Asia-Pacific

PNG landowners battle against one of the world's biggest gold miners

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Citing environmental damage and a lack of opportunities for locals, landowners surrounding the Porgera Gold Mine are calling for it to be shut down.

Papua New Guinea locals who live alongside one of the largest gold mines in the world are calling for the government to block attempts to extend their mining licence.

The mine has been operating for almost 30 years, but the license for the Porgera Gold Mine in Papua New Guinea's Enga province is due to expire in May.

Jonathan Paraia is the chairman of the Justice Foundation for Porgera and is leading the charge against the mining companies.

“The people were not looked after properly, they are suffering in terms of their human rights, destroying their homes and gardens and the land that they live on,” he said.

Jonathan Paraia has been leading the movement against the mine.
Jonathan Paraia has been leading the movement against the mine.
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The Porgera Gold Mine is operated by a joint venture between Canadian company Barrick and Chinese miners ZiJin who each own a 47.5 per cent stake.

A remaining five per cent is held by a regional government body Mineral Resources Enga.

Locals say the promises of jobs and benefits from the mine have only reached a few, while the rest still live in extreme poverty and have lost access to their traditional lands.

Community members gathered at a meeting last Thursday to voice their anger. Along with the traditional drumming and songs, were chants of “Barrick out”.

Hundreds gathered in Enga province to oppose the mine's licence extension.
Hundreds gathered in Enga province to oppose the mine's licence extension.
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Jonathan Paraia, says the operation of the mine has caused significant environmental damage.

He says he hopes a different mining company will get the opportunity to come into the area - one that will spread the benefits more broadly through the community.

Australian lawyers advising the group objecting to the mine's extension say the landowners deserve proper compensation.

“The people want to be treated fairly, they want to see a much fairer distribution of the profits of the mine. They want to see their people given more opportunities and if they cannot be addressed, they will oppose the mine continuing in any form,” lawyer Matthew Graham said.

“Ideally, of course, the mine could continue to operate, and the people could be given a better outcome into the future and could be compensated for the environmental damage in the past,” he added.

A spokesman for Barrick Niguini Limited, the local arm of the company operating the joint venture, said they always paid compensation and royalties and that the mine had brought significant infrastructure and benefit to the local area.

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