November 2016

Tanzanian inquiry probes deaths, injuries at Acacia’s North Mara mine

By Cecilia Keating

Police have killed 65 locals and injured 270 more over the years Acacia Mining’s North Mara gold mine in Tanzania has been in operation, according to the findings of a government inquiry published in July. The Swahili-language document was obtained by The Globe and Mail, which reported the figures in late September. Barrick Gold owns a 63.9 per cent equity interest in Acacia, formerly African Barrick Gold.

Violence at the mine site has previously erupted between the mine’s security force, Tanzanian police, and local villagers who attempt to break into the mine site to forage for valuable pieces of rock. An inquiry was set up by the Tanzanian ministry of energy and minerals in February to investigate ongoing disputes, and commissioners visited North Mara in February and March. The commission comprised local elders, Acacia employees, government officials and politicians from outside the local area.

Acacia refuted the majority of the claims reported in the Globe, saying the article was based “primarily on allegations by two anti-mining NGOs.” According to a company statement, the inquiry committee listened to “uncorroborated complaints” regarding police-related injuries and fatalities. It said the situation in North Mara has significantly improved over the past few years, with less than 10 intruders per month and only 15 per cent of fatalities being police-related.

MiningWatch Canada and Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID), a British NGO, have been investigating the fraught situation at the gold mine for three years and have completed three field assessments in the area, most recently in July and August of this year.

Catherine Coumans, MiningWatch Canada’s research coordinator, said she believes violence at the mine site is ongoing and that there needs to be “truly independent investigation into the excess use of force.”

Coumans believes the report presents an inaccurate picture of the extent of violence at the mine, in part because injuries and deaths inflicted by the mine’s security-staff were not included in the commission’s report. She said the report is a “very strange document,” which omits key information, including the name of the ministry that ran the enquiry, commissioners’ names, timelines and the timeframe of the data.

Acacia reported the inquiry in its mid-year note to investors, but did not mention the fatalities revealed in the report.

North Mara, which opened in 2002, has been plagued by violence over the years. In 2008, some 200 people invaded the mine, setting some of its equipment on fire. There have also been accusations of human rights abuses and in 2013 the company compensated 14 local women who were sexually assaulted by security personnel and police.


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