mine in Papua New Guinea when indigenous Ipili men travelled to Canada to speak out at Barrick’s AGM. In 2008, 2009, and 2010 Ipili men stood up in the shareholder’s meeting and told company directors and shareholders about killings and rapes of local men, women and children by mine security. These allegations were repeatedly met with denial by Barrick.

Finally, in 2012, Barrick started to implement a remedy program at the mine with a narrow focus only on victims of sexual violence, and only on those victims that had been raped by private mine security, excluding those who had been raped by police guarding the mine under an MOU between the company and the Papua New Guinea state. Under the provisions of the MOU Barrick’s local subsidiary houses, feeds, clothes and pays the salary of PNG police guarding the mine.

By the time Barrick closed the remedy program a couple of years later, 119 women had been given limited remedy worth some 20,000 kina (approximately 8,500 CAD). In return for this they had to sign legal waivers. The women who participated in the mine’s remedy program did not have effective independent legal advice. Shortly after Barrick’s remedy program ended, 11 rape victims represented by lawyers from EarthRights International received settlements from Barrick that are widely reported to be worth 200,000 Kina. As a result of subsequent pressure from the 119 claimants of the remedy program, Barrick arbitrarily provided these claimants with a subsequent “top up” of an additional 30,000 Kina (approximately 11,500 CAD), more than doubling the original cash payment.

The 119 rape survivors were not consulted on the level or kind of remedy they received. Barrick’s remedy program was repeatedly critiqued by MiningWatch Canada as it was being implemented and has also been thoroughly critiqued by human rights clinics at Harvard and Columbia Universities.

Everlyn Gaupe, a teenager when she was raped by mine security, was chosen by the 119 women who received unfair remedy from Barrick to represent these women at Barrick’s AGM. She is asking Barrick to open a dialogue with the 119 women, and human rights experts of their choice, to achieve a just remedy that will address the individual harms these women have endured and provide remedy that will allow them to rebuild their lives.   

These women have also presented their case via video at the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva in November 2016. And they have filed a formal complaint with the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights.

Joycelyn Mandi, also a teenager when she was raped by mine security, was chosen to travel to Canada by a large number of women who have suffered sexual assault by private and public mine security at the Porgera Joint Venture mine, but have never received remedy from the company, even though their cases have been brought to the mine’s grievance office. She is one of 80 women who have received a claim number (3936) from the grievance office over a year ago, but have heard nothing since. Other women’s cases have also gone to the grievance office without response. Joycelyn is asking Barrick to address all of these cases in an open and transparent process that will consult the women about the remedy they need to address the harm they have endured and allow them to be supported by human rights experts of their choice.

In addition to calling for equitable remedy for sexual assault victims, these women are making an urgent plea for the violence against local men and women by mine security to end. They note that even as they were preparing to come to Canada new rapes and shootings by mine security were being reported. “It is always ongoing,” they say.