The National, Wednesday 29th August, 2012
By JEFFREY ELAPA and ELIAS LARI
EMPLOYEES of Barrick, the developer of the giant Porgera gold mine in Enga, went on a rampage and stopped working after the
killing of two people near the mine.
The killings, unrelated to mine operations, ignited a long-running dispute over accommodation of local employees on site.
The disturbance is likely to affect mine operations, after another major mine – Lihir, operated by Newcrest – was forced to shut down by landowners over outstanding grievances.
Porgera police station commander Snr Sgt Itapu Poko confirmed the killing of two people and wounding of another person believed to be the driver of a public motor vehicle.
Poko said an employee of the mine from Apalaka was killed by traditional enemies while waiting for the pick-up bus (company hire bus) to go to work at 4am yesterday.
He said after the killing, the murderers tried to commandeer the bus and when the driver refused, they shot him.
Relatives of the employees demanded the company to medevac the driver but they refused to assist him as he was only a hired bus driver and not a fulltime employee.
He said disgruntled relatives of the deceased and other local employees mobilised and went on rampage, destroying the national employee camp on site and demanding the company accommodate them on site to avoid such killings as their lives were at risk.
Local member of parliament and chief landowner Nixon Mangape, when contacted, also confirmed the incident and said that the employees had decided to go on strike.
He said the employees were demanding the company to accommodate them at the mine to avoid such killings as more than four employees had been killed so far near the mine.
Enga provincial police commander Supt Martin Lakari confirmed the deaths, saying there was a “war” between workers and security guards inside the mine area.
Lakari said more police units had been deployed at the mine site.
The fight started after an underground miner was killed by locals on Sunday.
The employees were frustrated as they had presented a petition to the developer, PJV and Barrick gold, calling for proper and safe accommodation for staff.
That petition came about after a mine worker was killed by locals at Piam recently.
Shortly after the death last Sunday, frustrated workers attacked and damaged property at the project site.
Akaili Tange Association (ATA) spokesman Karath Mal confirmed mine operations stopped at 6am on Sunday.
Mal said many local staff had lost their lives while waiting at the pick-up and drop-off points.