Barrick Gold Mines Focus of Conflict Globally

(Ottawa) As Barrick Gold’s CEO Mark Bristow touts the company’s financial gains at its annual shareholder meeting, communities and environments around the world continue to pay the price. In Latin America, Africa, and Asia-Pacific, communities oppose Barrick’s mines and their destructive legacy through letters, statements, petitions, and through legal action.

Dominican Republic – Amidst rising tension and allegations of police repression, local communities are voicing their concerns about Barrick’s Pueblo Viejo expansion plans, announced in 2019. They particularly oppose the construction of a tailings dam in the Province of Monte Plata, given that storing mine waste in this particular area would risk contamination of more than a dozen waterways. Increased water pollution would not only threaten the health of millions of inhabitants, but would affect the production of cacao, destroying the livelihoods of thousands of families that depend on their production. Today, over 88 organizations around the world are calling on the Dominican Republic and Barrick to stop the proposed expansion of the Pueblo Viejo mine.

Tanzania – Since 2011, the North Mara Gold Mine has been widely known for brutal acts of violence against members of the local Kuria population by mine security, including local police guarding the mine. In 2015, Barrick settled a lawsuit by victims of violence by mine security out of court. MiningWatch Canada spent six years documenting over a hundred cases of violent acts against local Kuria people, including cases of women who have endured rape. This work contributed to a new lawsuit that was filed in February 2020 by seven initial claimants, alleging abuse by mine security forces and local police. One of the claimants, whose case MiningWatch has documented, was just 16 years old when he says he was shot in the back and then beaten by police employed by the mine.

Papua New Guinea – The Porgera Joint Venture mine has not produced gold for the past year as Barrick disputed the Government of Papua New Guinea’s decision not to grant Barrick and its joint venture partner Zijin Mining a renewal of the mine’s expired lease. The government’s decision was widely lauded by local Indigenous Ipili landowners who have for decades raised objections to the mine’s dumping of tailings into the local river system and violence by mine security including the rape and gang rape of local women and shooting and beating of local men.  While Barrick tried to push through terms favourable to the company in negotiations, it also initiated legal action in Papua New Guinea as well as through an international tribunal. Citing fear of protracted legal battles, the PNG government signed a Framework Agreement (still not public) with Barrick in April, to the dismay of local landowners.

Philippines – On the 25th anniversary of a catastrophic mine waste disaster on the Island of Marinduque, the people of the island province and their elected officials call for further legal action against Barrick Gold to address widespread environmental degradation left behind by almost 30 years of irresponsible mining and mine waste management. Barrick is already embroiled in at least two existing lawsuits related to the former Marcopper mine, which continue to wend their way through the courts in the Philippines.

“Barrick’s global environmental and human rights track record at these and other mines remains dismal,” says Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada. “Rather than address concerns raised about environmental and human rights impacts, the company’s mode of operation is to ignore these for years while community tensions rise and the issues end up in court. This is not the pattern of company that takes its Environmental Social and Governance responsibilities seriously.” 

“Barrick must stop turning a blind eye on the demands and rights of local communities,” says Diana Martin of MiningWatch Canada. “For many of these communities, Barrick’s mining practices mean the destruction of their livelihoods and ecosystems. As they so often tell us, their water is their gold.”

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