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Barrick Gold Mine Transforms Pacific Island
Date: Friday, March 09 2007
Topic:


Barrick Gold Mine Transforms Pacific Island

by David Martinez, Special to CorpWatch
February 21st, 2007

The giant yellow trucks lumbered on six-foot high tires to the cliff's edge. The driver, in a cabin high above the ground, raised the 200-ton beds and released a massive slide of rock and mud debris hauled from the Porgera gold mine. Big muddy bulldozers, the size of a small house, emerged from the evening cloud cover to push more dirt into the valley below.

And so it goes all day every day in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. After 14 years, the mine waste has slowly torn the hills from under the local inhabitants and turned the small valley below, an extension of the Porgera Valley, into a choked river of dirt creeping toward the Coral Sea a thousand miles away.

The destruction is fueled by gold. Mining for gold is one of the world's most grotesque industries, consuming vast resources and producing mountains of waste to produce a small amount of soft, pliable metal with few practical uses. To make one gold wedding band, at least 20 tons of earth must be excavated.

The Last Great Place

Papua New Guinea, one of the world's largest island, has fortunes in gold under its lush green mountains. Called the "Last Great Place," it is home to hundreds of unique species of animals and plants from tree kangaroos to orchids of unearthly beauty, as well as to upward of 820 languages. It is the closest thing you may ever see to paradise: forested mountains surrounded by shining South Pacific seas, where clean water springs from rich volcanic soil. And that makes the poverty of its inhabitants and the destruction of its ecology all the more heartbreaking.

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