Claims of sexual abuses in Tanzania blow to Barrick Gold – by Geoffrey York (Globe and Mail – May 31, 2011)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous impact and influence on Canada’s political and business elite as well as the rest of the country’s print, radio and television media.

“These deplorable crimes, if confirmed, are neither acceptable nor excusable.
They send a clear message to us that we have not met the promises we have
made to the community, and to ourselves, to pursue responsible mining in every
location where we and our affiliates operate. We can, and will, do more.”
(Barrick statement to The Globe and Mail)

NORTH MARA, TANZANIA – Just two weeks after the fatal shooting of seven people at one of its Tanzanian gold mines, Barrick Gold Corp. is investigating allegations of sexual assault by about a dozen police and security guards at the same violence-plagued mine.

The Toronto-based corporate giant, the world’s biggest gold miner, is already reeling from allegations of gang rape by its security guards at another of its subsidiaries, in Papua New Guinea.

The deaths and alleged abuses at the Barrick sites, which began years ago but failed to gain wide attention until recently, are accelerating Barrick’s efforts to introduce stronger rules for investigating human-rights problems at its 26 mines around the world. The latest case comes as investors have been urging Canadian companies operating overseas in tough and lawless environments to push for more transparency instead of tolerating human-rights abuses.

Barrick recently became the first Canadian mining company to sign up to the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, an international set of guidelines for extractive industries, which oblige it to investigate and report any credible information about human-rights abuses at its workplaces.

At Barrick’s controversial North Mara gold mine in Tanzania, investigators have interviewed about 10 women who allege that they were arrested at the mine site and sexually assaulted by company security guards or Tanzanian police over the past several years.

The allegations were discovered in the course of a review into a separate human-rights issue at the mine. A preliminary investigation by Barrick’s subsidiary, African Barrick Gold, found that the allegations were credible.

African Barrick has sent in a team of independent investigators, headed by a former Australian police detective, to gather evidence in the case. The company has also given the evidence to the Tanzanian police, who have promised their own high-level investigation. The company says it is insisting on a full police investigation.

In most or all of the cases, the women told the investigators that they were taken to holding cells and coerced into sex by police and security guards, who threatened them with imprisonment if they refused.

In a statement to The Globe and Mail yesterday, Barrick said the allegations were “highly disturbing” and will be fully investigated and publicly reported. It also pledged to dismiss any employee involved in human-rights violations, or any employee who has knowledge of human-rights abuses and fails to report them.

“Barrick is deeply distressed by the evidence that has emerged,” the company said.

“These deplorable crimes, if confirmed, are neither acceptable nor excusable. They send a clear message to us that we have not met the promises we have made to the community, and to ourselves, to pursue responsible mining in every location where we and our affiliates operate. We can, and will, do more.”

For years, thousands of impoverished villagers around North Mara have routinely invaded the mine to grab rocks from its waste heaps, which can be processed into tiny bits of gold. There are daily confrontations between the invaders and the mine’s security guards, usually reinforced by Tanzanian police.

For the rest of this article, please go to the Globe and Mail website: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/africa-mideast/claims-of-sexual-abuses-in-tanzania-blow-to-barrick-gold/article2040735/

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