Security forces at African Barrick Gold’s North Mara mine in Tanzania killed seven “criminal intruders” and injured a dozen more after 800 people stormed the project armed with machetes, rocks and hammers in a bid to steal gold ore, according to mainstream media reports.
Confrontations between local people and mining security are not uncommon near Barrick’s North Mara mine in Tanzania. As Bloomberg journalist Cam Simpson reported in his Dec ’10 feature story about the mine, “Security guards and federal police allegedly have shot and killed people scavenging the gold-laced rocks to sell for small amounts of cash, according to interviews with 28 people, including victims’ relatives, witnesses, local officials and human-rights workers.”
These conflicts take place in the context of forced displacement, destroyed livelihoods and farmlands, and the on-going poisoning of local residents that characterizes Barrick’s North Mara mine.
While Barrick has recently begun to admit to the killings of “trespassers” near the mine, they continue to deny that a 2009 toxic spill that resulted in the death and poisoning of many villagers near the mine site. In fact, while local news reports linked the toxic spillage to increased rain, Barrick once again blamed “vandals”. According to the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility reports “vandals stole PVC plastic lining from a waste water containment pond, allowing acidic waste water to seep from the pond.” Even though local reports in media and with the North Mara Ward Authority reported that 20–43 people in North Mara died within weeks of the spill, Barrick continues to assert that “this event was an isolated incident and to date there is no evidence that there has been ‘serious human health impacts or even deaths’ associated with this event.”
For context to the health concerns and on-going conflict in the North Mara region, please see the following reports:
Tanzania: Killings and Toxic Spill Tarnish Barrick Gold, by Zahra Moloo May 2011