Thursday, May 8, 2008

Indigenous leaders attend Barrick Gold shareholder meeting

Julie Fishel, Western Shoshone Defence Project (USA) 775 397 1371 - wsdp@igc.orgNatalie Lowrey, Friends of the Earth (Australia) 416 809 2755 - natalie.lowrey@foe.org.au

International Indigenous Leaders Attend Barrick Gold's Shareholder's Meeting

TORONTO - Indigenous leaders from Papua New Guinea, Australia, and the United States traveled to Canada this week to attend the shareholders’ meeting of Barrick Gold. Here, they will make statements against Barrick's unregulated operations on their lands.
Complaints include the killing, rape and arbitrary detention of local village people in Papua New Guinea by Barrick security, the destruction of spiritual sites in Australia and the United States, and the pollution of water resources at all of Barrick's mines. The tour is heading to Ottawa after the shareholders' meeting where they have arranged meetings with members of parliament.
At Lake Cowal, Australia, Barrick is importing 6090 tonnes of sodium cyanide into the flood plain renowned for severe flooding. “Barrick Gold has absolutely no respect for our cultural heritage and the very essence of our cultural being is at stake,” stated Neville “Chappy” Williams, Wiradjuri elder and spokesperson for Mooka and Kalara United Families, the traditional owners of the Lake Cowal area. In addition to creating an open-pit mine in the “Sacred Heartland of the Wiradjuri Nation,” Barrick has confiscated thousands of Wiradjuri cultural objects from the mine site and refuses to return them to the traditional owners.
According to Jethro Tulin, Executive Officer of the Akali Tange Association, a human rights organization in Papua New Guinea, “Barrick’s Porgera Mine is a textbook case of what can go wrong when large-scale mining confronts indigenous peoples, ignoring the impacts of its projects and resorting to goon squads when people rebel against it. This outrages the conscience of local Indigenous communities, especially when the mine is right next to our homes; my people are exposed to dangerous chemicals like cyanide and mercury; some of our people drown in the tailings and waste during floods; and fishing stocks, flora and fauna are depleted down the river systems, leading to indigenous food sources being threatened.”
"The international community has spoken quite clearly on these matters. The United States has been told on two separate occasions to cease and desist the destructive activities on Shoshone lands and Canada has been told to rein in its corporate giants like Barrick,” stated Larson Bill, Western Shoshone Community Planner, referencing the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD) in their review of Canada last year.
According to a 2005 Parliamentary Standing Committee report, “Canada does not yet have laws to ensure that the activities of Canadian mining companies in developing countries conform to human rights standards, including the rights of workers and of indigenous people.” As of 2008, these regulatory issues have yet to be resolved.
Larson R. Bill, Community Planner, Western Shoshone Defense Project, USA
Neville Williams, Mooka/Kalara United Families within the Wiradjuri Nation, Lake Cowal, Australia
Jethro Tulin, Executive Officer, Akali Tange Association, Papua New Guinea
Mark Ekepa, Chairman, Porgera Landowners Association,
Anga Atalu, Secretary, Porgera Landowners Association, Papua New Guinea

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