Blog Entry

Barrick Gold AGM 2020 – CEO Mark Bristow Responds to Questions about North Mara Mine in Tanzania

Catherine Coumans

Ph.D. Research Coordinator and Asia-Pacific Program Coordinator

On May 5, 2020, Barrick Gold held its annual general meeting (AGM) online. I attended via a proxy and raised questions regarding human rights abuses at the company's North Mara mine in Tanzania.

Barrick is again facing legal action in the UK over accusations of excess use of force by public (police) and private mine security, leading to severe injury and death of local Kuria villagers. This legal action comes just five years after a suit on behalf of similar victims was settled out of court. Since 2014, MiningWatch has documented well over a hundred cases of victims of human rights abuses by the mine’s security and continues to document cases of beatings and deaths related to excess use of force by mine security.

I pointed out that Barrick’s use of armed police, paid and supplied by the mine plays a large role in the many deaths and injuries of villagers at the mine. I asked CEO Bristow when Barrick will stop using armed police as part of the security apparatus at this mine. I also raised concern about the mine’s inequitable grievance mechanism for victims of human rights abuses. I asked that it be made independent of the mine’s personnel. Bristow focused his responses on the new legal action facing Barrick and on the use of armed police as mine security.

Bristow referred to the claims currently before the courts in the UK, as “historical accusations” but the statute of limitations in Tanzania is three years and so, unless a claimant can get an exemption or is a minor, the harm associated with these claims has occurred within the three years prior to the filing of the current case in 2020. In other words, after the mine settled similar claims of harm caused by excess use of force in 2015, violence by security at the mine against indigenous Kuria neighbours has continued, necessitating the current law suit.

Bristow referred to Barrick’s membership in the Voluntary Principles (VPs) on Security and Human Rights as though that fact had any bearing on the ongoing violence at the North Mara mine. The VPs are notoriously weak: the criteria are vague and the reports by auditors paid by the mine are not made public. It is clear that this membership is an ineffective fig leaf given the continued excess use of force. Bristow addressed the role of the armed police as simply protecting the community and called the mine part of the community, but this characterization ignores the fact that the mine pays and supplies the police to protect the mine and that it is the local villagers that are ending up dead and maimed.

Here's my actual intervention:

My name is Catherine Coumans. I am a proxy holder for Jennifer Mills.

Last year at this AGM I raised the human rights abuses that continue to be perpetrated on local Kuria people through excess use of force by private and public security forces at the North Mara mine in Tanzania. These assaults, sometimes leading to death, continue. Now, just 5 years after you settled legal claims on behalf of victims out of court, you are again facing legal action in the courts in the UK on behalf of new victims of the same abuses.

My questions are - As most of the shootings and killings are perpetrated by the police you pay to guard the mine, when will you stop using armed police as part of your security apparatus at this mine? And, when will you reform your flawed grievance mechanism so that it operates completely independently from mine personnel?

The questions, along with Bristow's response, are recorded in this video.