Papua New Guinea: Barrick Gold set to elevate Porgera mine as top-tier asset despite environmental & social objections

Author: Jeff Lewis & Melanie Burton, Reuters, Published on: 24 January 2020

"Barrick Gold forges ahead on Papua New Guinea mine in face of local backlash", 16 January 2020

Barrick Gold Corp is set to elevate its troubled Papua New Guinea mine to its top-tier assets, despite landowner and government demands to cede a larger stake and deteriorating security at the joint venture with China’s Zijin Mining.

With a 20-year lease renewal application in the balance, Barrick has faced backlash from Papua New Guinea (PNG) landowners and residents. Critics say the Porgera mine has polluted the water supply and created other environmental and social problems, with minimal economic returns for locals.

Seven people have died at the Porgera mine since September, including three so-called illegal miners last month in clashes that prompted Barrick’s local entity to appeal for government intervention.

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Barrick has broadened the role of its top China executive and former U.S. diplomat Woo Lee to handle day-to-day talks with the PNG government. It has pledged to relocate villagers whose land the mine has swallowed and study ways to improve management of mine waste currently dumped in rivers, Bristow said.

The moves, aimed at mollifying concerns over access to arable land and pollution of local waterways, may not be enough to satisfy landowners and the PNG government who want a larger equity stake.

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The Canadian miner may face added pressure to confront issues in PNG that run afoul of investor benchmarks on environmental, social and governance issues.

Standard Chartered for example has said it will not provide financial services directly towards mining operations that conduct direct marine or riverine tailings disposal.

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Related companies: Barrick Gold