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On Australia’s doorstep: gold, rape, and injustice

Substantial involvement of health professionals is needed to stop further entrenchment of harm and suffering

Many Australians, like others in Western countries that are home to the world’s largest mining companies, benefit economically from extractive industries. We want mine operations to be socially and environmentally responsible, and we expect our governments to fairly regulate corporate activity to prevent or mitigate harm.

But some communities in Papua New Guinea (PNG) bear the brunt of poorly regulated extractives projects, carried out with insufficient attention to their social impacts. When things go wrong, harms can be compounded by justice and health care systems ill equipped to respond effectively. Australian health professionals have expertise in many of the problems facing those living near PNG mines, and could have much to offer, working in partnership with local communities.

In March this year, women living near a remote PNG goldmine described to me how they had been brutally gang-raped by personnel associated with the mine. The Porgera mine — majority-owned and wholly operated by a subsidiary of Barrick Gold, a Canadian company with significant operations in Australia — generates great wealth. However, many women…