Barrick Gold PNG Blacklisted as ‘Unethical’ Corporation
I’ve always been a fan of the scandinavian realm, particularly Finland, Sweden, and Norway. I think the fact that I went to school and lived in boarding houses with kids from these countries, who have since become long-life friends, has played a key role in establishing within myself such a fondness.
However, there are other reasons too. Despite their geographic size and small populations, all these states have managed to successfully etch out world-leading economies spanning several key industries. They all enjoy some of the lowest unemployment levels in the world and are the benchmark for environmental policy and ethical business practice – facts which I admire and believe should be seriously exemplified by other countries including PNG.
Norway especially is renowned for its ethical business practice and yesterday the country’s full commitment to ethical business practice was revealed when it was leaked that the country had blacklisted some of the most powerful global corporations, including BAE, Boeing, EADS, Honeywell, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Rio Tinto, Vedanta and Wal-Mart on grounds ranging from environmental damage and labour practices to weapons manufacture.
Included in the list was Barrick Gold of Canada, the biggest global gold mining company. The blacklisting of Barrick Gold followed the completion of an investigation which started in 2005 over severe environmental damage caused by its mining operations at the Porgera Mine in PNG.
According to Norway’s Council on Ethics, Barrick Gold’s disposal of waste from the mine was causing extensive and irreversible damage to the natural environment and the council believed that the miner “is causing severe environmental damages as a direct result of its operations and that this unacceptable practice will continue in the future“.
The blacklisting ensures that those corporations identified as being unethical will be denied the chance of seeking investment from Norway’s US$300-billion Government Pension Fund – the county’s sovereign wealth fund and one of the largest global pension funds. As a result of the blacklisting, in October, Norway quietly got rid off its US$200 million stock investment in Barrick Gold and its US$67 million of Textron (US cluster bomb making company) stock.
Since the establishment of the Council on Ethics in 2004, Norway has banned 29 companies so far, including miners like Vedanta Resources, Freeport McMorRan of the US, South Africa’s DRD Gold, and more recently, Rio Tinto for environmental reasons while Wal-Mart Stores, the world’s largest retailer, was blacklisted for labour rights abuses at its suppliers in Africa, Asia and Central America as well as discrimination against women and employees for not allowing them to form unions in the US.
Consequently, I was quite dismayed to read that Barrick Gold has announced its intention to spend an extra US$7.8 million on exploration this year to find additional gold resources at its Kainantu project with a view to restarting production in the future following its temporary shut-down last week.
If Norway’s $US 300-Billion Government Pension Fund deems that there is enough evidence available to justify the blacklisting of Barrick Gold and if the investigation conducted led to the establishment that Barrick Gold “is causing severe environmental damages as a direct result of its operations and that this unacceptable practice will continue in the future“, why oh why do we still allow Barrick Gold to operate unchallenged in our country?