Blog Entry

Response from MiningWatch Canada and the Council of Canadians to the National Post article of Dec. 29, 2001 re: Barrick Gold's Bulyanhulu project

Jamie Kneen

National Program Co-Lead

On December 29, 2001, the National Post carried a story written by Brian Hutchinson entitled "Barrick's African Tribulations", about the removal of tens of thousands of artisanal miners by the Tanzanian government and a Canadian-owned Sutton Resources' subsidiary — Kahama Mining Corporation or KMCL — in August 1996.

NGOs have been demanding a full independent international investigation of the events, since without a proper application of the rules of evidence and protection for witnesses, it will be impossible to get to the truth. Recently the Tanzanian police have carried out arrests and searches of witnesses, government critics and researchers to silence those who have been raising the allegations in that country.

Hutchinson's article relied almost entirely on uncorroborated information provided by former Sutton Resources directors and by a Canadian lawyer in the employ of Barrick Gold. The article repeated information provided by these informants to make aspersions about the Miners Committee which represented the artisanal miners, its Chairman Maalim Kadau, and Tundu Lissu, one of the Tanzanian lawyers who investigated the allegations. It misrepresented the extent of investigation carried out by Mr. Lissu and of the NGOs that enabled his research to be made public.

We asked for space to address the misconceptions in Hutchinson's article and were given 400 words in the Letters to the Editor section for a response. The Lawyers Environmental Action Team wrote a lengthy letter addressing every point raised in the Hutchinson article, but that letter was also not carried in the paper.

For the record, following are some of the most serious misconceptions in the article:

"Illegal Miners": Even a police report of August 21, 1996 states that over 200,000 were evicted from Bulyanhulu in the first two weeks of August. Artisanal miners do this difficult and dangerous work because it is the only livelihood available to them. Although some miners are killed in cave-ins, to assert that 5-10% die that way is ludicrous.

The present Bulyanhulu large-scale gold mine only employs 600 Tanzanians.

Before the large-scale mining project, according to KMCL documents, anywhere from 30,000-400,000 Tanzanians were employed as gold miners in the area, as well as small businesses and local entrepreneurs. During the period from 1990-1994, the Bulyanhulu artisanal miners produced the bulk of Tanzania's official gold exports which averaged US$30 million per year.

KMCL itself stated in its Social Impact Study in 1998 that the artisanal miners in Bulyanhulu, "paid taxes and levies which were used for community development purposes, such as the construction of two classrooms for the Kakola Primary School." In general, the small scale mining activities over the 1975-1996 period "raised incomes, increased population and stimulated services, such as transportation and shops. Before the closure of the small scale mines the average income in the study area was the highest in the Shinyanga region."

KMCL goes on to say that "after cessation of artisanal mining in Bulyanhulu in August 1996, the income of the majority of people declined significantly, the populations of Kakola and other villages in the Ward of Bugarama decreased, and services either decreased or disappearedthe mine was a source of income to a majority of people..."

The artisanal miners and their families received nothing for the livelihoods and homes they lost; Sutton received $500 million CAD from Barrick for their "discovery"; the Tanzanian government expects to get $75 million US over the 15 years the mine will operate; Barrick expects to make over $1.3 billion US in profits.

The Kahama Miners' Committee was formed in the early 1990s by the Government of Tanzania. The government recognized the Committee as the legitimate representative of the Bulyanhulu miners and dealt with the miners' issues through the Committee. Leadership of the Committee was elected by the miners themselves in elections supervised by then Kahama District Commissioner. Its Constitution was approved by the government. Maalim Kadau was the duly elected Committee Chairman.

Of course, Barrick, Sutton and KMCL want to discredit the Committee, since it provided the organizational structure and voice to the miners' opposition.

Due diligence by the Council of Canadians and MiningWatch Canada: Contrary to the impression conveyed in the article, the Lawyers Environmental Action Team has substantially investigated and documented the case, and the Council of Canadians and MiningWatch Canada have undertaken a number of steps to satisfy ourselves that the materials are credible. Mr. Lissu has prepared a 110 page carefully attributed report presenting much of his evidence including a search of relevant contemporary public documents. He also has a copy of a lengthy report that was prepared for the United Democratic Party investigation in November 1996 incorporating sworn witness statements from family members. He and other lawyers traveled to Bulyanhulu in April 2001 and again in late August 2001 and met with eye witnesses and family members of the deceased. They took statements from many of these people. A list of the dead has been compiled and published in the Tanzanian papers. We have reviewed this evidence, and have spoken independently to the lawyers who witnessed the statements. LEAT has said it will only release the witness names and their statements to an independent international tribunal, since they fear reprisals against them.

Two videos — one prepared for KMCL (the Lopa video) and the other for the police (the Bombala video) — were leaked to LEAT, who made them public for the first time in September 2001. We paid to have the Bombala video translated by an independent Swalhili speaker and subtitled in English. Both tapes show miners standing beside filled-in pits with the police and stating that other miners have been buried there. Both show dead bodies.

Joan Kuyek traveled to Tanzania in October of 2001 and met with FEMATA (the small scale miners federation), Amnesty International, human rights groups, academics, lawyers and others who were familiar with the situation. We have also responded to Barrick's request to review the materials they have compiled to support the KMCL case, and spent a full day at their offices looking at them. Not unexpectedly, they present the company paper trail and a number of video-taped interviews with witnesses brought in by KMCL.

Only an independent international investigation will establish the truth of these events. We do not understand why this request is not being supported by all concerned.