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Rape victims’ settlement ‘insulting’

Thursday 10 December 2015 | Published in Regional

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Rape victims’ settlement ‘insulting’
View of the Porgera mine site from a village in the Porgera valley, Enga Province, Papua New Guinea.

PORGERA – US researchers say the process for compensating women who have been raped by security guards at Papua New Guinea’s Porgera gold mine is “deeply flawed and insulting”.

The Porgera mine is a large gold and silver mining operation in Enga province, located at the head of the Porgera Valley.

Barrick Gold earlier this year settled claims with 11 local women who had alleged acts of sexual violence against them, including rape, at the mine over the last two decades.

The settlement was reached through EarthRights International, an NGO that was representing the women, which in April said the settlements “brings to a close all of the outstanding claims made by women, who were allegedly beaten, raped, and threatened by the miner’s security personnel and employees”.

Some incidents dated back to before Barrick bought the mine via its takeover of Placer Dome in 2006, Reuters reported .

Experts from the Columbia and Harvard Law Schools in the United States conducted a three-year investigation into the system established by Barrick Gold to directly remedy sexual assaults by its staff.

Sarah Knuckey, a co-author of the report, said most of the victims are unhappy with the reparation process put in place by the Canadian mining firm.

“Despite the efforts of the company, the ultimate result was deeply flawed,” Knuckey told the ABC’s Pacific Beat.

“The process didn’t centre the victims sufficiently throughout the process.

“There were at least 120 women who have submitted claims to this remedy mechanism – most of them find that the process is deeply insulting to them.”

Allegations of brutality have long swirled around the Porgera mine in Enga Province, even before Barrick acquired it in 2006.

The allegations came to a head in 2011 when a Human Rights Watch report documented six alleged cases of gang rape by the mine’s security guards.

In response, Barrick set up what it called a “remedial framework” to handle claims made by the victims.

Most women were offered less than $8300 each in compensation, the report said, as well as counselling and healthcare.

Knuckey said 11 women who obtained US-based lawyers reportedly received packages that were 10 times higher than those who used Barrick’s process.

“The women who received the much smaller remedy feel that the reason they got such a lower remedy is because they didn’t have adequate legal representation through the process,” she said.

“The process just didn’t do enough to address the gross power imbalances between, on the one hand, a group of women who have not had the advantages of education, of lawyers. And on the other, one of the largest gold mining companies in the world.”

Knuckey called on the Papua New Guinean government to review Barrick’s process and set in place guidelines for other similar remedy mechanisms.

“Barrick did an internal investigation, and in some cases evidence was referred to police,” she said.

“However, we haven’t been able to find evidence that through this investigation process the perpetrators were put through a court process and convicted.

“At the same time there also hasn’t been, so far as we can determine, any real investigation from the high levels of the government of PNG into whether the company itself bears any responsibility for the abuses in this case, which are very widespread.”

- ABC/PNC