Ahead of Barrick Gold’s Annual General Meeting on 3 May, corporate watchdog RAID is urging the company’s investors to take action on alarming human rights abuses by Tanzanian police assigned to the company’s North Mara Gold Mine in Tanzania.
In March, RAID published a briefing detailing the killing of at least four local residents and the assault of seven others by police assigned to the mine. RAID’s research found that police regularly enter residential areas during mine-related operations, forcing entry into homes without a warrant, arbitrarily arresting and beating residents, and firing teargas and live ammunition indiscriminately, including around children.
In letters to eight influential investors who hold shares worth over US$7 billion in Barrick, including a number of Canadian public pension funds, RAID highlighted the human rights abuses and emphasised that the killings and assaults had all occurred after Barrick took full operational control of the North Mara mine in September 2019.
The police implicated in these abuses are engaged by the gold mine under a memorandum of understanding (MoU). Under this arrangement, 100 to 150 police officers are assigned to the mine, which pays, equips, accommodates and feeds them. The police are integrated into the mine’s security structure.
Institutional investors hold over 50% of issued and outstanding shares in Barrick and are in a strong position to question Barrick’s board and management over the company’s approach to environmental, social and governance (ESG) concerns. Barrick says its commitment to ESG is central to its operations and is “entrenched in [its] DNA”.
In the light of the abuses, RAID has asked investors to consider carefully how they vote at Barrick’s AGM, where decisions regarding executive compensation and nominations to the company’s ESG committee will be on the agenda. The pay package of Barrick’s CEO, Mark Bristow, is linked to performance on ESG matters.
RAID urged investors, all of who say ESG concerns are central to their investment decisions, to use their influence to press Barrick to urgently consider ending the mine’s relationship with the Tanzanian police; establish a credible and independent investigation into the abuses at the mine; implement an appropriate grievance mechanism to provide remedy to those harmed; and to disclose in full information on its human rights record at North Mara and its relationship with the police.
Earlier this week, Barrick published its 2021 Sustainability Report. It refers to “significant reductions” in the use of force by security at the North Mara gold mine (without providing details), and states that it is working “diligently” to “restore and rebuild the relationship with the local community”.
But local residents have a different perspective and told RAID they had seen no improvements in the security situation at the mine: “There are no changes since Barrick took over in 2019. Haven’t there been deaths reported recently? Don’t the police disturb communities the same way they used to?… Things are still the same.”
On 23 March, RAID submitted an official complaint about the new reports of serious human rights abuses to the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA), which has a responsible sourcing programme for gold on the London market. A refiner on the LBMA’s Good Delivery List, MMTC-PAMP India Pvt Ltd, continues to refine gold from North Mara mine. The LBMA has yet to respond to the complaint.
Barrick says a human rights assessment conducted in February 2022 at the request of the refiner refers to positive “interim findings” but the report has yet to be published. Previous “third party” assessments by hired consultants have also not been published.
While Barrick has denied that it or the mine is responsible for the actions of the police, it has not denied that the killings and assaults have occurred, nor that they were perpetrated by police assigned to the mine. All the killings and assaults relate to security operations at the mine.
The latest incidents that RAID has documented follow over a decade of reports of serious human rights violations at the North Mara mine. Since commercial industrial mining began at North Mara, there have been credible reports of 75 people killed and 287 people injured by police responsible for mine security.
Responsible investors are in a powerful position to push for a full, credible and independent investigation into the recent abuses, and for redress for the harm caused.
RAID wrote to the following investors and pension funds:
- Capital Group
- Fidelity Investments
- Flossbach von Storch
- PSP Investments
- Van Eck Associates
- Vanguard Group
- CPP Investments which manages the Canada Pension Plan
- British Columbia Investment Management Corporation