Barrick’s Tanzania gold mine hit by new police abuse accusations

The North Mara gold mine is one of the three operations Barrick has in Tanzania. (Image courtesy of Twiga Minerals | Instagram.)

A corporate watchdog is alleging that local police are killing and assaulting villagers around a Tanzanian mine owned by Barrick Gold Corp. The Canadian miner denies that it is responsible for police conduct.

UK-based RAID said in a report that since 2019, when Barrick took operational control of the North Mara mine, at least four people have been killed and seven others seriously injured by local police, sometimes after villagers enter the site in search of waste rock. A lawsuit over assaults that occurred before 2019 is going before a British court this week. 

RAID’s fresh allegations, which follow the group’s interviews with more than 90 people over the past 28 months, underscore the challenges to mining industry efforts to overhaul its relations with local communities at a time of rising investor scrutiny on environmental and social issues. 

“Barrick’s board and investors should ensure an end to the mine’s relationship with the police and set up a truly credible and independent investigation into the abuses,” said RAID executive director Anneke Van Woudenberg.

The report alleges the company has ties to police, including a memorandum of understanding that includes paying and equipping officers assigned to provide security for the mine. But Barrick said that the RAID report was misleading, and that local police operate independently while hired security within the mine site is performed by unarmed employees of a local company. 

“The mine is obviously not responsible for their conduct,” Barrick said in an emailed response, referring to the local police force.

The company said the government has agreed to provide human rights training to all officers serving in the area, and added that if RAID has “any evidence of the deaths and injuries it alleges, it should bring this to the attention of the Tanzanian attorney general without delay.”

Barrick subsidiaries are due in a British court on March 17 to face allegations of unlawful killings and assaults at the mine between 2014 and 2019. The claimants include the family of a nine-year-old girl killed by a mine vehicle driven by police, and four women who were fired upon while gathering around her body. Barrick’s subsidiaries deny liability.

In December, Barrick said it had “radically repaired” community relations and established clear boundaries with local police at the North Mara mine after taking operational control from its subsidiary Acacia Mining in 2019.

Barrick cited “significant progress made with regards to environmental, community and security aspects,” including three independent audits that recognized improvements.

According to a Bloomberg analysis of environmental, social and governance data, the Canadian firm’s overall social score is below its peer-group average. However, the company ranks above average in the community rights and relations subcategory.

(By James Attwood)

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