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Porgera Joint Venture (PJV) gold mine, Papua New Guinea


Papua New Guinea is a country rich in natural resources and holds large reserves of mineral ores such as gold and silver. The mining sector represents an important source of governmental revenues that contributes substantial shares to the national GDP. The Porgera Joint Venture (PJV) mine, located in Enga province, is the second largest mine in Papua New Guinea and among the ten most productive gold mines worldwide [1]. But the sector brings not only benefits – it comes with massive social and environmental costs as the depressing development of the Porgera Gold Mine has shown [2;3;4]. 

Before the arrival of the Porgera Gold Mine, the area was a rather remote area that was hardly accessible and mainly inhabited by Ipili indigenous clans. Apart from agriculture, home gardens and forest uses, small-scale alluvial gold mining had long been an important local livelihood source for residents. Things changed rapidly when the Porgera Gold Mine opened in 1990; first under the management of Placer Dome company, which was later taken over by Barrick Gold in 2006 [2]. 

Since the operation of the mine, the dump sites of the waste rocks occupy an ever-growing area that was previously bush, forest and farmland of local residents [2]. Large amounts of mine tailings have been disposed into nearby rivers year by year. The tailings contain mainly waste rocks, but also heavy metals and traces of chemicals like cyanide used in the gold extraction process [2;3;4]. While this poses not only a threat to the environment, the pollution represents a severe health concern for close by and downstream communities. This practice caused that Barrick was later excluded from the portfolios of major investment funds, like the Norwegian Government Pension fund [3]. Beyond the environmental impacts, the social impacts have been devastating. 

Inside the mine, several accidents occurred. In August 1994, a blast destroyed the Dyno Wesfarmers explosives factory located at the mine. Eleven workers were killed and property was damaged in an area of up to 2km away. In 2012, five people were killed during a routine blast. The police said the victims were illegal miners who entered the mine. The remaining three survivors were charged for trespassing [1]. 

Outside the mine, social tensions and livelihood concerns shape the daily lives of local residents, as well as depressing cases of violence employed by security and police against local residents. People have complained about the lack of adequate compensation and absence of livelihood opportunities in light of declining access to land. Social problems, such as prostitution, alcoholism, economic inequality and other issues have increased. Many impoverished residents frequently come to the dump sites to search for remaining traces of gold in waste rocks, in a non-violent way, to enhance their little income. They use mercury in the final gold extraction process, which poses a severe health and environmental risk. When found by security guards, they face arrest and violence. A few times, the mine was also violently raided by illegal mining groups posing severe threats to its employees. The mine’s private security force mounts up to about 450 persons [2;3;4]. 

The most severe events occurred through private security staff and police raids. Extrajudicial killings through private security was reported by local groups in the early 2000s, as well as brutal gang rapes of women who were captured on the waste rocks by security guards [2]. The women were pressured to not report to the police and local authorities under threats of arrest [2]. A dramatic event occurred in 2009, when close by villages were raided by police officers. People were forcibly evicted, houses were burned down and livelihood assets (land, garden, livestock, other belongings) were destroyed. Most affected was the Wuangima area, located next to the underground mining operation, where at least 130 houses were burned down, and cases of rape were reported by villagers. Other areas were violence was used was Kulapi and Mungalep. The police raids were formally conducted to enforce law and order in the area, including illegal small-scale mining, through an operation that was termed “Operation Ipili”. The mobile police squads were supported by the PJV through food, fuel and accommodation [3]. 

Already in 2005, a report issued by the local organization Akali Tange Association (ATA) alleged that the mine’s security staff had killed at least nine people between 1995 and 2005. The government of Papua New Guinea started an investigation but results were not made public. Placer Dome acknowledged that eight people were killed in that time, arguing that it was in self-defence. Some cash compensation was paid to relatives upon the condition that no further legal would be taken [2]. 

In May 11, 2009, Amnesty International issued a statement about concerns over human rights abuses by the police and subsequently investigated the cases [3]. Also Human Rights Watch investigated six cases of rape between 2008 and 2009 that were believed to represent a broader pattern of violence against residents, employed by security staff [2]. Further investigations by local authorities followed. In 2009, a research team from Harvard and New York University submitted evidence on rape incidents to the Canadian parliament [11]. Barrick stated that they had no knowledge of these incidents and passed the responsibility to investigate these cases to the Papua New Guinea authorities, but initially did not commit to action itself [2]. 

Several events followed. In 2010, a PJV guard was convicted of murder that took place in 2002. The local representative organization ATA itself became controversial over allegations that ATA charged money from families for their work, while some of them received nothing in return [2]. The mining company opened major internal investigations. As a result, several security staff were fired, and three former PJV employees were arrested in January 2011, charged with rape among other issues [4]. The company also agreed to make its environmental reports publicly available and a remedial framework was set up to provide compensation. Later on, more than 130 women accepted payments of around 10,000$ requiring them to forego any future legal action. 11 women however rejected the offer as being grossly inadequate and planned to file a lawsuit with support from Earth Rights International. In 2015, an out-of-court settlement was reached, the details of which were however not made public [5]. 

Conflicts surrounding the mine have continued until today. For instance, on September 4th, 2015, Akali Tange Association (ATA) submitted through the PJV grievance mechanisms a list of 256 victims “who have been shot death, injured and raped by the Barrick PJV Security Personnel” [6]. As according to ATA there was no adequate response to their letter, a peaceful protest march was planned for June 24, 2016 [6]. The most recent controversial police action against residents was documented in March 2017 [7].

(See references provided at the bottom of the entry for a detailed description of the events of this complex case. The Barrick Gold homepage on the Porgera mine provides an overview of formal responses taken by the company). 

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Porgera Joint Venture (PJV) gold mine, Papua New Guinea
Country:Papua New Guinea
State or province:Enga province
Location of conflict:Lagaip-Porgera District
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Mineral ore exploration
Tailings from mines
Specific commodities:Gold

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Papua New Guinea’s mining sector represents a relevant source of governmental revenues. In 2002, the sector accounted for about 75% of the exports and 21% of GDP [2].

The open pit and underground mine is located in Enga province, in a designated Special Mining Lease (SML) area. The SML provides exclusive mining rights, but no rights to occupy or acquire land, which must be negotiated with the people [4]. The Special Mining Lease (SML) for the Porgera mine covered 2,200 ha (report from 2001, see [8]).

Mining activities started in 1990, when the mine was operated by Placer Dome [2]. The mine is now operated by Barrick Niugini Ltd., which owns 95% of the Porgera Joint venture (PJV) mine [9]. The remaining 5% is hold by Mineral Resources Enga, which is split between the Enga Provincial government (2.5%) and local landowners (2.5%). [9]. In 2011, About 95% of the Porgera mine was owned by Barrick Gold, a Canadian company that is among the world’s largest gold producers [4]. In 2015, Barrick Gold divested from the mine and sold 50% of its subsidiary company Barrick Niugini to China’s Zijin Mining group Co. for about 298 million USD. Since then, Barrick Gold owns 47.5% of the gold mine [9;10].

In 2010, PVG employed some 2,400 people [2].

In 2016, Barrick’s share of gold produced amounted to 234,000 ounces [9]. Barrick’s share of proven/provable gold reserves in the PGV amounts to 2,207,000 ounces (14,5 million tons, at a grading of 4.75 grams per tonne) [9]. Between 1990 and 2011, it has produced about 16 million ounces of gold [4]. PVG is projected to operate until 2023 [2].

A report from 2010 states that the mine discharges about six million tons of liquid mine tailings into the nearby river annually [2].

Population in the area has increased from 6,000 to somewhere between 30,000 – 50,000 (2010), due to population growth and migration from other areas [2].

Project area:2,200
Level of Investment:unknown
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:6,000 -50,000
Start of the conflict:1990
Company names or state enterprises:Barrick Gold Corporation from Canada
Barrick Niugini Ltd. (BNL) from Papua New Guinea - operating company
Mineral Resources Enga Ltd from Papua New Guinea - Shareholder
ZiJin Mining Group Co. Ltd. from China - Shareholder
Placer Dome Inc. from Canada
Relevant government actors:Government of Papua New Guinea
Enga provincial government
Enga police force
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Akali Tange Association (ATA),
Porgera Alliance,
Mining Watch Canada,
Human Rights Watch,
Amnesty International,
Earth Rights International,
Harvard and New York University Law schools,

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Artisanal miners
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
International scientists; Ipili indigenous
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Shareholder/financial activism.
Street protest/marches
Threats to use arms
Refusal of compensation


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Mine tailing spills, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Other Environmental impacts
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Noise pollution, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Other Environmental impactsHeavy metals (i.e. mercury) and chemicals (i.e. cyanide) released into the environment
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Deaths, Other environmental related diseases, Accidents, Occupational disease and accidents, Infectious diseases, Other Health impacts
Potential: Malnutrition
Other Health impactsexposure to mercury of small-scale miners; spread of sexually transmitted diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Land dispossession, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment
Potential: Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Violent targeting of activists
out-of-court settlements; some security staff was convicted of rape
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Conflicts around the mine go on. Damages are vast.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Papua New Guinea 1992 Mining Act and Regulation

Papua New Guinea Environment Act 2000

Papua New Guinea Mineral Resources Authority Act 2005

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[2] Human Rights Watch 2010. Gold’s Costly Dividend: Human Rights Impacts of Papua New Guinea’s Porgera Gold Mine. New York, United States

Enodo rights 2016. Pillar III on the Ground An Independent Assessment of the Porgera Remedy Framework (accessed 16.11.2017)

[3] Amnesty International 2010. Undermining rights: Forced evictions and police brutality around the Porgera Gold Mine, Papua New Guinea. London, United Kingdom.

[11] Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic & Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic: RIGHTING WRONGS? BARRICK GOLD'S REMEDY MECHANISM FOR SEXUAL VIOLENCE IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA, Key Concerns and Lessons Learned. (accessed 16.11.2017)

[8] Collaborative for Development Action (CDA) report 2001. Porgera Joint Venture (PJV) gold mining operation. Available online (accessed 16.11.2017).

[9] Barrick Gold Homepage on the Porgera mine. (accessed 16.11.2017).

[7] Barrick Gold response to ATA letter (2017, May 27).

[1] Wikipedia - Porgera Gold Mine (accessed 16.11.2017)

[10] article from May 26th, 2015. Barrick sells 50% in Papua New Guinea unit to China's Zijin. (accessed 16.11.2017)

[4] Human Rights Watch 2011. Papua New Guinea: Serious Abuses at Barrick Gold Mine,

Systemic Failures Underscore Need for Canadian Government Regulation. (accessed online 16.11.2017)

[5] ABC News 2015 (April, 8th). Barrick Gold compensates women raped at Papua New Guinea mine site in out-of-court settlement. (Accessed online 16.11.2017)

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Human Rights Watch - Gold's Costly Dividend (video)

French documentary on the Porgera Mine

Other documents

[6] Akali Tange Association (ATA) Inc. Letter to Barrick PJV from June 17th, 2016.

Meta information

Contributor:EJatlas Southeast Asia Team ("at"
Last update18/08/2019



Protests against harmful impacts


Women searching for traces of gold in the mine tailings

Foto Credit: Human rights watch (see [2])

Residents petition government to intervene in unresolved issues


Violence and killings at the mine