What do the women of Western province and the Fly River have in common?
They're overburdened. And following BHP's compact with the Government of PNG that absolved them of responsibility for the long term impacts of Ok Tedi have meant that gross medical negligence has just compoinded these burdens. Women are the canaries in the mines of community health and well-being. When they start bleeding mysteriously or cramping and coughing and dying without a diagnosis, then we search for people to blame. Not because we are litigious by nature, but because taking credit for this crisis is the only way money will come heal it. Blaming the government for doing what they haven't done since 1984 is not going to solve the problem. If we know anything in PNG, it is this. But the people who continue to benefit directly from the proceeds of this mine, and who have wrapped Harry Potter's Cloak of Invisibility around themselves so effectively as to smudge paper trails and fuel PR teams with news bytes about 'investment' in behalf of the Western Province people, they need to come out from cover now and start to look practically at how they can help. Because no one else in this fiasco has the means to supply proper health care to the Fly River communities, especially the gynecological-oncological care so desperately needed right now.
The canaryinstitute.org and MiningWatch Canada have a publication worth citing here. It's called Overburdened: Understanding the Impacts of Mineral Extraction on Women's Health in Mining Communitie
Health problems arise for women both from the environmental and the social impacts of
mining. The environmental impact on women’s health depends on a range of factors that affect
the duration and kind of exposure to contaminants, such as the kinds of minerals mined, the
type of mining (open pit to underground), the technology used, the size of operations, and the
methods of waste disposal and water treatment used. Lands, water bodies, air, and the environment
are polluted due to the release of toxic wastes, dust generated by blasting and excavation,
and the dumping of mine wastes and overburden in the surrounding lands and rivers.
Women may experience the environmental exposure effects of mining in a variety of ways – as
workers in large-scale underground mines or small-scale gold-panning operations; by being exposed
to contaminated dust, air, water, and soil; or by consuming the mining-contaminated
fish, wildlife, plant food, and drinking water. Social impacts experienced by women include
poverty, sexual exploitation, dislocation, family violence, and workplace harassment....
Many of the health effects of mining on women are linked to the social determinants of health –
especially gender equality and socioeconomic status. Resolving the problems inherent to gender,
mining, and health will require that women’s status be raised in all sectors, including the
social and economic sectors. Without this, as natural resources grow scarcer, women’s health
burden from mineral exploitation will only continue to grow.