Acacia Mining Faces New Human Rights Problems in Tanzania

(London, 12 June 2019) – Ahead of its Annual General Meeting on June 13, UK gold mining company, Acacia Mining, is facing increased pressure to address human rights concerns at its North Mara gold mine in Tanzania and to suspend the company’s problematic grievance process.

The troubled company is also dealing with charges against its North Mara subsidiary relating to corruption, environmental pollution, tax evasion and an export ban imposed by the Tanzanian government over two years ago. On May 21, majority shareholder Barrick, which owns 63.9% of Acacia shares, proposed to buy out the minority shareholders.

In a public letter to Acacia’s Board, RAID, a British charity that exposes corporate human rights violations, urged board members to review the company’s use of the Tanzanian police who have been providing security at the North Mara mine since at least 2010. Working alongside and in coordination with the mine’s security staff, the police have been involved in dozens of deaths, rapes and scores of injuries on or near the mine.

“Acacia Mining appears to have transformed parts of the Tanzanian police into a brutal and unaccountable private security force at its North Mara mine,” said Anneke Van Woudenberg, the Executive Director of RAID. “It has gone beyond the point where alarm bells should be ringing. The deployment of the police to provide on-site security for its gold mining operations raises the risk the company could be seen as complicit in serious crimes.”

The company regularly uses the police to deal with so-called “intruders” inside the mine’s perimeter. In return for the security services, the company provides the police with per diems, vehicles, fuel, accommodation, food and other benefits, as set out in a written agreement between Acacia’s subsidiary and the police.

The police have used excessive force against intruders and innocent bystanders. RAID and MiningWatch Canada documented at least 22 people killed and 69 injured, many by bullets, at or near the North Mara mine between 2014 and 2016. A Tanzanian parliamentary inquiry into the abuses at North Mara in 2016, received complaints of 65 killings and 270 people injured by police jointly responsible for mine security. To date, RAID is not aware of single police officer having been brought to justice for the crimes.

Although Acacia says that security-related incidents have decreased in recent years, the excessive use of force has continued. In the latest incident on 31 May 2019, a man walking home along a public road near the mine after collecting medicine for his father’s cows was injured when police guarding the mine opened fire, possibly with tear gas or other projectiles, while chasing so-called “intruders.” As a result of the injuries, his hand was later amputated.

In July 2018, a 9 year-old girl was crushed and killed by a mine vehicle apparently driven by the police as the driver took a short-cut at a mine-controlled crossroad. In the aftermath, at least 4 women who had come to sit by the young girl’s body were injured by teargas canisters and other projectiles when the police sought to disperse a gathering crowd.

Compounding the human rights problems is the mine’s grievance process. It permits victims to bring complaints to the mine for abuses they have suffered, including by the police. But rather than providing relief and compensation, the grievance process disempowers victims and subjects them to a humiliating process. It permits the company to act as investigator, judge and jury on the serious human rights violations committed by its security personnel and/or the  police working alongside them.

In a new report released today, based on in-depth research with over 90 victims and witnesses, RAID found that Acacia’s grievance mechanism at the North Mara mine is failing victims and local residents and is a far cry from being compliant with the United Nation Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the standard business corporations are expected to apply.

Mark Bristow, the CEO of Barrick, appeared to acknowledge the human rights concerns. At the Mining Indaba in February 2019 he publicly identified Acacia’s failure to “embrace” local communities as contributing to the company’s difficulties in Tanzania. He committed to addressing the problem.

RAID called on Acacia’s Board to suspend the grievance process pending external review by independent experts, assist local judicial authorities to bring the perpetrators to account and provide immediate humanitarian assistance to those harmed.

“Acacia Mining is facing a host of problems that undermine its reputation and its ability to operate in Tanzania, but surely none is more important than avoiding killings and injuries as a result of the company’s operations,” said Van Woudenberg. “Acacia’s Board should follow Bristow’s lead, publicly acknowledge the human rights issues at the North Mara mine and take urgent steps to rectify them.”

Additional Links:

The full report analysing Acacia’s grievance mechanism at North Mara is here and the executive summary is here. The public letter to the Acacia’s board of directors is here

For a Q&A on the company grievance mechanism and human rights violations at the North Mara click here.

A video on the human rights abuses at North Mara mine can be viewed here.

The story of one victim, Zakaria Nyamakomo, can be found here.

RAID’s response to correspondence from North Mara Gold Mine Ltd can be found here.  

RAID’s response to a press release issued by Acacia Mining following press articles in The Guardian and Forbidden Stories can be found here.

Further Background:

In March 2017, after considerable pressure to publish further information, Acacia finally confirmed in its annual report that there had been 32 “trespasser-related” fatalities between 2014 and 2016. Although there has been a decrease in the number of deaths over the past two years, incidents continue to occur.

In 2013 a small number of victims engaged UK lawyers and brought their claims before the UK courts, since Acacia is a UK registered company. Acacia settled these claims in 2015. In 2017 a group of new victims instructed UK lawyers and also filed legal cases. These claims are yet to be resolved.