In 2011, Human Rights Watch (‘HRW’) published the report “Gold’s Costly Dividend; Human Rights Impacts of Papua New Guinea’s Porgera Gold Mine” which uncovered sexual violence against women committed around the mine site of the Porgera Joint Venture mine (‘PJV’) by the employees of the mine’s security unit. The mine, located in the Porgera Valley in Papua New Guinea, is owned for 95% by Barrick Gold Corporation (‘Barrick’).In response to the violence, Barrick and the PJV have developed a framework of remediation initiatives, called Olgeta Meri Igat Raits (All Women Have Rights) consisting of both an Individual Reparations Program and community-wide programs to address the issue of violence against women. The framework is overseen by the Porgera Remediation Framework Association Inc. (‘the PRFA’), which is an independent body. The Individual Reparations Program is administered by the Complaints Assessment Team (‘the CAT’), which is staffed by project officers who have experience in dealing with the issues of gender-based violence. A Woman’s welfare liaison officer, operating within the local community, is also established in order to support the survivors of sexual and domestic abuse.
Who can access it?
Any women residing in the Porgera Valley who have been subject of sexual violence and/or abuse, perpetrated by men who are employed, or at the time of the act were employed, at the Porgera mine. Anonymous claims cannot be considered, therefore appropriate procedures will be put in place to protect the privacy and confidentiality of the Claimants.
The Program is available to women who have been the subject of sexual violence which took place after 1 January 1990 and before 31 December 2010. The Program cannot be accessed by woman who have been the subject of sexual violence involving current of former employees of companies, which have been contracted to perform work for the PJV, however, they may be referred to appropriate services in accordance with the Referral Processes mentioned in the Claims Process Procedures Manual (the “Manual”). Claims can be lodged from 25 October until the end of April 2013. Claims lodged after April 2013 will only be considered in certain circumstances, such as a reference to the program from a recognized organization that is engaging with the framework process, including the Harvard University and New York University legal clinics, Human Rights Watch and others.
How does it work?
Complaints can be lodged with the CAT, by the victim or her representative, who are located in the Porgera Women's Welfare Office. A project officer from the CAT then must meet the victim herself. This meeting will be private. During this initial meeting the project officer will inform the Claimant of the process, and provide her with a written explanation of the process. To participate in the program, the Claimant must obtain independent legal advice, including advice regarding legal options and the consequences of resolving a claim. Claimants will be offered services of a translator and an independent lawyer. Access to funds for legal advice will be provided, as well as certifying the representation and ensuring that the Claimant understands that the lawyer will act on their behalf. The officer will ask the Claimant to provide details on issues including (but not limited to) what type of violence was involved, when and where it took place and by who, whether there were witnesses, and whether reports have been made to the police. The information must be given in the form of a Statement of Claim.
The claim is then assessed by the CAT, who will decide whether or not the claim is eligible and legitimate. If the claim is ineligible or illegitimate, the CAT will tell the Claimant of the assessment and the reasons for the assessment. It will tell the Claimant that there is an appeal process, and explain the steps for lodging an appeal. If the claim is both eligible and legitimate, the CAT will prepare a Full Report of the incident which will be provided to an Independent Expert. The Independent Expert must consider the assessments and recommendations described in the Full Report, and make its own assessment as the eligibility and legitimacy of the claim, and whether the recommended remediation program is appropriate. If the Claimant agrees with the Assessment of the Independent Expert, an agreement between Barrick, PRFA and the Claimant is concluded, which will provide for the following:
- the Claimant agrees to the general content of the report and the recommendations of the Independent Expert, or of the Review Panel;
- PRFA agree to provide all programs recommended for the Claimant;
- Barrick acknowledges its regret for the harm suffered by the Claimant and encourages the Claimant to pursue criminal and any other civil legal action against the alleged individual perrpetrator; and
- the Claimant agrees that she will not make any further civil claim based on the facts of the claim being resolved against the PJV, PRFA or Barrick whether in or outside Papua New Guinea. PRFA and Barrick will be able to rely on the Agreement as a bar to any legal proceedings that may be brought by the Claimant in breach of the Agreement.
If the Claimant does not agree with the Assessment of the Independent Expert, she can either leave the Program, or appeal to the Review Panel.
According to the Manual, the Claimant has the right to leave the Program at any time and take other action, such as accessing the site grievance mechanism, or instituting formal legal processes, including action against individual perpetrators or the company.
Remedies are to be developed on case-by-case basis. The framework indicates that the primary guiding principle is that remedies should be designed based on principles of individual agency and empowerment of women to determine their own destiny, and that they should be culturally appropriate. According to the framework, these include, but are not limited to:
- Facilitation of effective access to justice mechanisms where requested;
- Access to medical and/or psychosocial support services;
- Provision of fair and appropriate financial reparations for personal harm or economic damages suffered; and
- To the extent practicable, rehabilitation of rights and circumstances experienced prior to the alleged offence.
Remedies may also have a cash component or equivalent in livestock, provided that any risk to the Claimant is mitigated. Terminations and disciplinary actions can occur, depending on the results of ongoing police investigations relating to the alleged violations or as a result of the information gathered through the network.
If the Claim is deemed ineligible or illegitimate by the CAT, the Claimant can appeal to that decision. The Independent Expert will review the appeal from the assessment of the CAT that a claim is not eligible or legitimate. If the Independent Expert agrees with the assessment, the Claim is terminated. If the Independent Expert disagrees with the assessment of the CAT, the Expert will assess the Claim and meet with the Claimant to agree on recommended support programs. An edited version of this assessment will be provided to the PJV, which will decide whether any action should be taken in relation to any PJV employees implicated in the claim.
If the Claimant does not agree with the assessment of the Independent Expert and the agreement proposed, she can leave the program, or appeal to the Review Panel. The Panel makes a new assessment, to which the Claimant can agree and enter into an agreement with Barrick and PRFA, or disagree and leave the program.
“Gold’s Costly Dividend; Human Rights Impacts of Papua New Guinea’s Porgera Gold Mine” - Human Rights Watch (‘HRW’) report