Broken Bones and Broken Promises: Barrick Gold Fails to Address Ongoing Violence at Tanzania Mine

Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID-UK) – MiningWatch Canada

(Tuesday November 17, 2015. Oxford/Ottawa). A second human rights field assessment at Barrick Gold’s Tanzania subsidiary, Acacia Mining[1] (formerly African Barrick Gold), calls into question commitments made by the company to stop excessive use of force by mine security and police guarding the mine.

Interviews conducted by MiningWatch Canada and the British NGO, Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID), also confirmed allegations made by a Tanzanian Human Rights NGO[2] at the United Nations in December 2014 that the grievance mechanism at the North Mara Gold Mine Ltd. (North Mara) was used strategically to divert victims from taking legal action. These victims are now facing broken promises by the company and inadequate remedy to deal with the serious long-term harm they have endured.

Between late October and early November 2015, MiningWatch and RAID revisited the North Mara mine and conducted more than 50 interviews with victims of excessive use of violence by mine security and police guarding the mine, and their families. Injuries are related to gunfire, severe beatings with batons and other weapons, rape, and gang rape. “We were shocked to find a high number of victims whose alleged assaults had occurred in the months and weeks before our arrival, and even while we were at the mine,” says Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada. “Every village we visited around the mine has numerous victims of excessive use of force and the violence shows no signs of abating.”

MiningWatch and RAID also conducted interviews with victims of violence who had been promised remedy by the North Mara mine. These victims all had to sign documents to relinquish their right to take legal action against Barrick Gold and its subsidiaries in return for remedy through the mine. Some of these victims were persuaded to drop legal claims they had made through a law suit filed on their behalf by Leigh Day in London, UK. “We have found that the process by which victims gave up their legal rights was highly irregular,” says Tricia Feeney of RAID. “Promises were made verbally that were not reflected in the documents people were asked to sign, or thumbprint, and in some of these cases contractual obligations were never carried out. In other cases victims didn’t even get copies of the contracts they had signed until they organized to demand them more than a year later.”

The Leigh Day lawsuit was settled out of court in February of this year. Victims interviewed by MiningWatch and RAID who received remedy from North Mara now find themselves cut loose from the remedy program, but still facing life-altering injuries and medical needs, such as care for prostheses that need regular adjustments, while newly injured men and women are either unaware of the remedy program or are finding it is not responsive to their requests for assistance.

For more information contact:

  • Catherine Coumans, MiningWatch Canada: 613-569-3439; e-mail [email protected]
  • Patricia Feeney, Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID) + 44 1865 436245; mobile + 44 7796 178 447; e-mail [email protected]

For more information see:

[1] UK registered and London-listed Acacia Mining indirectly owns the North Mara gold mine in Tanzania via its wholly owned subsidiary, North Mara Gold Mine Ltd. In March 2010 African Barrick Gold (ABG) was spun off from Barrick and changed its name to Acacia Mining. Barrick retains a majority shareholding in Acacia Mining of 63.9%.

[2] Forum on Business and Human Rights, UN Geneva, 3 Dec 2014 – Panel discussion: Operational-level grievance mechanisms. at 42:50.

Summary of findings from human rights assessments at Barrick Gold’s North Mara Gold Mine

February and October-November 2015
Catherine Coumans and Patricia Feeney

Ongoing high levels of excessive use of force by mine guards and police guarding the mine

•  Shortly after MiningWatch and RAID completed a human rights assessment of the North Mara mine in June-July 2014, Inspector General of Police (IGP) Ernest Mangu and Home Affairs Minister Mathias Chikawe toured the mine for the first time. Mangu assured that “strong disciplinary measures would be taken against any police officers engaging in unethical practices when assigned to guard the mine,” and Chikawe “declared zero tolerance against unethical police officers.” However, data gathered in February 2015 under the direction of MiningWatch and RAID by a research assistant who worked with a local paralegal trained by the Tanzanian Legal and Human Rights Council, as well as by MiningWatch and RAID in October-November 2015, indicates that excessive use of force against both men and women by both police and by mine security remains high. MiningWatch and RAID have documented 33 new cases of alleged excess use of force by mine security or police guarding the mine since July 2014.

Serious allegations against North Mara’s grievance mechanism 

•  Promises made verbally to victims of excess use of force by mine security or police guarding the mine did not end up in the formal contracts signed, or finger printed, by recipients of grievance mechanism remedy packages. For example, as part of their remedy package, victims of rape and gang rape were entered into a time-limited program where they learned how to sew clothes. Women interviewed by MiningWatch and RAID indicated that they were told verbally that they would be receiving the sewing machines they had worked on once the program ended. However, when the program ended abruptly, before the date indicated in the contracts, the women were locked out and told they would not be receiving the sewing machines.

•  Rape and gang rape victims signed or finger printed contracts in which they waived their legal right to take civil action against Barrick Gold and its subsidiaries. However, MiningWatch and RAID were told that the women were not provided copies of the contracts they had signed until they collectively took action to demand to see their contracts in July 2015. Depending on the dates of the contracts this was a year or more after the contracts had gone into force. Shortly after this successful action by the women to get copies of their contracts (during which they were allegedly confronted by police) the sewing program closed down without warning.

•  Victims of excessive use of force by mine security and police (some of whom were clients of the UK law firm, Leigh Day & Co.) have indicated that prior to the settlement of the Leigh Day case in February 2015 they were actively pursued by personnel from the mine’s Human Rights Grievance Team to accept a remedy package offered by the mine (in return for signing legal waivers). However, after settlement of the Leigh Day case in February 2015, victims enrolled in the mine’s remedy program who spoke to MiningWatch and RAID indicated that they found the mine’s grievance mechanism and officers increasingly less responsive to their needs.

•  Victims who signed legal waivers in return for remedy packages offered by the mine often have medical needs that require life-long attention – such as prostheses. MiningWatch and RAID found that some of these victims are finding that the grievance mechanism has stopped providing the ongoing support they need.

•  MiningWatch and RAID interviewed numerous male and female victims of excessive use of force by mine security or police guarding the mine in 2014 and 2015 who either are not aware of the existence of the grievance mechanism, or who had approached the grievance office and were not assisted. Some of these victims are in need of immediate medical support.