Mining executives often talk about the importance of having a ‘social licence’ to operate, yet it’s rare to hear them acknowledge when they don’t have one.
Barrick Gold Corp.’s chief executive Mark Bristow says it happened to his company in Papua New Guinea, where its Porgera mine had been pumping out gold for nearly three decades, even as a spate of accusations about human rights and environmental abuses in the surrounding communities have festered.
Ultimately, last April, Barrick was forced to put the mine on care and maintenance, essentially ceasing operations, when the government declined to renew its permit. Since then, Bristow has made countless trips to the island nation to meet with Prime Minister James Marape, including four since December.
Earlier this month, the company announced a new binding deal: it will increase Papua New Guinea’s stake in the entity that owns the mine from five per cent to 51 per cent and make Barrick a minority owner in the mine it operates there.
Bristow, who took the helm of Barrick in 2019, acknowledged in an interview with the Financial Post the company had neglected its relationship with the community — although he never commented on the accusations of abuses — and stressed that he wants to build a mining company “that’s acceptable to future generations.”