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Norwegian government divests $196 million from Barrick

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Oct. 31, 2010) – Barrick Gold Corp, operator of the world class Porgera Gold mine and other Canadian mining companies have been implicated for their involvement in alleged "sustained and flagrant violation of environmental protection" causing investors to withdraw their shares.

The Montreal based Canadian online news The Gazette reported last Friday "heavy metal pollution, especially mercury buildup from Barrick's Porgera mine in Papua New Guinea, was an egregious case in point".

The revelation came about last week when the Norwegian government decided to sell off its shares in Barrick, saying: "Under Norwegian rules, the public pension fund is not allowed to invest in companies that in the judgment of Norwegian council on ethics entail an unacceptable risk of the fund contributing to environmental damages."

Two years ago, according to the online news, the Norwegian minister for finance Kristin Halvorsen ordered Norway's government pension fund to divest itself a CA$200 million [US$196.1 million] plus investment in Barrick.

However, a senior staff of Barrick in Porgera mine yesterday denied the report, saying: "Studies undertaken by the Commonwealth scientific and industrial research organization found no evidence of anomalously high inputs of dissolved inorganic mercury from any of the inflows into the Lake Murray (including Strickland River), but rather an efficient process of the methylation and biomagnifications of mercury naturally occurring low levels in water and sediments up through the food web which occurs naturally."

The Gazette further reported that yet this week, there was the Canadian mining industry working overtime to try to contain the damages from a 2009 study it had commissioned and tried to keep buried."

The study which the industry said was for internal consumption only, found that Canadian mining companies are implicated in four times as many environmental and human rights violation as mining companies from other countries.

Canadian companies accounted for nearly two-thirds of the 171 "high-profile" environmental and human-rights violations between 1999 and 2009, the study found.

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