Papua New Guinea: Barrick (Niugini) Limited allegedly violates locals' right to water at Porgera gold mine

A report published by the Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic and the The Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict and Complexity at Columbia University's Earth Institute entitled Red Water: Mining and the Right to Water in Porgera, Papua New Guinea, alleges that the companies operating the gold mine in Porgera, Papua New Guinea are in breach of their obligation to respect the locals' right to water. It calls upon the PNG government, Barrick Gold, Zijin Mining, and their jointly controlled operator of the mine, Barrick (Niugini) Limited (BNL) to:

  • Provide emergency access to safe water to households to meet minimal basic needs... [and] improve water infrastructure to guarantee stability in water access and quality...;
  • Fund and undertake environmental, social, and health impact assessments...with the consent and participation of community members including through improved company due diligence and a government-led Independent Environmental and Social Audit of the PJV mine...;
  • Establish comprehensive and effective monitoring and reporting processes to track implementation of measures; and
  • If core human rights requirements cannot be met, pursue resettlement of the Porgeran communities away from the mine...

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Barrick (Niugini) Limited (BNL) to respond to the allegations in the report. The response is included below.

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6 May 2019

Porgera villagers lack access to good water, study finds

Author: Radio New Zealand

1 May 2019

Communities living around Papua New Guinea's Porgera gold mine lack enough access to clean water to meet their basic needs.

They are also exposed to concerning levels of chemicals linked to mine operations, according to a new report 'Red Water: Mining and the Right to Water in Porgera'.

...Cressida Kuala from the Porgera Red Wara Women's Association says she has long suspected that water in the rivers which flow through her village and others in the mine area is unsafe to drink.

...The interdisciplinary team of human rights experts and environmental scientists who conducted the study urged the PNG government and the mining companies--Barrick Gold of Canada and Zijin Mining of China--to take action to ensure the human right to water.

...As well as the health impacts from the mine's toxic waste, dozens of Porgera women have been acknowledged as victims of rape and assault by Barrick's former security contractors, but not adequately compensated...

Read the full post here

Company response
26 April 2019

Response from Barrick Niugini Limited

Author: Barrick Gold

Barrick Niugini Limited (BNL) was approached by the authors about the Study in 2017... [and] engaged extensively with the authors and provided information and data related to water management on the site. The Study [includes]... concerning allegations and we are work in a constructive and transparent manner with anyone who has concerns relating to the way the Mine operates.

.... Under the conditions of its Environment Permit, the mine is permitted to discharge treated mine tailings, treated domestic sewage, rainfall runoff and rainwater drainage from the mine lease areas into the broader Strickland River system, including creeks and tributaries. Testing of the mine contact water that drains from mining areas is undertaken on a monthly basis... [I]ndependent reviews are undertaken to determine that environmental monitoring results are accurate and that current ecological effects have been identified... We note that the Study did not find high concentrations of heavy metals in collected rainwater – the main drinking water source in Porgera... The results of the monitoring program show that PJV is in compliance with the environmental permits issued by the PNG Government... We are particularly concerned that the report does not take into account the local-level social challenges (i.e. tribal conflict) around implementing community development initiatives when dismissing these [water] programs as “inadequate”. The mine is and remains committed to working with the Government and the local communities to find workable solutions. However, this is a matter beyond the sole scope and control of any entity and requires effort on the part of all relevant stakeholders. We remain committed to our responsibility to respect the human right to water and to supporting the Government to promote responsible stewardship for the environment and promotion of social wellbeing.

Download the full document here

20 April 2019

Red Water: Mining and the Right to Water in Porgera, Papua New Guinea

Author: Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic & Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict & Complexity

[Key legal findings include]:..

1. The residents of Porgera do not have consistent access to sufficient acceptable and safe water, particularly during periods of low rainfall. Adequate information about water safety is lacking for communities, undermining their ability to make informed decisions...

2. The PNG government has not met its obligations to respect, protect, and fulfill the right to water in Porgera....

3. Barrick Gold, Zijin Mining, and BNL are in breach of their responsibilities to respect the right to water and could do substantially more to support the realization of Porgerans' right to water....

Although many Porgerans fear that the mine pollutes their rainwater, our Research Team did not find high concentrations of heavy metals in collected rainwater—the main drinking water source in Porgera. However, poor company and government information-sharing and education has resulted in widespread fear... The government of Papua New Guinea, and the mine... have not done enough to promote access to safe water for residents of the villages surrounding the mine... nor... to ensure that residents have critical information regarding the quality of the water sources on which they rely, or any related human health impacts and risks... [I]t is incumbent on the principal duty-bearers, namely the PNG government and the mining companies, Barrick Gold Corporation, Zijin Mining Group, and Barrick Niugini Limited (BNL), to take immediate and sustained action to ensure that the grave concerns regarding the right to water are comprehensively addressed.

Read the full post here