Tuesday 30 July 2013

African Barrick Gold sued over deaths at Tanzanian mine.

The mining company African Barrick Gold, a subsidiary of the Canadian Barrick Gold Corp, is being sued by representatives of 12 Tanzanian villagers over a series of violent incidents at the North Mara Mine in the Tarime District of the Mara Region of Tanzania, including an incident in May 2011 in which five people were killed and many others injured. The law firm Leigh Day & Co. is arguing in the High Court in London that members of the Tanzanian police, acting as an integrated part of security at the mine, have repeatedly used excessive violence, including shooting at the villagers using tear gas and live ammunition, leading to a total of six deaths and numerous other injuries at the site.

A standoff between mine security guards (blue uniforms) a Tanzanian police officer (green uniform) and a group of villagers at the North Mara Mine on Friday 31 August 2013. Geoffrey York/The Globe and Mail.

African Barrick Gold have stated that it would not compensate the villagers, that it feels the lawsuit to be illegitimate and that it will 'vigorously defend itself against all the claims'. The company argues that the incidents occurred due to police acting in self defense or in the defense of mine employees, after violent intrusions to the site by local villagers. 

The mine operates in an underdeveloped area where artisanal mining is a traditional industry, and while the site is legitimately leased from the Tanzanian government, many local people still regard it, and the gold extracted from it, as being legitimately theirs. It is estimated that around 40 000 people earned their living from artisanal mining at the site prior to Barrick gaining the lease in 2002. Of these around 10 000 have also been displaced from their homes, which were within the area of the concession. These people received only a minimal level of compensation, as the land was deemed to belong to the government.

This has led to an ongoing confrontation between the mine owners and the local population, who feel they have a right to collect gold ore from the site, something Barrick regards as stealing. This has led to a series of violent incidents in which large numbers of people have invaded the site, not just removing gold but also damaging equipment belonging to the company. 

The location of the North Mara Mine. Google Maps.

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