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What Really Happened at the Barrick Gold Mine in Tanzania?

Jamie Kneen Communications and Outreach Coordinator responsible for: strategic research, social media, and public engagement; our Africa program, environmental assessment, and uranium mining.

An international NGO fact-finding mission is calling on the Canadian government to support its call for a full and independent public inquiry into the alleged 1996 forced evictions and burial of miners at the Canadian-owned Bulyanhulu gold mine in Tanzania.

"It is in the interest of all Canadians and Tanzanians to bring to light the true story behind these allegations involving a Canadian company," said today Kathleen Mahoney, chairperson of the Board of Directors of Rights & Democracy and professor of law at the University of Calgary, who released the report of the fact-finding mission.

The mission, which included representatives from MiningWatch Canada, Friends of the Earth-US, the Dutch NGO Both ENDS and a Canadian journalist, travelled to Dar es Salaam and to the Bulyanhulu mining area in late March to investigate allegations that as many as 52 people were buried alive in the summer of 1996 as a result of efforts to clear an estimated 30,000 to 400,000 artisanal miners from the site. At the time, the mine was owned by Sutton Resources Ltd. of Vancouver, which Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corporation acquired three years later for almost $500 million.

"Although we are not prepared to make any findings of fact with respect to the allegations, we heard a number of eye witnesses who claimed they lost loved ones in the mine shafts when they were allegedly buried alive," Ms. Mahoney said.

The fact-finding mission found that "the intensity and seriousness in the telling of the stories of the alleged evictions, violence and brutality of the police and mining officials, the level of detail, as well as the willingness of the Bulyanhulu residents to take significant risks to their own personal safety to come and speak with us, impressed the members of the mission, as did the willingness of apparently 250 others who waited several hours for us to arrive in Bulyanhulu. The mission members thought that these factors lent weight to the credibility of the allegations."

Ms. Mahoney said that the "extreme" reaction of the Tanzanian authorities, who refused to allow the mission to travel to the Bulyanhulu mine area, the government-sponsored media campaign to discredit the group and the "intimidating police behaviour" of the Mwanza regional police towards the group, were other elements which led the team to believe that a truly impartial inquiry is required.

Copies of the fact-finding's mission report and recommendations, available at www.ichrdd.ca, have been sent to Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham, the President of Tanzania, Benjamin Mkapa, and the President and CEO of Barrick Gold Corporation, Randall Oliphant. The report also calls on the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) and the Canadian Export Development Corporation (EDC), the financial institutions that have guaranteed the current mining operations, to fulfill their public interest mandate by disclosing any results of their due diligence investigations that may shed light on the veracity of these allegations.

"Whether or not a public institution like MIGA or the EDC investigates credible allegations of human rights abuses associated with its projects and how that investigation impacts its decision to get involved in a project, are matters of considerable public importance," said a member of the fact-finding mission, Steve Herz of Friends of the Earth-US. "Their contention that all of this information is confidential cannot be reconciled with even the most minimal requirement of public accountability."

In their report, members of the team expressed concern that the Lawyers' Environmental Action Team (LEAT) who represent the evicted miners and any other local organization should be allowed to continue their investigations without fear of harassment or retaliatory measures.

"It appeared that their (LEAT's) work was being done under considerable duress and even threats of harm from the authorities," the fact-finding team said.

The report is available here.

Also visit:
Rights & Democracy
Friends of the Earth
Barrick Gold

For information:

Rights & Democracy: Patricia Poirier 514-283-6073 or Kathleen Mahoney 403-220-7254
Friends of the Earth-US: Steve Herz 202-783-7400 ext.122
MiningWatch Canada: Paula Butler 416-693-7739
Stephen Kerr 416-736-2100 ext.22492