Private security guards employed by ‘Barrick Gold’, aided by local police have killed at least five miners at the Porgera mine in Papua New Guinea. The shootings came after mine security confronted a group of 300 locals who they deemed to be ‘illegal miners’ and ‘trespassers’. Barrick Gold – the world’s largest producer of gold - has a long history of using violence, gang rape, and murder against their workers, and local people in Papua New Guinea. Barrick founder and owner, Peter Munk, claimed that ‘gang rape’ is just a ‘cultural habit’.
The mine bosses are denying any responsibility for the trouble, claiming that their staff was attacked by trespassers, and they called for police assistance.
Violence has spread to nearby villages. The following is a description of events via an eye-witness at the Protest-Barrick campaign:
“Around Midnight, Dec. 3: Chaos in Porgera now. Thousand mobs rampage Porgera station and heading in direction of the mine site. Most likely there will be confrontation.
Wed. December 3, 5am: Update on Porgera News, one more local was shot dead in the afternoon hours of today when raging mobs marched towards Paiam town. According to eye witness the victim received bullet wounds on the head. The shooting occurred at Pogema Bridge. It is believed Police blocked marching crowd from advancing towards Paiam when confrontation triggered of shooting. Soon after, the raging mobs returned towards Porgera in rampage and anything on their way was destroyed. The rioting crowd advanced towards the mine site but police I think managed to take control. Meanwhile nightshift employees commuting to work from Paiaim and Porgera station areas have been advised not to show up for work. Situation still tense at the moment. The dead toll is not confirmed yet hence, figures are from hearsay and confirm number of deaths will be posted when the final numbers are collected from relatives of victims.
Tuesday, Dec. 3 10pm (EST): More than 5 local miners shot death by Barrick PJV security and state mobile task force at the Porgera mine site yesterday afternoon. Stand-off between Mine operator, Police and local miners intensify as local miners invade Porgera station and Paiam town at this hour of posting. It looks like a peaceful protest by locals.”
A police spokesperson has played down the incident, claiming that:
“There was this confrontation from the illegal miners, those who were with those two who were deceased, and so they were dispersing them, and in the process may have been hurt, and later we found out one or two other people died from the confrontation.”
A lackey from Barrick Gold stated that:
“There are often trespassers in the mine area, and at that point there were 300 aggressive trespassers – they come into the mine seeking gold. We would regard them as illegal miners. The main concern that we have is that these people come into the active mining lease and they are interacting with heavy mine equipment and they are not fully aware of the hazards in the mining area.
There was a lot of protesting in the community – directed mainly at the police, but also at Barrick personnel. Yesterday was very tense and last night we suspended operations for the safety of our employees. We suspended production for 12 hours, operations commenced this morning as per normal, and it is very calm at the moment.”
His claims that Barrick’s primary concern is the ‘health and safety’ of those digging for gold would be laughable if it wasn’t such a serious issue.
The so-called ‘illegal miners refute claims that they ‘trespass’, claiming that they gather rocks from the outskirts of the facility in the hope that they may find some gold. Police and security respond to this practice by using live rounds and tear gas. Similar examples are reported at Barrick’s mines in Tanzania.
The province governor, Peter Ipatas, claims that ‘illegal mining is becoming an increasing problem at the site.’ Unsurprisingly he doesn’t see the plundering of Papua New Guinea’s resources by corporate gangsters or the murder and rape of locals as an ‘increasing problem’.
Barrick refute claims that they are exploiting Papua New Guinea, claiming that the mine is ‘joint venture’ with the government. The people must be really pleased that government have signed up for a deal that gives them 5% of all proceeds from the sale of their natural resources.