The Porgera Gold Mine is a large gold and silver mining operation in near Porgera, Enga province, Papua New Guinea (PNG), located at the head of the Porgera Valley. The mine is situated in the rain forest covered highlands at an altitude of 2,200 to 2,700 m, in a region of high rainfall, landslides, and frequent earthquakes.[1]

Porgera Gold Mine
Looking out across the lower half of the Porgera processing plant, and down into the Porgera valley
Porgera Gold Mine is located in Papua New Guinea
Porgera Gold Mine
Porgera Gold Mine
Location in Papua New Guinea
CountryPapua New Guinea
Coordinates5°27′53″S 143°06′17″E / 5.4646°S 143.1048°E / -5.4646; 143.1048
ProductsGold, Silver
Production572,600 ounces gold,
94,764 ounces silver
Financial year2009
CompanyPorgera Joint Venture (PJV):
95% Barrick Gold,
5% Mineral Resources Enga (MRE)
WebsiteBarrick Gold Corp Website

The Porgera Gold Mine closed in April 2020, following the end of its special mining lease. Extensive negotiations for a new special mining lease were concluded in 2023 and the reopening of the mine was announced in December 2023, with first production expected in the first quarter of 2024.[2]

The new special mining lease was finally issued to New Porgera Limited, an entity 51% owned by PNG stakeholders (including state-owned Kumul Minerals Holdings Limited, local landowners and the Enga provincial government), and 49% by Barrick Niugini Limited (BNL), itself a joint venture between Barrick Gold and Zijin Mining of China.[3]

Porgera Gold Mine is the second largest mine in Papua New Guinea and is regarded as one of the world's top ten producing gold mines. In 2009, it produced 572,595 ounces of gold and 94,764 ounces of silver and had 2,500 employees and 500 contractors. Since it began operating, the mine has produced more than 16 million ounces of gold and almost 3 million ounces of silver, accounting for about 12 percent of Papua New Guinea's total exports. The mine's proven and probable mineral reserves as of 2009 amount to 8.1 million ounces of gold.

Porgera Gold Mine has consistently been criticized for environmental and human rights issues. Its internal investigations have revealed that killings, brutal gang rapes, and beatings have been carried out by mine security personnel.[citation needed]

Ownership history edit

It began production in 1990 and was developed and operated by Placer Dome, which was acquired in 2006 by Barrick Gold, the world's largest gold mining company at that time. Emperor Gold Mine, holding a minority stake of 20%, was sold to Barrick in April 2007. This gave Barrick (Niugini) a 95% ownership of the operation. The remaining 5% is owned by Mineral Resources Enga (MRE), which the Enga Provincial Government owns, the Papua New Guinea National Government, and the Porgera Landowners Association. Barrick Gold Corporation and Zijin Mining Group each own 50% of Barrick (Niugini) Ltd.

In 2020 the Papua New Guinea government decided not to renew Barrick Gold's lease on the mine, prompting Barrick to sue the government within Papua New Guinea and at an international tribunal.[4] The government backed down after negotiating a greater ownership stake in the joint venture.[4]

Production edit

Porgera Gold Mine began operation in 1990. Originally an underground operation, open-pit mining became increasingly important after 1993, temporarily putting an end to underground mining in 1997. Starting in 2002, the mine utilised both open-pit and underground mining methods for ore extraction.[5] The site of the last open pit to be excavated was Mt Waruwari.[6]

When operating, the open pit mine could move up to 160,000 tonnes of rock material and gold-bearing ore daily, and the underground mine over 2,000 tonnes.[7] Ore was processed in a mainly conventional plant, utilising several SAG and Ball mills, four Autoclaves, floatation cells and CIP / CIL. Gravity recovery was also used, with Knelson concentrators used for primary recovery, and an Acacia Reactor treating the concentrate. A large fleet of Cat 777 and Cat 789 trucks were used on the surface, fed by O&K shovels, and smaller excavators and loaders. A collection of underground development and production drilling equipment was used to break ground, which was bogged by Elphinstone RH series LHD's into a fleet of Elphinstone AD45 trucks.[8]

Management and employees edit

Piece of gold of unusual size and quality from Porgera mine,
4.7 x 2.8 x 1.6 cm

The management approach to community relations changed when Barrick Gold took ownership from Placer Dome, which was quickly followed by the termination of the community relations staff that Placer Dome has employed.[4] The new approach to community relations was described as "more viscous" and "more cruel" by journalist Richard Poplak the Canadaland podcast in 2022.[4]

Although the mine is nominally a joint venture, it is managed by Barrick Gold personnel, who are employed on a fly in fly out basis.[9] In July 2007, all departmental managers were white, and non-PNG origin[citation needed]. None of the management team lives in the Porgera region, and all are accommodated in the mine's camp facilities.

The mine has an extensive training and education program, offering diverse traineeships and apprenticeships to locals[citation needed]. This has resulted in many people gaining the necessary skills for employment at the Porgera mine and other mining operations in Papua New Guinea and other countries.

In 2009, out of 2,427 employees at the mine, 93.49% were PNG nationals, 1,606 were Porgerans, 33 other Engans, 630 other PNG nationals, and 158 were expatriates.[10]

Production edit

The mine was originally one of the world's major low-cost gold producers, but operating costs have increased.[1] In 2004 it produced over one million ounces of gold at a cash cost of US$192 per ounce.[5] Its output fell to about 865,000 ounces in 2005, and has reached 572,595 ounces of gold at cash costs of US$515 per ounce in 2009.[11] With its 2,500 employees and 500 contractors it is one of the largest gold mines in Papua New Guinea and Australasia, and is widely regarded as one of the world's top ten producing gold mines.[10]

Looking down into the Porgera open pit
Production of the mine [10]
Year Gold Silver Year Gold Silver
1990 265,890 ounces 224,227 ounces 2000 910,434 ounces 110,276 ounces
1991 1,216,101 ounces 593,312 ounces 2001 760,622 ounces 113,043 ounces
1992 1,485,077 ounces 139,619 ounces 2002 641,811 ounces 126,772 ounces
1993 1,156,670 ounces 129,860 ounces 2003 851,920 ounces 164,691 ounces
1994 1,032,768 ounces 133,890 ounces 2004 1,019,746 ounces 185,336 ounces
1995 848,870 ounces 90,770 ounces 2005 867,925 ounces 157,740 ounces
1996 854,822 ounces 106,535 ounces 2006 523,358 ounces 104,238 ounces
1997 712,693 ounces 100,479 ounces 2007 513,177 ounces 79,561 ounces
1998 726,806 ounces 91,614 ounces 2008 632,603 ounces 90,610 ounces
1999 754,754 ounces 100,694 ounces 2009 572,595 ounces 94,764 ounces
Total 1990–2009 16,348,642 ounces 2,938,031 ounces

Impact edit

The mine has had a large impact on its immediate local area. While modern health care and education services have been brought to the valley by the mine, and some members of the community have profited from the mine's presence;[12] alcoholism, lawlessness and illegal mining have all increased.[13]

In 2022, Canadaland featured journalist Richard Poplak who criticized the mine for providing buildings but not maintenance or staff, analyzing that the modest investment in the local community would not last; Poplak described the community investment as "ghost whok".[4] The town of Pogera was described as "hell" and a "dump ground".[4] Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada spoke about how mountains of dumped tailings blocked passage between communities and polluted rivers.[4]

Controversies edit

Civil unrest April – May 2007 edit

On 23 April 2007, local landowner groups protesting over proposed relocation settlements were successful in peacefully halting mining and processing operations at the mine. The suspension lasted for ten days, during which various local landowner clans, PNG government representatives, and PJV mine management eventually agreed on how best to move on.[14][15]

Human rights issues edit

The mine employs its security force, numbering between 400 and 500 persons. Some sections of the security forces are licensed to utilize lethal force. Police and security guards have killed eight people (the company's figures) to 14 people (according to a community association) over the past ten years and injured many more.[16][17] In 2009 rising insecurity around the mine led the government of Papua New Guinea to deploy several squads of mobile policemen to Porgera. According to Amnesty International, the deployment resulted in the eviction of nearby villagers and the burning of their houses.[18]

Human Rights Watch investigated and documented reports of abuse, including brutal gang rapes and beatings, carried out by security personnel at the mine.[13] After having denied previous claims of crimes committed at the mine, Barrick Gold launched an internal investigation which confirmed the findings.[13]

In 2022 Canadaland reported hundreds of rapes undertaken by employed security contractors, and starting in 2003 or 2004 a policy of using sexual violence as a means to deter people from salvaging for gold on around the mine.[4] Canadaland quoted Akali Tange's 2005 report The Shooting Fields of Porgera Joint Venture which documents allegations of murder of local residents by mine security contractors.[4][19]

After acknowledging the history of sexual violence perpetrated by guards at the mine in 2010, Barrick Gold set up a compensation scheme and paid 119 survivors of sexual violence approximately CAD$8,000 per person on the condition that they agreed not to sue Barrick Gold.[4]

NASA Landsat image of Porgera mine

Environmental issues edit

The mine has, for many years, been severely contaminating the Porgera River, adjacent rivers, and the Gulf of Papua.[4] The mine practises riverine tailings disposal, by which processed ore is dumped directly into the local river. This increases sediment loading by approximately 8 million tonnes per year. Additionally, the mine has two 'Erodible Dumps' – areas where soft waste rock are dumped, and the high amount of local rainfall gradually washes into the local rivers. The increase in sediment loading is hard to quantify but is generally thought to be in the range of 4 to 6 million tonnes per year. The river systems eventually deliver hundreds of millions of tonnes of sediment into the Gulf of Papua.

The main concern with riverine tailings disposal as practiced by the PJV is not the quantities of sediment, but the toxicity of the tailings, which contains significant quantities of cyanide, mercury and other heavy elements. The mercury is 'fixed' in a compound state by which it is thought will not ultimately enter the food chain, but no conclusive research has been performed. However, the mine has been certified as fully compliant with the International Cyanide Management Code.[20]

The mine also has three vast dumps of waste rock—stone with quantities of gold ore too low to be processed economically.

In January 2009, Norway's finance ministry announced that the Government Pension Fund of Norway excluded Barrick Gold from its investments due to the “severe environmental damage” caused by the Porgera Gold Mine,[21] stating that “the company’s riverine disposal practice is in breach of international norms [and] the company’s assertions that its operations do not cause long-term and irreversible environmental damage carry little credibility [and that there is] reason to believe that the company’s unacceptable practice will continue in the future.”[22]

Local politics edit

The local body, which was established to represent the landowners around the mine, the Porgera Landowners Association (PLOA), is funded by a percentage of royalties from the mine, receiving $1.4 million in 2009. However, the PLOA refuses to publish its accounts, and many landowners accuse the leadership of the PLOA of lining their own pockets at the expense of ordinary landowners. As a result, the mine negotiates with individual landowners direct rather than through the PLOA as intended.[23]

Accidents edit

  • In August 1994, eleven workers were killed when a blast destroyed the Dyno Wesfarmers explosives factory at the Porgera Gold Mine. The explosion left a crater 40 meters wide and 15 meters deep, damaging property up to 2 kilometers away. The cause of the accident was never determined.[24]
  • On 3 March 2012, five people were killed and at least one person was injured in a routine blast at the mine. Police said the victims had entered the mine illegally to search for gold. The three survivors were arrested and charged with trespassing.[25]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b "Mining for the Future. Appendix I: Porgera Riverine Disposal Case Study" (PDF). Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). April 2002. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-10-01. Retrieved 19 April 2011.
  2. ^ "Porgera community eager to sign mine deal". Archived from the original on 2022-08-17. Retrieved 2023-02-01.
  3. ^ "New Porgera Chairman announces reopening date for gold mine". Business Advantage PNG. 2023-12-12. Retrieved 2024-02-05.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "MINING #7 - Barrick and the Cruelty of Gold". CANADALAND. Archived from the original on 2022-03-18. Retrieved 2022-02-26.
  5. ^ a b "Porgera Gold Mine, Papua New Guinea". 2006. Archived from the original on 2011-10-17. Retrieved 2011-04-19.
  6. ^ Alexander Wanek (1996). The state and its enemies in Papua New Guinea. Curzon Press. p. 145. ISBN 0-7007-0304-7. Archived from the original on 2023-04-01. Retrieved 2020-10-03.
  7. ^ "The Mine, its People and the Future" (PDF). Porgera Joint Venture (PJV). March 2009. Retrieved 26 April 2011.[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ "Mining & Processing". Porgera Environmental Advisory Komiti's (PEAK). Retrieved 26 April 2011.[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ Rennie, David W.; Collins, Stuart E.; Altman, Kathleen Ann (March 16, 2012). BARRICK GOLD CORPORATION - TECHNICAL REPORT ON THE PORGERA JOINT VENTURE, ENGA PROVINCE, PAPUA NEW GUINEA (PDF) (Report). ROSCOE POSTLE ASSOCIATES INC. Retrieved April 30, 2023.
  10. ^ a b c "Information Booklet" (PDF). Porgera Joint Venture (PJV). 2009. Retrieved 26 April 2011.[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ "Porgera Mine". InfoMine Inc. Archived from the original on 12 September 2011. Retrieved 26 April 2011.
  12. ^ PNG Industry News Wild times at Porgera Archived 2012-03-22 at the Wayback MachinePNG Industry News, Retrieved 15-12-11
  13. ^ a b c "Gold's Costly Dividend. Human Rights Impacts of Papua New Guinea's Porgera Gold Mine". Human Rights Watch. February 2011. Archived from the original on 12 April 2011. Retrieved 19 April 2011.
  14. ^ "Villagers block off Porgera gold mine" The National 24 April 2007
  15. ^ "Porgera resumes operations" Post-Courier 3 May 2007
  16. ^ Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, Sunday, June 04, 2006 – Canadian mine in New Guinea 'a shooting field' – Papuan villagers killed scavenging for gold: the company says they were often violent Archived May 30, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ "MiningWatch Canada, Newsletter 21: Saturday April 8, 2006 – Placer Dome Admits to Killings at Porgera Mine in Papua New Guinea". Archived from the original on October 3, 2006. Retrieved May 10, 2007.
  18. ^ "Amnesty International, "Undermining Rights: Forced Evictions and Police Brutality Around the Porgera Gold Mine, Papua New Guinea," February 2010". Archived from the original on 2014-03-11. Retrieved 2016-12-04.
  19. ^ Akali Tange Association Ing (2005). "The Shooting Fields of Porgera Joint Venture" (PDF). MiningWatch Canada. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2022-01-20. Retrieved 2022-02-26.
  20. ^ "Cyanide Management: Porgera, Plutonic gold mines certified". Canadian Mining Journal. 15 November 2009. Archived from the original on 21 July 2012.
  21. ^ "To the Ministry of Finance. Recommendation of 14 August 2008" (PDF). Government Pension Fund – Global. 14 August 2008. Archived (PDF) from the original on 15 February 2012. Retrieved 19 April 2011.
  22. ^ "Press release: Mining company excluded from the Government Pension Fund – Global due to contribution to serious environmental damage". Ministry of Finance of Norway. 30 January 2009. Archived from the original on 5 May 2011. Retrieved 19 April 2011.
  23. ^ Human Rights Watch (2010). "Gold's Costly Dividend" (PDF). Human Rights Watch. pp. 35–37. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2017-04-19. Retrieved 2016-12-04.
  24. ^ Inquiry Report Department of Mining and Petroleum, Government of Papua New Guinea 1994
  25. ^ "Blast kills five trespassers at PNG gold mine". BNO News. 6 March 2012. Archived from the original on 15 July 2012. Retrieved 6 March 2012.

External links edit