Sutton Resources, Barrick Gold and Bulyanhulu: Statement from MiningWatch Canada

Jamie Kneen

National Program Co-Lead

On September 27, 2001, MiningWatch Canada, the NGO Working Group on the Export Development Corporation and the Council of Canadians held a press conference to publicly release a video about the removal of small scale miners in Bulyanhulu in August 1996. At that time we called for an independent international inquiry into the nature of the removals.

To the press conference, we invited Tundu Lissu, a human rights lawyer with the Lawyer's Environmental Action Team in Tanzania. Lissu had spent considerable time in the past year investigating rumours that in August 1996 anywhere from 30,000 to 400,000 small scale miners and their families had been forcibly evicted to make room for a large scale mining operation owned by Canadians at Bulyanhulu in the northern part of Tanzania.

He alleges that the evictions were done precipitously, in defiance of a High Court injunction and with a great deal of violence, and that a number of people died. The names and the pit numbers of 56 persons who LEAT says died during the evictions were published in the Tanzanian papers on the same day as our press conference.

The Canadian company that claimed the mining concessions in the area at the time was Kahama Mining Corporation Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sutton Resources. In March 1999, Barrick Gold Corporation acquired Sutton - including KMCL - for $500 million.

KMCL, Sutton and Barrick deny that any of this happened and say that the miners were there illegally, that the evictions were "closely supervised and closely scrutinized, and that representatives of the police, government and the companies observed the whole process". They say that the evacuation process was "legal, peaceful and without incident".

They do not dispute that only a few miners received any compensation at all.

The allegations made by LEAT are backed up by Danielle Knight, an independent journalist who traveled to the area and interviewed witnesses in April 2001, and by Modestus Maembe, the Secretary to FEMATA, the small scale miners federation in Tanzania, who brought family witnesses from Bulyanhulu to the Amnesty International offices in Dar Es Salaam to testify. Tanzanian papers were full of the story in 1996, and it was raised in their legislature. Lissu has also compiled a considerable trail of documents, sworn statements, photographs and videos which lend credibility to his interpretation of the events.

In July, Barrick Gold sent Kent Thomson (a Canadian lawyer) to Bulyanhulu, to investigate on their behalf. Thomson says he interviewed 10 people there and another 15 in Dar Es Salaam, Toronto and Vancouver. He also compiled a trail of contemporaneous documents that fill volumes. Barrick and former Sutton directors accuse MiningWatch Canada and LEAT of making "false and scandalous claims", and say that we are doing it to generate funding for ourselves.

In our view, the contrast between these two versions of the events is stark and cries out for an independent international inquiry into the events of August 1996. Justice for the small scale miners of Bulyanhulu requires that this inquiry take place. We cannot understand why Barrick and Sutton are so opposed to an objective evaluation of the evidence amassed by both sides.