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In late June 2010, Human Rights Watch, an international NGO, provided specific, detailed information to Barrick concerning alleged sexual assaults against local women by Porgera mine security personnel. Barrick took action in response to these allegations of serious crimes and, in cooperation with the PNG police, conducted a comprehensive investigation which has resulted in a number of arrests and employee terminations. Employees found to have breached Barrick's policies and those who had knowledge of but did not report assaults against women, were terminated. Additional actions are currently underway and include:
Barrick acquired the Porgera mine as a result of the acquisition of Placer Dome Inc. in 2006. The mine discharges tailings to the Strickland River system under a permit from the PNG government. Upon acquiring its 95 percent interest in the mine, Barrick conducted a comprehensive, two-year study to review and evaluate alternatives to improve and/or reduce the discharge of tailings to the river system. The study identified significant risk factors in ensuring a stable foundation for a large tailings storage facility, due to the instability that can accompany the high rainfall, deep soil cover and very steep terrain common in the PNG highlands. This risk would exist during construction and operation of a tailings impoundment and following mine closure as well. In addition, social factors such as law and order challenges and the presence of illegal miners were identified as significant risk factors. Therefore, riverine tailings disposal will continue at this time with the following improvements and modifications to improve tailings quality and reduce tailings discharge:
The Porgera Environmental Advisory Komiti (PEAK) is an independent stakeholder group that monitors and advises on the social and environmental performance of the mine and comments on its reports and activities. The Strickland River 2009 Report Card was released by the PEAK committee in 2010. The Report Card focuses on the health of the Porgera/Strickland river system.
The Cortez Hills project in Nevada was the subject of a legal action in the courts throughout 2009 and 2010 in response to US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approval of the project in November 2008. The plaintiffs, including the Western Shoshone Defence Project and Great Basin Resource Watch, alleged that the BLM failed to fully consider all impacts of the Cortez Hills project prior to announcing the approval. In December 2009, the Ninth District Court of Appeals ordered an additional environmental analysis of the project by way of a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS), and in April 2010 the District Court allowed the project to continue under a modified mine plan, pending completion of the SEIS.
The federal BLM has now issued a Record of Decision approving the SEIS for the Cortez Hills mine, effective March 15, 2011. This Record of Decision removes the modifications to the mine plan and enables the operation to immediately revert to its original scope.
Barrick continues to actively engage with Western Shoshone tribal leaders and community members in Nevada. In recent years, this engagement has focused on discussion of Western Shoshone cultural and historical traditions.
In late 2008, Barrick signed an historic Collaborative Agreement with leaders of several Western Shoshone communities to improve education, business and employment opportunities for the Western Shoshone and to enhance awareness of Native culture. The Collaborative Agreement also establishes a Western Shoshone Educational Legacy Fund tied directly to revenues from the Cortez Hills mine. The Fund is already providing financial support for Western Shoshone seeking higher education opportunities.
In May 2009, effluent from the North Mara mine spilled into the Tigithe River after vandals stole PVC plastic lining from a waste water containment pond, allowing acidic waste water to seep from the pond. Monitoring of the river by Barrick detected pH levels of 4.8 in the river, too acidic for most fish to survive or for drinking. Barrick redirected the water and replaced approximately 40,000 square meters of pond liners over the next few months. Water quality in the area downstream of the spillage continues to improve. It is currently approaching normal. At the time of the spill, it was alleged that people and livestock had been exposed to the contaminated water and had fallen ill as a result. However, an investigation into these claims was inconclusive, as no direct evidence of harm was found.
The Tanzanian government suspended the water discharge permit for the North Mara mine as a result of the spill. In June 2010, Tanzania's Minister of Water and Irrigation declared that, following a range of mitigation measures adopted by the mine, the river is now free of pollution. Barrick is currently applying to have the permit suspension removed. We anticipate that will happen in 2011.
Water availability is a critical concern for Barrick and for our stakeholders