Lisa Wright is a business reporter with the Toronto Star, which has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on Canada’s federal and provincial politics as well as shaping public opinion. This article was originally published May 18, 2011.
Lisa Wright in Toronto and Jocelyn Edwards in Tanzania
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.
Police were called to the area on Monday and “came under sustained attack” by hundreds of people who illegally entered the mine site to try to remove ore from one of the crushers, said a statement released by the London-based company, which is a majority-owned subsidiary of Toronto’s Barrick Gold Corp.
“A number of intruders sustained gunshot wounds, resulting in seven intruder fatalities and 12 injuries,” said the release. The deadly clash is the latest in an ongoing battle between the giant Canadian miner and locals who scavenge for gold-laced rocks on the lucrative property, which Barrick acquired in 2006.
The price of gold has tripled in value since then, reaching a record high of $1,540.25 (U.S.) an ounce earlier this month and making it all the more attractive to villagers involved in illegal small-scale mining.
The violence Monday follows other clashes at the mine that killed at least seven others in the past two years, according to interviews with victims’ relatives, witnesses, local officials and human-rights workers, Bloomberg News reported in December. African Barrick doesn’t deny that security incidents have previously resulted in deaths.
Gargantuan trucks scale the mounds of grey waste rock surrounding the North Mara mine.
Meanwhile below, young men with hammers and hoes walk in groups along the dirt roads leading to their villages.
It’s conflict between these groups of small-time miners and African Barrick that has apparently produced the majority of the alleged injuries and fatalities at the mine.
Neyakema Mwita, 39, said three of his friends have been killed at the mine while scavenging. Still, he said he has no other means of earning a livelihood besides returning there himself.
“I have a wife. If I don’t go there, how else will I eat?”
On this recent morning, speaking as he walked toward his one-room mud home, Mwita had just come down from the mine after spending 10 hours overnight there, searching for gold.
He was not alone. A gold-rich cache was recently discovered and at least a couple of hundred locals had sneaked there the previous night to mine. Security came and chased them away at one point, discharging tear gas and firing guns.
But after officials had gone, miners just returned to the area.
Mwita learned to mine from his father when he was just 11 years old. Back in those days, it wasn’t a dangerous profession for a father to pass on to his son.
But then commercial mining came to the area. “When the company came, they suppressed what we were doing. Now, when we go there, we go crawling, creeping on our stomachs. It’s scary; we go there like commandos, looking out here and there.”
For the rest of this article, please go to the Toronto Star website: http://www.thestar.com/business/article/992916–barrick-gold-s-security-kill-7-at-tanzania-mine