|Tanzanian villagers sue London-based African Barrick Gold for deaths and injuries|
Leigh Day Law Firm
July 30th, 2013
London law firm, Leigh Day, today (Tuesday 30 July) served African Barrick Gold (ABG) and North Mara Gold Mine Limited (NMGML) with legal proceedings filed in the UK High Court. The claim alleges that the companies are liable for the deaths and injuries of local villagers, including through complicity in the killing of at least 6 local villagers by police at the North Mara mine in Tanzania. The companies deny the allegations.
Twelve villagers, including one man who has been left paraplegic, are suing the companies in the hope of receiving just compensation.
Leigh Day has been working closely with the Legal and Human Rights Centre of Tanzania, which has sought to highlight what they say is a serious human rights situation at the mine.
The North Mara mine sits in the midst of seven villages in northern Tanzania.
Desperately impoverished villagers often attempt to gather rocks at the mine in the hope of finding tiny amounts of gold. It is alleged that police are an integral part of the mine’s security and that they shoot at the villagers using tear gas and live ammunition.
The claims relate to incidents occurring over the last three years, including one in which five young men were shot and killed on 16 May 2011. The claimants allege that the mine and NMGML are controlled by ABG and that ABG failed to curb the use of excessive force at the mine, including deadly force used by police on a regular basis over a protracted period of time.
“Unfortunately, these are not isolated incidents. We are aware of many other instances in which local people have reportedly been seriously injured or killed at ABG’s mine,” said Leigh Day partner, Richard Meeran.
ABG’s website states “we must guide our conduct by the highest standards of honesty, integrity and ethical behaviour”. However, the claimants’ lawyers believe that many local villagers, who face extreme poverty despite living on gold-rich ground, have been silenced by the mine.
Leigh Day believes that the mine has made offers to people without adequate legal representation in return for those individuals signing away their rights. Aside from foregoing their own rights to legal redress, those individuals are reportedly made to agree not to assist others who sue ABG, possibly preventing valuable witness evidence from being available to the courts. In order to receive the promised payments from the mine in these arrangements, potential claimants have to perform public relations tasks for the mine over a period of years.
ABG is majority owned by the world’s largest gold producer, Barrick Gold Corporation, which has also faced allegations of extreme violence, including gang rape, at operations in Papua New Guinea, where a local grievance mechanism is alleged to similarly encourage victims to sign away legal rights. Two years ago, Barrick announced that ABG had launched a full investigation into what it called “credible” allegations of sexual assault at the North Mara mine in Tanzania. The results of the investigation have never been released.