According to a report released yesterday by Human Rights Watch, private security personnel employed at the Porgera gold mine in Papua New Guinea (PNG) have been implicated in alleged gang rapes and other violent abuses. The Porgera Joint Venture (PJV) mine has produced billions of dollars of gold in its twenty years of operation, and is operated and 95 percent owned by Barrick Gold, a Canadian company that is the world’s largest gold producer.
Barrick’s response to this finding has been commendable and should be considered a best practice. Here’s why:
- Barrick did not deny the allegations. Barrick has expressed thanks to Human Rights Watch (HRW) for providing information that assisted the company and the police in conducting investigations. In addition, over the past six months, the company and Human Rights Watch “have worked together constructively and have discussed a range of important subjects in connection with the PJV.”
- Early action was taken. In late June 2010, when HRW provided Barrick with detailed allegations that security personnel were involved in serious crimes, the Commissioner of Police in PNG was contacted and it was requested that a criminal investigation be undertaken. According to Barrick, The PNG police have now commenced making arrests, the company has cooperated fully with PNG police and the investigation is continuing.
- Appropriate internal policies were in place and were adhered to. Barrick has a Code of Business Conduct and Ethics that guided its response to the alleged crimes. According to the company, while most employees were unaware of criminal activities, PJV has terminated employees who were found to have violated Barricks Code of Conduct. In addition, PJV has terminated those who had knowledge of, but did not report, misconduct by others.
- Barrick’s response exceeded what was legally required. Additional Barrick actions included: A review of security issues at PJV and subsequent improvements to the security environment to protect the safety of both women and men at and around the site; enhanced human rights training for all PJV security personnel; a commitment to hire additional female security staff members, with the first round of recruitment for these positions already underway; a plan to enhance the corporate human rights compliance structure, designed to prevent, detect and address potential human rights abuses by employees or third-party service providers; and working with experts to improve both internal and third-party grievance mechanisms so that victims of crime or people who have information about crimes feel comfortable coming forward.
Click here to read Barrick’s full statement in response to the Human Rights Watch report.