Barrick Gold Corp. ABX-T, which had told investors that it had resolved the long-standing human rights issues at its North Mara mine in Tanzania, is facing new allegations that police have killed four villagers around the mine site.
The deaths, along with seven serious injuries, have occurred since Barrick took control of the gold mine in September, 2019, from its former subsidiary Acacia Mining, according to a report on Monday by the British-based corporate watchdog group Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID).
The mine has been controversial for the past 15 years, with dozens of deaths reported in frequent clashes between police and villagers, often after villagers entered the mine site in search of waste rock. Allegations of earlier unlawful killings and assaults at North Mara from 2014 to 2019 have led to separate litigation in London, with a hearing scheduled by the High Court this week. Barrick’s subsidiaries deny the allegations.
In a human rights report in December, Barrick said it had “radically repaired” its community relations at North Mara. It said it had established “clear boundaries” with the local police, prohibiting them from entering the mine site except when requested by senior management for criminal matters.
Barrick also said there had been “no new security-related human rights incidents raised to group level” since Barrick’s takeover in 2019.
In a statement on Monday in response to RAID’s report, Barrick emphasized that the Tanzanian police are an independent force that operates only in the community outside the mine’s perimeter and are not supervised or controlled by the mine.
“The Tanzania police operates under its own hierarchical chain of command and makes its own policing decisions,” Barrick said.
But RAID notes that Barrick has a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Tanzanian police at North Mara. The group says an estimated 100 to 150 police are assigned to provide security around the mine, and they are paid, fed, equipped and accommodated by the mine.
RAID, which has interviewed more than 90 people at North Mara over the past 28 months, says it talked to police officers and mine security employees who said the police assigned to the mine were “part of the mine’s security structure and were overseen by its security team.” The police are present at the mine’s security control room, are deployed to areas around the mine site, use the same radio frequency as the mine security, and often bring arrested villagers into the mine site to be photographed and processed, it said.
RAID said it interviewed witnesses at North Mara who told the group the local police killed three people who were trying to leave the mine site or who had been chased from the mine site. “Two were shot with live ammunition while the third was struck with a large projectile, possibly a tear gas cannister or sound bomb, in the back of his head,” the group said.
The organization said the fourth person died after being injured by police officers on a road near the mine wall.
It said the police also assaulted local community members, including one man who was dragged from his home, accused of being an “intruder” at the mine site, hit repeatedly on the head, kicked and beaten.
Barrick, in its statement on Monday, said the incidents allegedly perpetrated by the police “have all occurred outside the perimeter of the North Mara gold mine and in neighbouring villages.”
It said the company “would not normally note such incidents in our human rights report as they did not occur within our mine site or under Barrick’s control, nor did they involve Barrick personnel.” Private companies are “not expected to monitor or report on day-to-day police activities outside of the mine,” it said.
In its human rights report in December, the company said it had “established a comprehensive MOU with Tanzania police that aligns with the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.”
But RAID argues that the latest deaths are evidence that contradicts Barrick’s human rights statements. “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 the group’s executive director, Anneke Van Woudenberg.
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