Nationalization of Barrick’s Porgera mine . . .
Papua New Guinea (PNG) Prime Minister James Marape announced on Friday that the government will take control of Canadian-owned Barrick’s Porgera gold mine after refusing to renew its special mining lease. The decision comes nine months after Barrick’s lease expired in August 2019. Prime Minister Marape said the decision was informed by recommendations from PNG’s Mining Advisory Council, which cited negative social, environmental, and economic impacts. The PNG government has agreed to enter into a transitional agreement with Barrick, during which consultations will occur with local landowners and the Enga provincial government. However, Barrick has rejected the proposal for talks and warned that it will legally challenge the decision.
Mining violence . . .
The Porgera gold mine, co-owned by Barrick and Chinese state-owned-enterprise, Zijin Mining, produces 10 per cent of the island nation’s total exports and employs over 3,300 locals. In anticipation of its expiring lease, Barrick had applied for a 20-year extension in June 2017, which was locally contested. Residents near the mine claim the mine has polluted their local water supply. Barrick itself has reported violence around the site due to informal mining. Human Rights Watch has also previously noted chronic outbreaks of violence in the area, with allegations of serious human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings and rape.
Struggling during the pandemic . . .
These concerns over mining have coincided with PNG’s struggle to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Last week, PNG reported its eighth confirmed case, and Prime Minister Marape has also recently tested positive for the virus. The resource-rich island nation’s state of emergency first announced on March 24 has since been extended to early June, and includes a daily curfew and ban on all public gatherings and public transport. A surge of COVID cases could be catastrophic for the country as its health-care infrastructure lacks funding and equipment, and the country is also dealing with a recent series of earthquakes and outbreaks of African Swine Fever and malaria, among other diseases.