MAC: Mines and Communities

Barrick Gold Faces Court in London

Published by MAC on 2014-11-07
Source: Statement, Mining.com (2014-11-06)

Barrick Gold Faces Court in London

Leigh Day – MiningWatch Canada joint press statement

6 November 2014

(Ottawa) London-based African Barrick Gold is being sued in the United Kingdom by Tanzanian villagers for deaths and injuries allegedly caused by security and police guarding the company’s North Mara mine.

Leigh Day partner Shanta Martin, who is representing the Tanzanian claimants, is in Ottawa calling on the company and its majority shareholder, Barrick Gold Corporation, to live up to their corporate responsibility and human rights commitments.

“Impoverished people from remote rural villages who sue multinational companies often face incredible obstacles to having their claims heard by an independent arbiter,” said Martin.

Barrick Gold Corporation says it respects human rights wherever it does business and recognises the dignity of the people they interact with every day.

At the North Mara operations of Barrick’s majority-owned subsidiary, African Barrick Gold, impoverished villagers tempted onto the mine to scratch out rocks for tiny amounts of gold are regularly being shot at with live ammunition.

“Our clients naturally expect companies that say they are transparent and supportive of human rights to live up to those claims,” said Martin.

Nine local villagers are pursuing claims against African Barrick Gold and its Tanzanian subsidiary in the High Court of England and Wales for deaths and injuries they claim were a result of the excessive use of force by mine security and police, including the frequent use of live ammunition.

Six of the claims relate to deaths by gunshot, while three claims are brought by injured young men, including one man made paraplegic by a gunshot wound through his spine. His health is precarious.

On 19 November 2014, the Claimants in the proceedings against African Barrick Gold will seek orders from the English court requiring the company to hand over its internal documents and take other steps to get the case to trial.

“We know African Barrick Gold have these documents and have reviewed them; they have referred to the documents in correspondence since at least 2012,” said Leigh Day partner, Shanta Martin. “We will be asking the court to require the company to hand them over promptly, as we say they should have two years ago.”

It is not the first time the Tanzanian villagers have challenged African Barrick Gold’s approach to the litigation. In August 2013, the Claimants successfully obtained an injunction to stop African Barrick Gold’s subsidiary from suing them in Tanzania, where they had no legal representation. African Barrick Gold’s subsidiary applied to have a local Tanzanian court declare that they could not be responsible for the conduct of police who provide security at the mine under an agreement with the companies. The English courts blocked the tactic after Leigh Day obtained an injunction to stop African Barrick Gold and its subsidiary from proceeding.

Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada emphasises that access to information is essential for those trying to assert their rights against multinational corporations, as is the opportunity to bring their claims before a competent court.

Coumans recently returned from a human rights assessment at the North Mara mine during which MiningWatch and UK-based Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID) documented continuing incidents of lethal force used by police securing the mine. Health staff in local medical facilities told MiningWatch and RAID that at least ten victims had allegedly died from gunshot wounds received at the mine in a two-month period in 2014. In the past week, Leigh Day informed African Barrick Gold of a further nine legal claims against the company relating to incidents in 2013 and 2014.

MiningWatch and RAID also found that a grievance mechanism put in place by Barrick’s North Mara subsidiary was “seriously flawed.” Coumans stated, “It is not transparent, it is administered by mine staff in a seemingly ad hoc fashion, and the compensation being offered is neither appropriate nor reflective of the deaths and serious harm that victims have suffered and is not what the victims themselves told us they need to overcome the harm.”

Additionally, Barrick’s grievance mechanism is making provision of these inadequate remedies conditional on the victims signing away their right to sue Barrick in court for the violence they have endured. In this way the company’s mechanism is directly posing a barrier to access to justice. “This flawed mechanism should not be used by the company to prevent people from accessing the courts and having their claims independently assessed, but that is what African Barrick Gold is trying to do,” says Coumans.

Leigh Day confirms that many of their clients stated they had been specifically targeted to forgo their legal claims and sign up to the Mine’s grievance mechanism.

Background

African Barrick’s North Mara gold mine in Tanzania has long experienced violence allegedly involving both mine security and local police who are paid under an agreement to provide security at the Mine.

For more information contact:

Catherine Coumans, MiningWatch Canada, tel: 613-569-3439, e-mail: catherine[at]miningwatch.ca
Shanta Martin, Leigh Day, tel: +44 20 7650 1200, e-mail: smartin[at]leighday.co.uk


Lawyers seek Barrick’s support in alleged murder case against African subsidiary

Cecilia Jamasmie

Mining.com

6 November 2014

African Barrick’s North Mara mine, Tanzania’s largest gold producer, has been a flashpoint of clashes between locals and security forces for many years.

A group of Tanzanian villagers who are suing African Barrick Gold in a U.K. court, alleging the miner was complicit in the killing of six locals by police, have asked parent-company Barrick to “live up to their corporate responsibility and human rights commitments.”

In an e-mailed statement, London-based law firm Leigh Day’s partner, Shanta Martin, who is representing the Tanzanian claimants, said that impoverished people who dare to sue multinationals often face incredible obstacles to having their claims heard by an independent arbiter.

The lawyer, who is in Ottawa this week, said that on Nov. 19 her clients will seek orders from the English court requiring African Barrick to hand over internal documents considered "key" and take other steps to get the case to trial.

“Barrick Gold Corporation says it respects human rights wherever it does business and recognizes the dignity of the people they interact with every day,” the statement says.

But it adds that at the North Mara operations of Barrick's majority-owned subsidiary, poverty-stricken locals tempted onto the mine to scratch out rocks for tiny amounts of gold are “regularly being shot at with live ammunition.”

Deadly record

African Barrick’s North Mara mine, Tanzania’s largest gold producer, has been a flashpoint of clashes between locals and security forces for many years.

In May 2011, five men were shot and killed when a group of locals stormed the mine, an incident referred to in the suit. The company said at the time the clash happened after an invasion of the mine.

Then, in August this year, two civil society groups, claimed they had received reports that as many as 10 people have been killed this year as a result of “excessive force” by police and security guards.

A spokesman for African Barrick confirmed to The Globe and Mail that “fatalities” have occurred in clashes at the mine site this year, but declined to estimate how many. It is up to the Tanzanian police to release the information, he told the Canadian newspaper.

North Mara sits in the middle of a group of seven villages, which are home to 70,000 people, most of whom live in poverty and prospect for specks of the precious metal in the waste dumps and pits of the mine as a way of survival.

London’s High Court sees a steady trickle of claims against multinationals operating in developing countries. While in the U.S. such cases would typically be sent to the country in which the alleged act occurred, British courts follow European Union legal directives, which allow litigants to sue in the country in which the company is domiciled.

Last year African Barrick paid compensation to 14 women who were sexually assaulted by police and security guards at the mine.

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