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The Porgera Joint Venture (PJV) gold mine in the highlands of Papua New Guinea (PNG) has been one of the world’s highest producing gold mines over the course of its quarter-century history, and has accounted for a considerable percentage of PNG’s economic income. Yet many Porgeran residents live in deplorable conditions and feel trapped by the mine. Where they once farmed vegetables and collected fresh water from natural streams, they now see ever-expanding waste dumps. For years, security guards at the mine physically abused many residents, including sexually assaulting and gang-raping Porgeran women. 3 Residents feel the earth shake with recurring explosions from the mine operations, and worry about landslides threatening their homes and gardens. They see the rivers change color with the addition of mine waste and chemicals, smell the strong odor of industrial chemicals permeating their environment, and worry about the impact of these chemicals on their environment and health. Porgerans watch the white vapor from the mill join the clouds and have concerns about its impact on the rain that they collect to drink and water their gardens. They also hear the noise and feel the dust from trucks moving massive quantities of rock and waste at all hours of the day. The expectations of socio-economic development originally associated with the establishment of the mine have not been met for much of the Porgeran population, fostering feelings of injustice and disillusionment. With limited jobs available for Porgerans from the mine itself, and few other employment opportunities present, many residents struggle to earn enough money to survive. Many try to make a living by searching in the mine’s waste for scraps of gold left over from mine processes, or entering the open pit and risking serious injury.

This report seeks to support Porgeran communities in their efforts to secure their human rights, and the PNG government in its commitment to advancing the human right to water and its efforts to sustainably improve the quality of life in PNG through improved access to water. This report also seeks to support the mining companies to fulfil their responsibilities to respect the right to water and in meeting their goals as sustainable development partners in PNG.

This report is the product of an interdisciplinary and mixed-methods investigation of the right to water and interrelated rights in the residential areas adjacent to the PJV gold mine. The study was carried out in response to serious concerns expressed by residents over many years about the adequacy and safety of water in their area, and about the mine’s impacts on their environment.