PNG campaigners lobby Canada's PM
PNG campaigners have lobbied Canada's PM to help bring justice to victims of violence and rape at the Porgera Mine.
Campaigners against abuses at the Porgera Gold Mine in Papua New Guinea have taken the issue to the top.
The Akali Tange Association has written to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as part of a wider campaign calling for an ombudsman for that country's mining sector.
It says Canadian owned Barrick Gold has employed security guards at Porgera who have committed killings, assault, and rape.
MiningWatch Canada spokesperson Catherine Coumans spoke to Jo O'Brien about the campaign for an ombudsman.
CATHERINE COUMANS: It's important to understand that the Trudeau Government actually made a commitment before they were elected that if they were elected they would create this office. And so since they have been elected in October 2015 we have really been holding their feet to the fire and campaigning for the creation of this office. And we've recently asked partners around the world who are negatively affected by the operations of Canadian mining companies to write letters in support of the creation of this mechanism to the Prime Minister and the Minister in charge of this file in Canada.
JO O'BRIEN: And what response has there been from the Prime Minister to these letters?
CC: The letters have just started coming in so we don't yet have that.
JO: Do you expect they will have some impact though?
CC: I do, we have informal indications that they are already having some impact. It's certainly really significant when people around the world in their own words write directly to our Prime Minister and to directly indicate what the harm is that they're experiencing from Canadian mining companies and how they have a hard time getting access to justice in their own countries and therefore really need Canada to step up to the plate and provide responsibility for the activities of its own corporate nationals operating overseas. This has a much greater impact than just organisations within Canada calling for this. It's really the people speaking in their own voice.
JO: And the Akali Tange Association from the Porgera Mine are one of those groups that has written to the Prime Minister. Are the issues at the mine there even on the radar of the Canadian Government. How aware are they of what's been happening there?
CC: I have to say that particular issue is probably one of the ones that is most on the radar of the Canadian Government. The issues in Papua New Guinea at the Porgera Mine which is Barrick Gold's operation has been very high profile in Canada in part because the company involved there is Barrick Gold, which is Canada's flagship gold mining company and in fact the biggest gold mining company in the world. The issues have been raised in Canada in parliamentary committees, they have been put in front of MPs, they have been extensively addressed in the media. This case in particular has a lot of profile here.
JO: Can you update us about what has been happening at Porgera and the ongoing efforts to get more equitable justice for women particularly who have been abused at the mine?
CC: The United Nations has a forum once a year on business and human rights and in the last forum that took place in November in Geneva the women in Porgera actually put together a video to address the UN delegates and directly put in front of them the problem that they're having and these were the women that have received some remedy from Barrick. After years and years of denial Barrick was finally forced to provide some remedy for some women and that's 119 women. But there are many women who have not received any remedy at all yet and the 119 who did receive remedy are very clear in this video and in other statements that they've made that the remedy that they've received is simply not adequate to compensate them for the harm that they've endured through really brutal rapes and gang rapes. In addition to the 119 who are now speaking out very openly there's also a large number of women who have not received any kind of remedy at all yet for the rapes and gang rapes that they are alleged to have been abused by through the security at the mine. And they have prepared files and presented those to something called the grievance office up at the mine. But quite frankly there's been no response from the mine at all. The company has become very unresponsive to further requests and we have reports of ongoing rapes at the mine so the problem is not resolved.
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