(Ottawa) Barrick Gold Corp.’s top brass flew to Tanzania for a meeting with President Magufuli on June 14 to deal with accusations by the Tanzanian government that Barrick’s local subsidiary Acacia (63.9 % owned by Barrick) has failed to pay taxes owed, is underreporting the value of minerals exported out of Tanzania, and is operating without a legal licence.
Just days after Barrick’s Executive Chairman, John Thornton, met with Magufuli, gunshots rang out again at Barrick/Acacia’s North Mara Gold Mine ltd. as hundreds of local villagers invaded the mine site.
“I watched villagers risk their lives by entering the mine site and as I heard the gunshots and human wailing I knew that new victims of violence were being added to an already long list and that one day I will be interviewing their bereaved family members,” says Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada.
Coumans was at the mine site for the fourth consecutive year to interview victims of alleged excess use of force against community members by the mine’s private security and by police paid by the mine to guard its assets. Ongoing violent confrontations at the mine commonly entail use of force by security against villagers who eke out a living by seeking remnants of gold in the mine’s waste dumps. However, large scale mine invasions have erupted periodically throughout the mine’s history.
“The level of frustration and anger I heard in my interviews this year was notable,” says Coumans. “People are fed up with their extreme poverty and the personal losses so many families suffer as a result of clashes with mine security. They are also fed up with the lack of responsiveness of the company to their plight.”
Villagers have lost a lot of land to the mine’s two large open pits and associated infrastructure, contributing to loss of food security. As people have turned to an alternative economy based on gold they have become vulnerable to violence by mine security, losing limbs and life.
The violent clashes with mine security are not restricted to the area around the pits, but, as Coumans investigated this year, also occur in places like official mine road crossings. Furthermore, since 2016, there have been at least four reported drownings in the pit water of the now-abandoned and unsecured Gokona pit. The mine’s grievance mechanism is not functioning to address these many concerns.
“Feelings of frustration and hostility are running high in people surrounding the mine,” says Coumans. “The President’s statement that the mine is operating illegally was often mentioned to me as a trigger for the mine invasions that were going on while I was in the area, and the anger was not helped by news reports and pictures that showed Barrick’s Executive Chairman in the country to deal with the financial threats to the company, while once again ignoring the unaddressed human rights crisis at the North Mara mine site.”
For more information: Catherine Coumans, MiningWatch Canada, [email protected]