Tanzania: Murders at North MaraPublished by MAC on 2011-05-24
Source: Toronto Star, Financial Post, Pambazuka (2011-06-04)
Seven die in "clash" at Barrick mine.
Since it was listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2010, African Barrick - subsidiary of the world's biggest gold mining company - has been beset by accusations of committing major human rights abuses in Tanzania.
Last week, seven Tanzanian citizens were shot dead by "security forces", and a dozen others injured, when hundreds of "armed" local people entered the company's North Mara site, according to the company, in order to seize ore from one of the crushers.
Viewed as an isolated incident, the people's actions would appear to be unacceptable.
However, they were rooted in a pattern of continual aggression, environmental damage and contempt for local communities on the part of the company which commenced soon after Barrick Gold entered Tanzania over a decade ago.
For previous stories on MAC, see: Tanzania: Gold's Tragic Dividend (2010) and Tanzanians call for closure of deadly Canadian-owned mine (2009)
** Updated on 4 June 2011
Seven dead in clash at African Barrick mine
By Lisa Wright in Toronto and Jocelyn Edwards in Tanzania
17 May 2011
Security forces at African Barrick Gold's North Mara mine in Tanzania killed seven "criminal intruders" and injured a dozen more after 800 people stormed the project armed with machetes, rocks and hammers in a bid to steal gold ore.
Police were called to the area on Monday and "came under sustained attack" by hundreds of people who illegally entered the mine site to try to remove ore from one of the crushers, said a statement released by the London-based company, which is a majority-owned subsidiary of Toronto's Barrick Gold Corp.
"A number of intruders sustained gunshot wounds, resulting in seven intruder fatalities and 12 injuries," said the release.
The deadly clash is the latest in an ongoing battle between the giant Canadian miner and locals who scavenge for gold-laced rocks on the lucrative property, which Barrick acquired in 2006.
The price of gold has tripled in value since then, reaching a record high of $1,540.25 (U.S.) an ounce earlier this month and making it all the more attractive to villagers involved in illegal small-scale mining.
The violence Monday follows other clashes at the mine that killed at least seven others in the past two years, according to interviews with victims' relatives, witnesses, local officials and human-rights workers, Bloomberg News reported in December. African Barrick doesn't deny that security incidents have previously resulted in deaths.
Gargantuan trucks scale the mounds of grey waste rock surrounding the North Mara mine.
Meanwhile below, young men with hammers and hoes walk in groups along the dirt roads leading to their villages.
It's conflict between these groups of small-time miners and African Barrick that has apparently produced the majority of the alleged injuries and fatalities at the mine.
Neyakema Mwita, 39, said three of his friends have been killed at the mine while scavenging. Still, he said he has no other means of earning a livelihood besides returning there himself.
"I have a wife. If I don't go there, how else will I eat?"
On this recent morning, speaking as he walked toward his one-room mud home, Mwita had just come down from the mine after spending 10 hours overnight there, searching for gold.
He was not alone. A gold-rich cache was recently discovered and at least a couple of hundred locals had sneaked there the previous night to mine. Security came and chased them away at one point, discharging tear gas and firing guns.
But after officials had gone, miners just returned to the area.
Mwita learned to mine from his father when he was just 11 years old. Back in those days, it wasn't a dangerous profession for a father to pass on to his son.
But then commercial mining came to the area. "When the company came, they suppressed what we were doing. Now, when we go there, we go crawling, creeping on our stomachs. It's scary; we go there like commandos, looking out here and there."
Police say Monday's deadly conflict was the third attack on the mine in a week, though they managed to keep invaders at bay in the previous two attacks.
"Police fired warning shots into the air and used tear gas to try to stop the attackers from advancing, but they would not heed," Tarime-Rorya regional police commander Constantine Massawe told Reuters on Tuesday. "Police were forced to use live ammunition to protect themselves. Seven police officers were injured in the incident."
The mine, located in Tarime district about 100 kilometres east of Lake Victoria and 20 kilometres south of the Kenyan border, has four open pits and produced almost 213,000 ounces of gold in 2010.
African Barrick is investigating the latest incident, as are the police, who have deployed additional forces in the area, the company said. There has been no material effect on production at the site, the company added.
Barrick Gold Corp. and African Barrick, which is 74 per cent owned by the Canadian miner, have previously paid the Tanzanian government for federal police protection at the mine and used private armed guards, according to company documents.
"African Barrick Gold sincerely regrets any loss of life or injury on or near its mine sites," the company said. "The company will continue to support the government and the community in their efforts to improve law and order and security in the North Mara region."
In 2008, some 200 people attacked the North Mara mine and destroyed property worth $7 million, forcing operations at one pit to be halted.
"This is an extreme situation in a very difficult tribal area, exacerbated by some poor management tactics," said Fairfax IS analyst John Meyer.
A private member's bill from John McKay, the Liberal MP for Scarborough-Guildwood, aimed at toughening scrutiny of Canadian companies operating overseas was narrowly defeated in the House of Commons last October after the mining industry campaigned against it.
African Barrick was spun off by Barrick Gold in March 2010. The company operates four mines in northwest Tanzania.
"From day one it's been a really tough place to operate. It's tested all previous management at Barrick," said John Ing, president of Maison Placements Canada in Toronto.
Barrick employs its own security guards as well as members of the Tanzanian federal police force to patrol the area.
In a statement given to the Star Tuesday night, Barrick's Toronto office said: "The vast majority who live and work near North Mara share the same desire for security and safety as we do. The mine often operates under challenging and complex circumstances.
"North Mara regularly faces illegal intruders who are armed and aggressive, and many are linked to organized crime."
The company described itself as deeply troubled by the incident.
According to Barrick, the economic benefits of mining are significant for the East African nation, as more than 90 per cent of North Mara's workforce of 4,800 is Tanzanian.
But the lure of the valuable stones often proves too great for many unemployed villagers. Locals collect these rocks and sell them to buyers in town for a few dollars each.
It's a risky way to earn a living. Mine security routinely "harass (locals), shoot them, maim them and sometimes kill them without any serious offences committed," said Wilson Mangure, a local politician who sits on the Tarime district council.
Seven 'intruders' killed at African Barrick mine
By Peter Koven
17 May 2011
When Barrick Gold Corp. spun its African properties into a new company last year, investors knew they were being sold high-risk assets that had their share of problems.
But they didn't imagine this.
On Tuesday, African Barrick Gold PLC reported details of a horrifying incident at its North Mara mine in Tanzania. According to the company, about 800 "criminal intruders" armed with machetes, rocks and hammers broke into the mine site and tried to steal gold ore. The Tanzanian police were called in and were forced to open fire after being attacked by the intruders. Seven people were killed and another 12 injured.
"The police are making an investigation, so more details will come from them in the days and weeks to come," a spokesman for London-based African Barrick said.
This is the worst incident yet at North Mara, which has been plagued with security problems for years. The mine is located in a difficult border region near Kenya, and attracts transients and other illegal miners.
Unfortunately for African Barrick, the violence is just one of several problems the company has encountered. It has been a major disappointment since going public in March of last year.
"It's been one issue after another. They've failed to execute," said one analyst, who asked not to be named.
Just a day before African Barrick announced the incident at North Mara, the company reported a mill failure at the Buzwagi mine. And prior to that, there were problems with fuel theft and unplanned power outages (also at Buzwagi), along with other cost inflation issues. African Barrick produced just over 700,000 ounces of gold in 2010, well below its initial target of as much as 850,000 ounces.
As a result of its problems, the company has failed to capitalize on the phenomenal bull market for gold. The stock has dropped nearly 20% since the initial public offering.
Barrick, the world's biggest gold miner, decided to spin off the Tanzanian assets because they are relatively small compared to the company's massive operations in the Americas. Chief executive Aaron Regent thought they could do better on their own as a high-growth company than in Barrick as a whole, where they were overshadowed.
In hindsight, experts said that taking capital out of Tanzania was probably a good move by Barrick. However, the company still owns about 74% of African Barrick.
"Tanzania has particularly been a problem for Barrick. It's chronic," said John Ing, president and gold analyst at Maison Placements Canada.
He said the company "tried everything," including different management groups, to improve the Tanzanian operations, but "the costs kept on rising" before the eventual spin-off.
Until this week, African Barrick appeared to be making positive progress in 2011, and it is anticipating improved production and lower cash costs in the second half of the year. Cash costs were US$658 an ounce in the first quarter of 2011, 28% higher than the same quarter a year ago. At the troubled North Mara operation, costs were US$760 per ounce.
Tyler Broda, an analyst at Canaccord Genuity, wrote that the violence at North Mara will likely overshadow the positives at African Barrick in the short term.
"This will not help what is already a negative market perception on the operations in Tanzania," he wrote.
Black Eye for Barrick taints Canada critics say
By Lisa Wright, Star Business Reporter
18 May 2011
Barrick Gold Corp. has tainted Canada's international mining image, say industry observers, as police and company officials investigate why seven people were killed at the gold giant's troubled Tanzanian mine.
"I think it's a big hit on their reputation. That's a lot of people to die at one time on a mine site," said Toronto activist Sakura Saunders, co-founder of the ProtestBarrick.net website.
Police at the North Mara mine near the Kenyan border, a site run by its African Barrick Gold division, opened fire Monday when about 800 villagers stormed the site with machetes, hammers and rocks to reportedly steal valuable gold ore.
All's quiet since then at the site says a spokesman, while an internal investigation by the company - majority-owned by Toronto-based Barrick - and a separate one by Tanzanian police begins into the deaths and the estimated dozen injured in the violent confrontation.
"We are reviewing the security situation at North Mara but it will take some time to unravel," said Charles Chichester, a spokesman for the London-based company.
There is no word on whether charges will be laid.
"Barrick is a symbol of Canadian mining in the world and claims to be the most ethically responsible, so this is a big black eye for them," said Saunders, who has been monitoring Barrick's operations abroad for the last five years.
But security issues are a major concern for all Canadian companies operating overseas, not just in the resources industry, which is enjoying unprecedented boom times around the world, says Chris Hodgson, president of the Ontario Mining Association.
"The trend is that more and more people want to steal (from companies) whenever prices go up or whenever money is involved, whether it's banking or casinos or mining," he said.
Gold's meteoric rise to more than triple its value since Barrick acquired the troubled mine in 2006 only makes it more attractive to thieves lately, he said, adding Barrick does a "remarkable job" operating ethically in other countries.
"It's always regrettable when people are killed or injured but this level of criminality is not unique to our industry," said Hodgson, whose group represents the province's mining companies.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, who won a federal seat in the last election, said in an interview Wednesday she will urge Parliament to address human rights abuses of multi-nationals around the world when it resumes.
"We have a significant problem with the Canadian mining sector overseas," said May, who represents the riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands in British Columbia.
"It's certainly worrying and I hope the company will be more forthcoming on how and why this serious incident occurred," May said.
Tanzania: Killings and toxic spill tarnish Barrick Gold
By Zahra Moloo
19 May 2011
Zahra Moloo investigates the impact of a Canadian-based gold mine on the North Mara region in Tanzania. Villagers in the area complain about deaths and ill-health due to pollution of the Thigithe River.
The Thigithe River in North Mara, Tanzania, meanders through scattered villages and clumps of trees in a vast expanse of land ringed by hills close to the Kenyan border. Nearby, an enormous, sprawling mound of rocks and stones several metres high reaches up from the earth. This is the region's notorious gold mine, operated by African Barrick Gold, a subsidiary of the Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corporation. The mine has a reserve of an estimated 2.95 million ounces of gold.
In May 2009, toxic sludge from the mine seeped into the Thigithe River. Reports from the surrounding villages alleged that the toxic material led to the deaths of about 20 people and to fish, crops and animals dying from the contaminated water. The following year, controversy raged in Tanzania's parliament as activists, villagers and human rights organisations tried to have the mine shut down.
In the village of Weigita, David Mwita Magige described how his brother died after drinking the water, shortly after the spillage.
‘My young brother went to the farm across the river. He felt thirsty so he drank water from Thigithe. Not a long time after, his head began to hurt and his stomach was aching so he decided to come home. Before long he was dead. He had started to vomit a lot of water for quite some time before he died.'
Magige said his family notified the village authorities, but no action was taken. He said the company did not offer compensation for the death of his brother, nor for the deaths of relatives of neighbouring villagers. ‘I know many people who have died from using water from Thigithe for showering, drinking and other domestic consumption,' he added. His wife reportedly had a miscarriage after two months of pregnancy, an incident that he claimed occurred amongst women who used Thigithe's toxic waters.
Continued Reports of Deaths from Spillage
In 2009, Barrick acknowledged that the mine had caused a spillage, but claimed it had been cleaned up. Barrick's spokesman at the time, Teweli Kyara Teweli, said that allegations that people had died were lies.
Almost two years later, African Barrick's spokesperson, Charles Chichester, said in response to a request for an interview that the Thigithe River incident was no longer an issue of concern. But villagers living in Tarime district in North Mara have a different story to tell.
Village chairperson Abel Kereman Nyakiha said more than 40 people from the three villages of Weigita, Nkerege and Nyakunguru have died since the spillage occurred in 2009, 20 of them in the months from June to October 2010. ‘Many people have died. From June to October, we have seen about 20 deaths,' he said. ‘We don't yet have an official record at the village level, but we have asked each hamlet to record all the deaths that have taken place. The problem areas are three and these are the areas that are primarily using Thigithe river water in their everyday life.'
Nyahiri Ryoba Mwita, a farmer from Weigita, says that he lost 39 heads of livestock in the aftermath of the spill and that they continued to die afterward. ‘My life has not been the same because out of the cows that I lost, five were used for plowing,' he said. ‘We have complained, but our complaints were not listened to. The company has never been here to talk to the villagers who have been affected by the spillage.'
A short distance away from Weigita in the village of Kiwanja, villagers said they have been suffering severe health effects from the contaminated water. Omari Bina, a former security guard who used to work for Barrick, said he was laid off by the company in 2007 without compensation after he was injured in an attack.
His daughter, now two years old, has a white pigmentation on her head, legs and arms which appeared when her sister took her to the river to wash, following the spillage. Her skin broke out in rashes and small spots. Fearing for her life, Bina took her to the nearest hospital in Tarime, but didn't have the funds to take her to another doctor for proper diagnosis.
‘It took a long time before the company responded to our needs so that our daughter could have some treatment. For about a year I tried to talk to the public relations officer, but he never listened to us,' he said. Finally, about a year later, the company took Bina's daughter to Buganda hospital in Mwanza where she was given medication. ‘The doctors who treated my daughter come from the company. They come, they take my daughter, they go with her to the hospital and they bring her back here.'
In Mwanza, the doctors diagnosed her with a fungal infection, but Bina does not believe his daughter has fungus. ‘When my daughter used to lie down, before she had started the medication, there was a lot of fluid material oozing from her head. I don't believe this is fungus.'
Other villagers were also affected, including Andrew Thomas Marwa who developed white spots on his face and head. He tried to treat his illness with medication, but to no avail.
Marwa said the hospital doctors and local authorities refused to acknowledge that the illnesses were related to the contaminated water. Instead they insisted that the illnesses were skin infections, an explanation corroborated by Barrick on its website.
The company said medical experts concluded that the illnesses were ‘caused by genetics, immunological or other conditions. They were not caused by impacts associated with the North Mara operation over the past year.'
The Tanzanian government, likewise, insisted that the seepage from the river has not had any health effects. Aloyce Tesha, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Energy and Minerals, said that contrary to the villagers' allegations, no fish or other creatures died from the chemical spillage into the river.
‘Given that no aquatic living thing was found dead following the incident; it becomes difficult to attribute claimed diseases and illnesses of people around the river as being caused by this seepage,' he stated in a report. Based on these suppositions, ‘the government cannot give compensation to the villagers given that it is difficult to ascertain if these deaths and losses really occurred and if they did, what was the cause.'
But despite the government's and the company's insistence that reported deaths and illnesses were not related to the mine's operations in Tarime, an investigation sponsored by a number of religious groups in June 2009 assessing heavy metals around the North Mara gold mine found levels of trace metals and cyanide higher than what is considered permissible by World Health Organisation standards. Water samples taken from the river found nickel, lead and chromium levels had increased by 260, 168 and 14 times respectively.
The report highlights cancer, heart disease, genetic problems, respiratory complications, reproductive problems and brain damage as possible effects of exposure to toxic chemicals like cyanide.
Villagers are worried about the long-term effects, since water from Thigithe River flows into other rivers including River Mara and eventually, Lake Victoria, shared by Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. The company says spill-prevention measures such as protective lining are put in place whenever there is an ‘accidental release of chemical solutions'.
But villagers said that the company took no steps to prevent spillage from the mine's tailings dam. ‘They said they were going to put in place a kind of protective carpet to ensure that water does not leak out of the tailings dam, but they didn't put anything there,' said Esther Mugusuhi, a resident of Matongo village. ‘Now they are alleging that it is local people that stole the carpet.'
Allegations of Killings
Aside from the toxic spill, another disturbing set of reports that has emerged from North Mara's Tarime district concerns allegations of indiscriminate killings of villagers by security forces belonging to the company. In a small patch of land at Kiwanja village, Muruga Chacha sits in a chair outside her home.
Two meters away lies a mound signifying her son's grave. Charles Ganyi Chacha, a farmer, brick-maker and father of four, was killed on 19 December 2010 by a car his mother claimed belonged to the gold company.
‘My relatives told me, "your son has died,"' said Muruga Chacha. ‘I didn't understand what happened. I went home. They said he had gone to see his friend in Nyangoto. But then a car owned by Barrick came and he started to run. When he ran, the car ran over him and then reversed over him again, killing him. I went there and found that he was dead. He was 35 years old.'
A similar incident occurred earlier in March 2010 when the husband of Deborah Paul, Paul Muhere Biraro was killed inside the gold mine. ‘It was 16 March 2010 in the morning,' said Deborah Paul. ‘Somebody came to tell me, "your husband is in the dispensary". We found him lying there half-dead. He died after half an hour. We don't know what happened. The incident happened in the mine. We were informed by witnesses that the men who were in the company car beat him and this resulted in his death, so we don't know what really happened.'
Andrew Thomas Marwa from Kiwanja village said that killings occur many times within a single month in Tarime. He named three people he saw killed by the company car, but said he did not know the reasons for the deaths. ‘There are other incidences,' he added, ‘one at Kiwanja, someone was shot from behind by security guards belonging to the company and another person was also shot in the same way, but there was no reason given by the company. Someone else from Kiwanja called Muhere was also killed. After they got him, he was stabbed with knives.'
When asked whether the families were given compensation, he said, ‘No compensation has been given. They just say that they will assist with the funeral and compensate the deceased family, but after the burial, they just vanish and nothing is taken care of.'
Journalist Cam Simpson carried out 28 interviews in October 2010, which revealed a total number of 15 people injured and seven killed over the course of the past two years in the mining area.
African Barrick declined direct requests for interviews about the killings, as well as about the continued reports about the toxic materials in the Thigithe River. In response to a query from the Tanzanian Ministry of Energy and Minerals to African Barrick, Mining Manager Samuel Eshun and Security Manager Arthur O'Neill refuted allegations of killings by Barrick's security officials. They stated that they only knew of two accidents occurring on 3 December 2010 in which ‘illegal miners died when they fell down and landed on the ramp' in Nyabirama pit.
The regional police commander for Tarime and Rorya regions, Mr. Massawe, also refuted the allegations and claimed he was only aware of two incidents in which four miners had died in mine-related accidents.
On 19 November 2010, Barrick announced that it had signed onto a set of voluntary guidelines on human rights and security to ‘ensure that human rights principles are reinforced' and that in their security guidelines, protection of people ‘is first and foremost'.
According to human rights groups, the company is not adhering to its own commitments. Chacha Wambura, executive director of Foundation Help, an organisation that works in the mining-affected areas in Tarime district, said that the killings are a form of intimidation to enable the company to do as it wishes. ‘The authorities want to justify that the people in Nyamongo are hard people to live with and they don't want investment in their area. But actually it puts the company in a very bad situation where at the end of the day, no serious shareholder would want to be associated with this company.'
A campaign group called Protest Barrick held a protest outside Barrick Gold's Annual General Meeting in Toronto last April to bring attention to injustices committed by Barrick in different countries.
A spokesperson at the protest on behalf of Lawyers Environmental Action Team/Friends of the Earth Tanzania accused Barrick of ‘non-adherence of environmental standards and serious abuse of peoples' rights'. At the same time, African Barrick has seen a 20 per cent increase in its revenue from 2010, producing 173,097 ounces of gold in the first quarter of 2011 from its Tanzania gold mines.
For more information and to take action visit: Protest Barrick.
- This article first appeared in Toward Freedom.
Memorial for dead banned at Canadian gold mine in Africa
23 May 2011
TARIME, TANZANIA-Families of the five men killed by security forces of a Canadian mine are furious after that were denied permission to hold a memorial service Tuesday at African Barrick's gold mine in North Mara.
"When you have lost your loved ones and you are in a grieving period, for someone to do this to you, it is not right. It would be better if they would take you too," said Magige Gati, whose 27-year-old son Emmanuel Magige was among the dead.
Five men were killed, and at least a dozen injured, when about 800 locals clashed with security on May 16 at a mine in the area owned by African Barrick, a subsidiary of Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corporation.
The clash is the latest episode in an ongoing conflict between residents of North Mara, who come to the mine to scavenge for gold and Barrick, which took over the mine in 2006.
Police cited security concerns as well as "a series of criminal acts," including villagers' invasion of the North Mara mine and an attack on the motorcade of the local MP by residents upset at what they say is the government's role in the killings, as reasons for denying permission for the memorial.
Families of the deceased said they were at the mortuary in the small northern town of Tarime to guard the bodies of their loved ones, due to be buried Tuesday, in shifts.
"We fear that the police will take the bodies and bury them. So we are staying to stand guard," said Gasaya Matikua, uncle of one of the victims, 19-year-old Chacha Ngoka Chacha.
African Barrick employs police as well as private security guards to protect the mine.
Organizers of the memorial said that they would go ahead with the event.
"If the police decide to use force against us, it is entirely up to them. We will hold a peaceful ceremony," said Tundu Lissu, a lawyer who has worked on behalf of residents around the North Mara mine and who is an opposition MP in Tanzania's parliament.
"We will not be intimidated or told how to mourn our dead by the very people who murdered them."
Despite the ban, a van with a loud speaker still drove through the streets of Tarime inviting townspeople to attend. It was quickly followed by a police truck issuing a warning to residents against taking part in any such activities.
A heavy security presence was evident in the town as trucks of police officers, some dressed in riot gear, made their way up and down its streets.
‘Engaging in journalism activities without permission'
By Jocelyn Edwards
The Toronto Star
28 May 2011
KAMPALA, UGANDA-Given that I had been followed around the tiny town for two days by men in '80s-style wraparound sunglasses, it wasn't really a surprise to me when I finally got arrested last Thursday in northern Tanzania.
I had gone to the East African nation to investigate the deaths of five villagers gunned down at a mine in North Mara belonging to African Barrick, a subsidiary of Toronto-based mining giant Barrick Gold Corp. Barrick said the men killed by security forces - initial reports had pegged the death toll at seven - were "intruders." Family members of the victims said the gold-laced stones the men routinely collected at the mine were their only means of survival.
Trucks of police in full riot gear patrolled the streets of Tarime, the town nearest the mine. The situation was tense and relatives of the deceased were huddled together in a compound.
Tuesday morning, I woke up and found the room next to mine empty. The environmental and human rights lawyer who had been staying there had been arrested, along with seven other people who had been guarding the bodies of the victims at the town mortuary.
Witnesses said they saw police load the coffins of four of the victims onto a truck Monday night. They were found the next morning dumped on the roadside next to the deceased's respective homes.
But there wasn't really anything I could do to get rid of the spies; as a small white woman in a Tanzanian town of only a couple of thousand, I didn't really have hope of losing them in a crowd.
So the security men sat across from me at lunch, followed me back to my hotel after interviews and perched on stools in the bar watching me come and go. But they maintained their distance, so I hoped that watching was all they were going to do.
Then Thursday at 9 a.m., I went to the office of the district commissioner of Tarime. I wanted to ask him if it was true that, as family members of the deceased had told me, he said it was unfortunate that police had killed only five people that night at the mine.
Upon my arrival, however, the commissioner shook my hand and led me to an office with several police officers. One of them told me that I was suspected of having pictures on my camera dangerous to the "security and stability" of the country. In fact, I only had a few photos of the family members of the victims.
I was then taken to the immigration office, where three immigration officers and a police detective questioned me. I was told I was being detained for working in Tanzania without a work permit, but their questions made it clear their real interest was in more than my immigration status.
They asked me why a foreigner like me would be interested in the deaths at the North Mara mine, how I had come to learn about the killings and what I had concluded about them.
As the officers spoke in Swahili, I worried that the episode would end with a night in a Tanzanian jail.
But after being detained for eight hours, I was formally charged with "engaging in journalism activities without permission" and given bail.
Though I had agreed to plead guilty to the charges, I was driven to my hotel and my room was searched.
The detective solved the problem of the lack of a warrant by grabbing a piece of paper from the manager's office and writing up a "temporary emergency searching order" on the spot. Police and immigration officials confiscated my laptop and notebooks. My phone, camera and passport were also kept overnight.
The next day, I went to the local court and paid a small fine. Even though there were no outstanding charges against me, police officers kept my property for several hours, asking me for my computer password so they could search it.
Finally, at about 4 p.m. on Friday, three immigration officers drove me to the Kenyan border and deported me.
But mine was a relatively minor ordeal compared with how some others were treated in the wake of these killings.
Tanzanian member of parliament Tundu Lissu was among the eight people arrested Monday while guarding the bodies of the victims at the mortuary. They were arrested, beaten and put in the back of a truck.
"We were piled on top of each other and they stomped on us with their boots," he said.
African Barrick says the conduct of the Tanzanian police in the aftermath of the shootings is not related to any services the force provides the company.
"This is a police matter and concerns how the Tanzanian police interact with the community. African Barrick Gold does not have any control or influence over police in this respect," the company said in an email.
But local leaders accuse the company of complicity in the conduct of the police, because it employs officers to provide mine security, and allege that African Barrick is benefiting from it.
Lissu said: "A community that has been intimidated is a community that can't demand its rights from the company."
Barrick to make sex assault investigation at African gold mine public
By Craig Wong
31 May 2011
Barrick Gold promised Tuesday it will make public the results of an independent investigation into allegations of sexual assaults at one of its African gold mines.
The company said that African Barrick Gold, a subsidiary in which it holds a 74 per cent stake, has hired an experienced team of independent investigators who are actively pursuing the allegations at the North Mara mine in Tanzania.
"ABG voluntarily alerted the police, NGOs, and local stakeholders to the existence of this independent investigation and to information that the investigation has revealed,'' Barrick said in a statement.
"Senior national police officials are in the area, and they are assigning a senior level investigations unit to pursue this matter. ABG will co-operate with and closely monitor that police investigation.''
Catherine Coumans, research co-ordinator with MiningWatch Canada, praised Barrick's admission that a preliminary investigation found what it called "credible evidence'' of the sexual assaults by the Tanzanian police and the company's security guards, but said more work was needed.
"Some kind of remedy for harm that is caused is important,'' she said.
Earlier this month, North Mara was the site of deadly clashes when police shot and killed seven people after hundreds tried to steal ore from the mine.
The allegations in Tanzania echo allegations at another Barrick gold mine in Papua New Guinea where a report by Human Rights Watch found half a dozen incidents of alleged rape by private security guards.
Arvind Ganesam, director of the business and human rights at Human Rights Watch, said the incidents taken together highlight the need for legislation that gives the Canadian government some power over the foreign operations of Canadian companies.
"If there is any evidence for the need for some kind of regulation in Canada, this is probably it,'' he said from New York.
"If you're having a large company having the same kind of problems in two places in the world, then that probably speaks to the need for the Canadian government to scrutinize what its companies are doing abroad far more closely.''
Bill C-300, which would have forced Canadian mining companies to toughen their environmental and human-rights standards when working abroad, was narrowly defeated in Parliament last year.
Ganesam said Barrick needs to thoroughly examine itself and find out who knew what and when.
"You want to determine, what happened, who is responsible, what systems were in place to identify, prevent or address these problems from occurring and who throughout the chain of command of the company would have been responsible or should have exercised oversight,'' he said.
Barrick owns and operates gold mines in Canada, the U.S., Peru, Argentina, Chile, Australia and Papua New Guinea.
Its major development projects include Pueblo Viejo in the Dominican Republic, Cortez Hills in Nevada, and Pascua-Lama on the border between Argentina and Chile.
Tanzanians Killed at Barrick's North Mara Mine Not Forgotten
Monk out of University of Toronto blog
4 June 2011
70 gather at the Munk School of Global Affairs
Approximately 70 people gathered today at a commemoration held for the seven individuals killed in Tanzania at African Barrick Gold's North Mara Mine. Public outcry over this violence has been amplified by recent reports that local security/police forces employed by the mine have attempted to ban a memorial ceremony for the deceased. To the horror of many local families, these security forces also stole 5 of the 7 peoples' bodies from the mortuary.
The company has claimed that this violence was in response to an invasion of 1500 local people looting for gold ore. For others however, the real crime can be linked to the history of large-scale mining in the region. Editor of ProtestBarrick Sakura Saunders comments: "This mine was built on displacement and dispossession of the local people. These communities have a long history of small-scale mining for their livelihood that has been taken from them. Now, these same communities are being criminalized for using the survival-mechanisms that they know. They are being killed for 'stealing' the same gold-laced sand that used to be theirs."
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case. According to Carlos Jimenez a member of the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network, local mining communities often feel negative impacts and experience economic losses. He also expresses other concerns as a U of T student. He states, "It is disgusting that the University of Toronto chooses to accept donations from an industry which destroys communities and legitimizes it under the rhetoric of development. We must evaluate what kind of influence mining companies have in communities both at home and abroad."
U of T alumni soon-to-to be graduate student Kwanza Msingwana agreed. "Barrick Gold should be held accountable . . . rather than just take the goods of Tanzania and leave the people impoverished leaving the environment in a bad state so that people cannot continue to benefit from the environment."
President of Science for Peace, Judy Deutsch also expressed concern for human rights violations as well as the toll that mining has on the environment as a whole. She states, "The focus needs to be on preserving cultivable land and preserving water, not sacrificing young people to enrich entrepreneurs such as what just happened at the North Mara mine."
The names of the individuals killed in North Mara mine were read out loud: Emanual Magige, 27; Chacha Mwasi, 25; Chacha Ngoka, 26; Chawali Bhoke, 26; Mwikwabe Marwa, 35. Statements were also read from Tarime residents and advocates who work in the region.
Despite receiving formal invitations, no administrators of the Munk School of Global Affairs were available for comment.
Barrick probes assault allegations; Tanzanian police, guards accused of sex attacks
1 June 2011
In the latest blow to the world's largest gold miner, Barrick Gold Corp. is investigating "highly disturbing" allegations of sexual assaults against local women at one of its mines in Tanzania just weeks after seven people were killed at the same troubled site.
"It's a real hornet's nest," said analyst John Ing, president of Maison Placements Canada Inc. "It seems to be rife with problems there.... The Toronto-based bullion giant says the assaults are alleged to have taken place at the North Mara mine, which is owned and operated by Barrick's subsidiary African Barrick Gold.
Barrick says that a preliminary investigation by ABG has found credible evidence of sexual assaults by members of the Tanzanian police and the company's security guards.
The company says local police are also probing the allegations and a senior level investigations unit will be deployed to the mine soon.
"They have a responsibility to remedy the harm that's been caused," said Catherine Coumans of Mining Watch Canada.
Though operations have not been interrupted at the remote mine 40 kilometres from the Kenyan border, the industry watchdog recommends Barrick shut down the mine while investigations are underway.
A Barrick spokesman said Tuesday the firm has no plans to suspend operations at North Mara.
The company further says it is "deeply distressed" by the evidence that has emerged and adds that its responses to these issues "are consistent with the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights."
Barrick says its own probe is ongoing and the findings will be made public once the report is concluded.
"African Barrick Gold has retained a highly experienced team of external, independent investigators who have been actively pursuing the investigation. ABG voluntarily alerted the police, NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and local stakeholders to the existence of this independent investigation and to information that the investigation has revealed," the Toronto office said in a statement Tuesday.
"ABG will publicly report on the findings of this independent investigative team, and has urged the police, on a national level, to conduct its own full and independent investigation."
Earlier this month, North Mara was the site of deadly clashes between police and a crowd of about 1,500 people trying to steal ore from the mine. Seven people were killed and a dozen more were injured.
Barrick says it has a zero tolerance approach to human rights violations and any employee implicated in human rights violations or other serious criminal acts will be fired.
"These deplorable crimes, if confirmed, are neither acceptable nor excusable," the company said in a statement posted on their website.
"They send a clear message to us that we have not met the promises we have made to the community, and to ourselves, to pursue responsible mining in every location where we and our affiliates operate. We can, and will, do more."
Barrick owns and operates gold mines in Canada, the United States, Peru, Argentina, Chile, Australia and Papua New Guinea.