In countries like Australia, Chile, Papua New Guinea and Tanzania, Barrick takes advantage of inadequate and poorly enforced regulatory controls to rob indigenous people of their lands, destroy sensitive ecosystems and agricultural land, support brutal police and security operations, and sue anyone who tries to report on it. In the context of this libel chill, Barrick has branded itself as the socially responsible mining giant and boasts its listing on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index.
Behind the scenes, Barrick has been singled out [1,2] as the company most involved in the lobbying effort to stop private member’s bill C-300. This bill would withdraw government funding and diplomatic support for companies found – after an investigation – to be abusing human rights or violating international environmental norms.
Barrick has some cause for worry: In 2013, Chilean authorities shut down construction at Barrick’s Pascua Lama project because of the project’s destruction of nearby glaciers and pollution of precious water resources. In 2009, the Norwegian Pension fund divested $230 million from Barrick for ethical reasons, especially related to their mine in Papua New Guinea. And when Swiss Research firm Covalace compiled both quantitative and qualitative data – spanning seven years and 581 companies – they listed Barrick as the 12 least ethical company in the world.
Now, Barrick is being sued by their own investors for fraud in Ontario, Quebec, and United States courts for $6 billion, or over a quarter of Barrick’s market cap. Court documents filed by Labaton Sucharow LLP on August 2, 2013 reveal the testimonies of five former Barrick employees. These confidential witnesses confirm that Barrick top management knew that construction at the Pascua Lama Project was contaminating nearby water sources and breaching environmental conditions that led to the suspension of the project. These witnesses also testify that at a time when the company was estimating that the Project’s cost would be between $2.8 and $3 billion, Barrick already had in its possession an engineering report estimating costs for the Project at nearly twice that figure.
For more information about Barrick Gold, check out protestbarrick.net.
Also, read the powerful Parliamentary testimonies of regarding Barrick’s operations in Argentina, the Philippines, and Papua New Guinea.
Here’s a few highlights involving Barrick’s operations in the last year:
- In Papua New Guinea, Barrick housed police who – based on situation reports from Barrick Gold – burnt down an entire hillside of houses adjacent to their Porgera Mine. Barrick initially denied these allegations, remarking that it was their understanding that 50 temporary shacks were tore down. But, a follow-up Amnesty report, released in January 2010 showed evidence of at least 130 permanent houses burnt down, while villagers were beaten, harassed, and detained. Later, Barrick was forced to admit to regular gang rapes at the Porgera Mine by company security, a charge which they had denied for years.
In 2011, the Porgera Alliance, a Porgera-based coalition, released a comprehensive report outlining their urgent plea to be resettled.
- In Tanzania, there have been two reports confirming lasting negative effects of a toxic spill in Tanzania that occurred in May 2009. The latest report, commissioned by an interfaith committee in Tanzania and written by scientists from Norwegian University if Life Sciences and the University of Dar es Salam, found potential life threatening levels of arsenic around Barrick’s North Mara mine in Tanzania. The study investigated the area around the tailing dam and the site of an accidental spill that occurred on May 9, 2009. Despite that fact that these areas were tested four to seven months after the spill, this study shows that the water remains toxic for human consumption and grazing use.
According to Evans Rubara of the Christian Council of Tanzania, “Following the spill in May, 203 people became ill, 43 people died, and 1358 livestock died according to the Ward authorities in North Mara.” Barrick responded to the report criticizing the integrity of the science, to which the authors responded with a detailed defense of their methodology.
On July 30, 2013 London law firm, Leigh Day, served African Barrick Gold (ABG) and North Mara Gold Mine Limited (NMGML) with legal proceedings filed in the UK High Court. The claim alleges that the companies are liable for the deaths and injuries of local villagers, including through complicity in the killing of at least 6 local villagers by police at the North Mara mine in Tanzania. The companies deny the allegations.
Twelve villagers, including one man who has been left paraplegic, are suing the companies in the hope of receiving just compensation.
- At their Pascua Lama project on the border of Chile and Argentina, Barrick’s activities have been linked to a 56-70% decrease in the size of nearby glaciers by the Government Water Commission, who reported this January that the company is failing to comply with Chile’s environmental laws.
The Pascua Lama project is also plagued by a suit by the Diaguita Huascoaltinos Indigenous community against the Chilean state, recently admitted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Their claim states that the government not only violated the Diaguita’s Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC), but they also did not consider comments submitted by their community in the Environmental Assessment Process of the Mine. The claim also states that Barrick’s claim to land on and near the Pascua Lama project on the border of Chile and Argentina relies on a series of fraudulent land claims to collectively held-Diaguita Huascoaltinos land. The Diaguita Huascoaltinos also initiated two lawsuits against Barrick in Chile, seeking to slow down and stop Barrick’s mining and exploration on their land.