Mining operations, regardless of whether they are formal or informal, tend to be male-dominated workplaces. As large numbers of men leave their homes and move to new areas, they impact host communities.
In many places, tensions are created that lead to violence, increased alcoholism, and sexual violence, above all towards women and girls. It is also common for women and girls to fall into in prostitution, and HIV/Aids tends to be over-represented in areas close to mining activity. Security personnel who are employed at mines and oil installations are often responsible for brutal sexual abuse of women and girls. The true number of victims of sexual violence is huge.
Sexual abuse is common at mineral extraction sites in Congo Kinshasa. Photo: Roland Brockman/MISEREOR
Security guards employed at the Porgera gold mine in Papua New Guinea have, for many years, been accused of systematic rape of hundreds of women and girls who live near the mine; gang rape is common. Attacks often follow a similar pattern, where groups of five or more security guards on patrol meet one or more women in the mining area, and subject them to threats and violence, and then rape.
For many years, mining company Barrick Gold has been accused of not doing enough to stop the rapes, and criticised for the amount of compensation the company offered a group of rape victims, (the offer was made after several years’ pressure from human rights activists all over the world). In 2017, Barrick Gold asked an independent consultant to investigate how people affected by abuse and sexual violence can be redressed. The consultant found 940 cases of abuse, in addition to many cases that were not reported. The report contains a plan of action that the mining company should implement for victims and to prevent future human rights abuses.