Tanzania's North Mara Gold Mine has been invaded by around 4,000 intruders who stole gold ore and destroyed property worth $15 million, a spokesman for Barrick Gold Tanzania Ltd. said Monday.
"There will be significant loss of production and revenue as a result of the invasion" last week, Teweli Teweli said.
A group of intruders attacked Nyabirama pit where Barrick employees had just completed blasting high-grade ore. The attackers stole gold ore and destroyed mining equipment, Teweli said.
"The well-organized groups started stoning the security personnel. Under relentless attack and outnumbered the security personnel were forced to abandon their posts and retreat to safety," he said.
After around four and half hours, the company's field force unit vehicles were able to reach the pit and successfully cleared it and the surrounding areas. This enabled Barrick's emergency response teams to fight the fires started by the intruders at the mine premises, he said.
Barrick Gold Tanzania is a unit of Canada-based Barrick Gold Corp. (ABX), the world's leading gold producer.
Last year, North Mara Gold Mine produced 237,000 ounces of gold. Barrick also owns Bulyanhulu, Kahama and Tuliwaka Gold Mines in Tanzania.
Barrick has since the start of the decade been embroiled in disputes with communities surrounding its mines in Tanzania.
Activists have in the past accused large mining companies in Tanzania of uprooting tens of thousands of smallscale miners and locals from their ancestral lands to pave the way for large mines without adequate compensation.
Since last year, the Tanzanian government has been resurveying mining regions to demarcate land for smallscale miners and lessen conflicts with large mining companies.
Tanzania is Africa's third leading gold producer after Ghana and South Africa.