Sex assault survivors silenced at Barrick shareholders meeting
They say Toronto-based gold miner has yet to provide the compensation promised many of the more than 200 women and girl victims of sexual violence at Papua New Guinea mine
As allegations of sexual violence continue to shadow Toronto-based Barrick Gold's mining operations in Papua New Guinea, two women among those victimized by the violence were in Toronto to address shareholders at the company’s annual general meeting last week.
But Everlyn Guape and Joycelyn Mandi were never given the opportunity to speak. Barrick senior vice-president of communications, Andy Lloyd, is chalking that up to a “misunderstanding.” Namely, a problem with papers filed by activists to allow the women to speak as proxies at the AGM. The Mining Injustice Solidarity Network says the necessary paperwork was filed on time.
After some confusion in which security attempted to move the women to the back of the meeting room, a representative from MiningWatch Canada ended up reading Guape's and Mandi's statements to Barrick shareholders.
Guape is among 119 women and girls who accepted compensation from Barrick (some $10,000 each) as part of a 2012 redress package. That, following allegations of widespread rape by security and police at Barrick’s Porgera mine. Eleven other women who refused the compensation package and threatened to sue the company received out-of-court settlements. Mandi is part of a second group of 80 women victims who have not received any compensation from Barrick.
Women who accepted the original compensation package say they have yet to receive some of what was promised, including school fees for their children and, in some cases, have yet to be contacted by the company. They’ve organized to demand fairer treatment and for Barrick to release them from a waiver they signed as a condition of their compensation.
I live in the shadow of Barrick’s Porgera mine in Papua New Guinea.
This mine dumps all of its tailings and waste rock directly into the river valleys around the pit. Our villages are surrounded by mine waste. We have to cross this waste to get from one village to another, or to go to our vegetable gardens or schools.
How would you feel if your children had to walk through the stinking chemical waste of a mine?
The mine and the waste have destroyed our traditional livelihood. When we enter the waste to pan for gold for our new livelihood, the mine’s security guards and police attack us.
I was raped. Can you imagine a young girl being brutally beaten and gang-raped on the edge of a river of bright red chemical waste?
After years of denial, Barrick finally decided to give me and the other rape victims some remedy.
But we were not asked what we needed to repair the many terrible impacts of the rapes in our lives. Barrick’s consultants just told us “take it or leave it.” They told us we were powerless against the company. We had to sign legal waivers to get any remedy at all, so we cannot take legal action now.
We want an open dialogue about what we need to remedy the harm we have suffered, and we want to be able to include human rights experts we trust to support us in this dialogue.
I was raped by mine security when I was a teenager. This happened in 2008, the same year that our fellow Porgerans came to this AGM in Toronto for the first time to tell about the killings and the beatings and the rapes that we were suffering [at the hands of] mine security and police guarding the mine.
I have never received any remedy for the harm that this rape has caused in my life. I am not alone; there are many other victims who have never received remedy. And the sexual violence is ongoing.
Barrick knows this because MiningWatch Canada and human rights clinics at Columbia and Harvard Universities have told about the many women who have never received remedy.
My case was brought to your grievance office in 2015 together with the cases of 80 other women.
We have case number 3936, but until today we have had nothing but excuses from Barrick about why our cases have not been addressed, and no one has spoken to us about our cases.
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