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Barrick Gold year in Review: One Company, 9 Countries, Countless abuses

by Sakura Saunders, editor
April 26th, 2010

This year, Barrick's proposed mine in the Dominican Republic has seen a sharp rise in resistance. Just one week after reports that the Environment Minister Jaime David Fernandez Mirabal wanted a revision of the Government�s contract with Barrick Gold, the Spanish language press reported an explosion at Barrick's operation, resulting in the poisoning and hospitalization of more than 400 workers. The English language press subsequently reported that the sicknesses were due to food poisoning. However, a report submitted by DR's Academy of Sciences and the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo concluded that the illnesses weren�t from bacterial infection, noting that neither the symptoms nor the treatment were congruent with the workers� complaints.

Since then, up to 3,000 Dominicans marched in Cotu� in the central province of S�nchez Ram�rez to protest against the Pueblo Viejo gold mine on April 3. After that, a group of about 50 youth trekked 150 kilometers from the capitol to Cotu� and hundreds marched against Barrick on April 17. Now, May 2 marks another enormous mobilization against this company.

In Papua New Guinea, Barrick housed police who � based on situation reports from Barrick Gold � burnt down an entire hillside of houses adjacent to their Porgera Mine. Barrick initially denied these allegations, remarking that it was their understanding that 50 temporary shacks were tore down. But, a follow-up Amnesty report showed evidence of at least 130 permanent houses burnt down, while villagers were beaten, harassed, and detained.

In Tanzania, there have been two reports confirming lasting negative effects of a toxic spill in Tanzania that occurred last May. The latest report, commissioned by an interfaith committee in Tanzania and written by scientists from Norwegian University if Life Sciences and the University of Dar es Salam, found potential life threatening levels of arsenic around Barrick�s North Mara mine in Tanzania. The study investigated the area around the tailing dam and the site of an accidental spill that occurred on May 9, 2009. Despite that fact that these areas were tested four to seven months after the spill, this study shows that the water remains toxic for human consumption and grazing use.

According to Evans Rubara of the Christian Council of Tanzania, "Following the spill in May, 203 people became ill, 43 people died, and 1358 livestock died according to the Ward authorities in North Mara.� Barrick responded to the report criticizing the integrity of the science, to which the authors responded with a detailed defense of their methodology.

At their Pascua Lama project on the border of Chile and Argentina, Barrick's activities have been linked to a 56-70% decrease in the size of nearby glaciers by the Government Water Commission, who reported this January that the company is failing to comply with Chile's environmental laws.

The Pascua Lama project is also plagued by a lawsuit by the Diaguita Huascoaltinos Indigenous community against the Chilean state, recently admitted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Their claim states that the government not only violated the Diaguita's Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC), but they also did not consider comments submitted by their community in the Environmental Assessment Process of the Mine. The claim also states that Barrick's claim to land on and near the Pascua Lama project on the border of Chile and Argentina relies on a series of fraudulent land claims to collectively held-Diaguita Huascoaltinos land. The Diaguita Huascoaltinos also initiated two lawsuits against Barrick in Chile, seeking to slow down and stop Barrick's mining and exploration on their land.

Manipulation of land title can also be observed in Barrick's Lake Cowal mine in New South Wales, Australia, where  Barrick's manipulation of Native Title has led to the desecration of a Wiradjuri Sacred site and important wetland. Since the Lake Cowal mine � which is licensed to use over 12 million liters/day of water � has been in operation, the area has experienced two water "crises," the latest one in October corresponding with lowest levels at the Wyangala Dam on the Lachlan River since 1970.

These same issues can be seen in the United States, where Barrick wants to expand its mining operations in Nevada. The state�s Western Shoshone tribes claim the U.S. Bureau of Land Management didn�t fully evaluate the environmental impact of the mine expansion before approving it, and have brought a suit against the company. While initially denied, the Shoshone won an injunction on appeal in a San Francisco Federal Appeals Court. However, Barrick later appealed again to win a limited injunction so the mine didn't have to shut down while the BLM conducts the studies. At that mine, the gold is found underneath the water table, and the Shoshone argue that pumping water out of the pit would cause the groundwater level to drop and potentially dry up more than a dozen streams and springs that the Shoshone hold as sacred. 

In Balochistan, Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani announced January 5 the termination of a mining contract for Barrick Gold's Reko Diq project, following a unanimous decision by the Pakistani province�s cabinet. According to the Minister, "They (Barrick and Chile�s Antofagasta, co-owners of the mine project) only have an exploration license, which does not cover extraction," adding that his government would not allow any agreement which undermined people's rights.

Immediately, US ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson made a statement warning that "multinational corporations will not invest in a country where deals are canceled." Canada�s international trade ministry followed suit, pressing Pakistani officials to �fulfill their obligations under a 2006 Pakistani-Canadian-Chilean agreement potentially worth billions of dollars,� according to the Vancouver Sun.

Balochistan, the province in Pakistan bordering Iran and Afghanistan, has been struggling for its independence from Pakistan since 1948. More than 8,000 Baloch have been disappeared since 2004, and 26* prominent leaders have been assassinated.

And finally, in Canada, Barrick is using SLAPPs -- Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation � against two small presses, one in Quebec, one based in Vancouver, that have published or announced an intention to publish books that damage Barrick's image. The latest SLAPP, directed at Talonbooks of Vancouver, halted a book before it even hit the press.

The book, entitled Imperial Canada Inc.: Legal Haven of Choice for the World's Mining Industries, edited by Alain Deneault, was canceled because its small publisher could not afford to engage in a legal battle, regardless of the merits of the case.

Meanwhile, Barrick engaged in numerous high level events promoting their version of Corporate Social Responsbility and its chairman, Peter Munk, recently donated $35 million to the University of Toronto to create the Munk School of Global Affairs, which aims to prepare students to become global leaders and foster "a deep understanding of the broader architecture and the forces that shape the global system."


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