Papua New Guinea: Police set hundreds of homes ablaze near Porgera gold mine

Police officers in Papua New Guinea (PNG) involved in burning more than 200 homes to the ground close to a gold mine must be investigated and those found responsible for human rights violations prosecuted, said Amnesty International.

The homes were set ablaze during an early morning raid on Friday 6 June in Wingima village, close to Porgera gold mine in central PNG, according to community leaders.  

The mine is majority-owned and operated by Canadian mining giant Barrick Gold Corporation. 

“These illegal and dangerous actions endangered lives and have left scores of families homeless,” said Kate Schuetze, Pacific Researcher at Amnesty International.  

“Destroying people’s homes and livelihoods in this way violates international laws against forced evictions.  All those responsible must be prosecuted.  Any response to illegal mining or other unlawful activities must be proportionate and meet international standards.  Setting ablaze a village is a blatantly excessive response.”

Amnesty International further calls on the Papua New Guinea authorities to provide emergency assistance to those whose homes were destroyed and to guarantee them access to effective remedies.

Community leaders have alleged the police were acting in an effort to end unauthorized mining activities. 

In 2010 Amnesty International published a report, Undermining Rights, which exposed forced evictions and police brutality linked to mining activities in the region.

Last month, local government officials declared a State of Emergency in the region, in an attempt to address ‘law and order issues’.  Last December, there were reports of violent clashes between locals and private security guards linked to the mine, which reportedly left five people dead. 

Allegations of rape and sexual assaults by the mine’s private security guards against locals were documented by Human Rights Watch in 2010.