On 25 July 2023, Barrick published its Annual Sustainability Update, which included a PowerPoint and video presentation by Barrick’s management. The presentation included several inaccuracies regarding RAID’s research and reporting on the human rights situation at Barrick’s North Mara gold mine in Tanzania. The company’s continued attacks on RAID are an unfortunate distraction from the very serious harms suffered by the members of the local community at Barrick’s North Mara mine.
Whilst Barrick continues to propagate such inaccuracies, notwithstanding that RAID has already corrected many of them both in correspondence with Barrick and publicly, we believe it is important to correct the record.
- First, Barrick is wrong to claim that RAID had not been to the North Mara mine until it was hosted there by Barrick in January 2023. RAID has made numerous visits to the mine and surrounding communities since 2014, after being alerted to the human rights concerns. RAID has conducted ten research missions and over 220 interviews since Barrick assumed operational control in September 2019. RAID has repeatedly informed Barrick about these visits and engagement (see, for instance, RAID’s correspondence dated 14 February 2022, 11 July 2022, and 30 November 2022), but Barrick continues to make incorrect assertions. Further, Barrick is wrong to suggest that RAID’s visit to the North Mara mine in January 2023 followed “numerous invitations” from Barrick. In fact, RAID had consistently proposed meeting with Barrick’s team to discuss the human rights situation at the mine since early 2019 (see, for instance, RAID’s correspondence dated 13 June 2019, 13 July 2021, and 11 July 2022). It was only in July 2022 that Barrick agreed to meet with RAID (see Barrick’s correspondence dated 14 July 2022).
- Second, Barrick is wrong to claim that RAID “has not provided any further information or evidence” and that “no information or evidence to back up the allegations [of human rights violations] was shared with us by RAID” during or after RAID’s January 2023 visit to the mine. On the contrary, RAID detailed its research findings and methodology during the January 2023 mine visit, and on 6 April 2023 wrote to Barrick again providing such information, including an annex setting out 35 security-related human rights incidents, including seven deaths, previously reported on by RAID and all occurring since Barrick took operational control of the mine. Barrick has not responded. RAID’s 6 April correspondence followed the 47 pages of information and detailed accounts of human rights violations at the North Mara mine since Barrick took operational control that we have published, and the more than 41 pages in correspondence to Barrick about these issues. RAID began corresponding with Barrick’s current management regarding the human rights situation at North Mara in October 2018 (prior to the Randgold-Barrick merger), and Barrick was given ample opportunity to respond prior to publication of our reports. RAID has further engaged and shared its findings with the Tanzanian government.
- Third, Barrick is wrong to suggest that “allegations from international non-registered NGOs” are being taken to international courts. The legal actions in Canadian and British courts have been brought by Tanzanian nationals alleging human rights violations by security forces at the North Mara mine. As RAID has already informed Barrick (see 6 April 2023 letter), RAID is not a party, nor does it represent any party, in these proceedings. Access to justice is a fundamental right in international human rights law and Tanzanian citizens have the right to seek justice for alleged corporate wrongdoing.
- Fourth, Barrick states that RAID’s 2019 complaint to the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) over the continued certification of the refiner trading with North Mara triggered an incident review process (IRP) by the LBMA. However, the LBMA said it invoked its June 2019 IRP “in response to the human rights and environmental allegations” citing “media allegations on personal injuries” as the source. Violence by security forces at the North Mara mine, as well as environmental issues, had been reported on by the Forbidden Stories consortium of journalists, including an article in The Guardian newspaper, which identified the refiner. The LBMA later closed the IRP, although an assessment commissioned by the refiner described risks concerning security forces management and potential human rights abuses as “high”. Since its closure, a legal claim by bereaved families has been filed alleging that the LBMA has been wrongly certifying that gold sourced from North Mara mine is free from serious human rights abuses. The LBMA refutes the allegation. RAID is not party to the claim.
- Fifth, Barrick suggests that its invitation to RAID to “join us in our endeavor to invest and engage in the society and community and make a better place for everyone” was rejected because of our activism. On the contrary, and as set out above, as a human rights organisation RAID has actively engaged with, listened to, and documented the experiences of those impacted by the mine. Based on this work, we have shared with Barrick nine steps it could take to improve the security and human rights situation at the mine (see 6 April 2023 letter). Barrick has not responded.
- Sixth, Barrick says that none of RAID’s allegations were corroborated by community leaders during a meeting organised and hosted by the mine, which RAID attended to observe the mine’s engagement with local communities (see Barrick’s correspondence dated 4 January 2023). Barrick refers to local leaders not knowing RAID at this meeting. Yet during its research missions to North Mara, RAID has independently met with many community leaders, as well as, amongst others, the then-District Commissioner and a police commissioner to discuss human rights issues regarding the mine. In RAID’s independent meetings with community leaders, they have consistently raised concerns regarding the human rights impacts of the mine, including due to security-related violence. As Barrick noted in its presentation, it too now reports security-related fatalities publicly, and since December 2022 alone has reported three deaths during security-related operations at the mine, illustrating that deaths continue at the mine.
- Finally, Barrick’s allegation that RAID is “extorting” community members around the North Mara mine is baseless. It is not only a serious accusation against an independent human rights organisation, but does a disservice to, and heightens risks for, community members who have come forward to share their experiences. UN experts have recognized that protecting human rights defenders and civic space is “one of the most urgent issues for the business and human rights agenda”. We continue to urge Barrick to recalibrate its focus to providing remedy to those harmed by its operations and taking steps to end human rights abuses at the North Mara mine.
We believe it is vital that human rights violations, including those documented in RAID’s briefings, be properly investigated by Barrick and that Barrick have an accurate and full appreciation of the human rights issues at the mine. As we have communicated to Barrick, it is therefore our key recommendation that Barrick launch a credible, independent and transparent investigation, at arms-length from management, into human rights abuses at the mine. In our view this is an essential next step to understand the extent of the violations, identify what needs to be done to halt any further abuses, address any weaknesses in oversight and provide remedy to those harmed where appropriate.