Victims at Barrick mines in PNG and Tanzania demand justicePublished by MAC on 2016-04-26
Source: MiningWatch Canada
For previous articles on MAC see: Call for Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights
Barrick Gold Fails to Address Ongoing Violence at Tanzania Mine
Victims of Violence at Barrick Mines in Papua New Guinea and Tanzania Demand Justice
As Barrick Gold's annual shareholder meeting gets underway in Toronto, we remind the company that it has failed to stop or fully recognise the violence against local people at some of its mine sites, in Tanzania and Papua New Guinea.
26 April 2016
Ottawa - Villagers living around Barrick Gold's Porgera mine in Papua New Guinea and North Mara mine in Tanzania are suffering from violence at the hands of mine security and police guarding the mines. Women have been beaten and raped and men have been maimed and killed by mine security at both mines.
Barrick is aware of the ongoing human rights abuses at the Porgera mine and selectively provided remedy packages to some victims in return for legal waivers. However, the remedy process is not reaching all victims, is not equitable, and is not meeting victims' needs. MiningWatch Canada has documented the failures of Barrick's remedy programs at both mines.
"At the Porgera mine, many women who were raped by security guards have not received remedy because they were unaware of Barrick's short term program," says Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada. "We have informed Barrick of this problem, as have human rights experts from Harvard and Columbia Universities, as well as Barrick's own consultants."
Barrick says these women can now file claims with the mine's regular grievance mechanism, but many have done so and had no response from the mine. The grievance mechanism also has not provided remedy to any of the families of men killed by mine security. Furthermore, the compensation received by 119 rape victims through a short-term program set up by Barrick was a quarter that received by eleven rape victims from Porgera who had independent legal counsel. The 119 rape victims had to sign legal waivers in return for their remedy, but they are now demanding remedy equal to the women who had independent legal counsel, pointing out that the 119 did not receive fair process.
In Tanzania, the remedy mechanism at Barrick's North Mara mine is not run independently of the mine. The victims are not given fair process, they do not have independent legal counsel throughout the process, their remedy is not equitable, and they too must sign away their legal rights through waivers. MiningWatch Canada and UK-based Rights and Accountability in Development have conducted human rights field assessments at the mine and have interviewed over 80 victims. Very few of these have received any form of remedy through the mine and the remedy they have received does not address their long-term medical and economic needs.
"€œIt is very clear that Barrick is far more interested in receiving legal waivers from vulnerable victims of mine security than in providing fair remedy through a fair process at its violent mine sites," says Coumans. "Barrick needs to open up the remedy program at the North Mara mine to a transparent review process that involves both victims and eternal human rights experts and involved stakeholders."
Contact: Catherine Coumans, MiningWatch Canada, 613-569-3439, catherine[at]miningwatch.ca
For more information see:
- Privatized Remedy and Human Rights: Re-thinking Project-Level Grievance Mechanisms. MiningWatch Canada and RAID-UK. 2014. Presented at the Third Annual UN Forum on Business and Human Rights. http://miningwatch.ca/sites/default/files/privatized_remedy_and_human_rights-un_forum-2014-12-01.pdf
- Righting Wrongs? Barrick Gold's Remedy Mechanism for Sexual Violence in Papua New Guinea: Key Concerns and Lessons Learned. 2015. Harvard University Human Rights Clinic and Columbia University Human Rights Clinic. http://www.rightingwrongsporgera.com/
- Survivors of Rape by Barrick Gold Security Guards Offered 'Business Grants' and 'Training' in Exchange for Waiving Legal Rights. 2014. EarthRights International. https://www.earthrights.org/media/survivors-rape-barrick-gold-security-guards-offered-business-grants-and-training-exchange
Activists Crash a Shareholders Meeting to Raise Issues of Rape at the Company’s Mines
By Hilary Beaumont
27 April 2016
Four activists crashed the annual general meeting of the world's biggest gold mining company on Tuesday morning while, outside, around 60 protesters chanted at company shareholders, "Quit while you're ahead, Barrick Gold is dead."
But inside the meeting in front of about 200 shareholders, Barrick Gold's executive chairman of the board John Thornton emphasized that "Barrick is back" and "gold is here to stay."
While the company pushed the message that it was taking human rights seriously, four activists used proxy shares to speak about rape allegations and environmental damage at the company's mines in Papua New Guinea, Tanzania and Argentina.
Given a chance to speak at the meeting, MiningWatch Canada Research Co-ordinator Catherine Coumans called Barrick's Porgera mine in Papua New Guinea and its North Mara mine in Tanzania "extremely violent places" where women and men have allegedly been beaten and raped by mine security guards.
At the Porgera mine as recently as December, three men told VICE News they were forced by guards at gunpoint to perform sex acts on one another, despite one man telling the officers he was HIV-positive. More than 120 women have also come forward with rape allegations against security guards employed by the mine. As one of these women told VICE News over the phone: "Rapes, killing, illegal mining activities are still going on. They haven't done anything [to stop it]."
In 2010, Barrick acknowledged the problem at the Porgera mine and in 2012 it created a remedy mechanism to compensate alleged rape victims. To receive compensation, alleged victims had to sign waivers stating they would not sue the company in any court in the world.
Coumans said the women are unhappy with the compensation method — a sentiment expressed in a recent report by legal experts at Harvard and Columbia — and asked company president Kelvin Dushinsky whether Barrick plans to consult the women about the mechanism and rescind the waivers they signed.
Dushnisky responded at the shareholders meeting that the company has accepted responsibility for the human rights abuses at both mines, which he called "completely unacceptable." He called the remedy mechanisms "very successful.
"We are comfortable with the remedy framework that we've put in place," he said.
Another activist used her proxy shares to raise concerns about Barrick's Veladero mine in Argentina, where an open pipe valve leaked over one million litres of cyanide into a nearby river last September, prompting the local government to issue drinking water warnings.
While locals used to swim in the river, drink the water, and grow some of the best produce in the region, the spill has "dramatically changed" life in the area, the activist said, reading a statement from locals who live near the mine. Now, people are afraid to swim in or drink the water. "Our town will never be the same," the statement from locals said.
Dushnisky acknowledged earlier in the meeting that there had been "an unfortunate event." He said the company had acted quickly to contain the spill and work with local regulators to mitigate damage, fix the problem and test the water.
Preliminary testing by the United Nations found the cyanide didn't affect the local water supply, but that didn't stop locals from stocking up on bottled water, fearing the worst.
"Extensive water sampling that we conducted showed that we actually posed no risk to human health or to the aquatic environment downstream of the mine, but in any event, an incident like that is entirely unacceptable," Dushnisky said. "So we're placing a greater emphasis on environmental performance this year, with higher standards tied directly to compensation, and that goes throughout the company. We can do better and we will."
Previously Barrick said a faulty valve had caused the issue, but at Tuesday's meeting Dushnisky said it was an operator error.
Between 2011 and 2012 there were three other cyanide leaks at the same mine. The company told Reuters those incidents were "duly reported to the appropriate authorities."
Beyond promises to work on its environmental and human rights issues, Barrick announced a first quarter net loss of $83 million this year amid slumping gold prices, but cut its debt load by $842 million in the last year.
To address the losses, Barrick recently sold off non-core assets and shrunk the size of its Toronto headquarters by half — layoffs Dushinsky characterized Tuesday as "unclogging of the arteries.
Q and A: Sakura Saunders of Protest Barrick
Co-founder of campaign targeting Toronto-based Barrick Gold reflects on 10 years of taking on the world's most powerful gold mining company
by David-Gray Donald
24 April 2016
Sakura Saunders, left, with Jethro Tulin and Mark Ekepa from Porgera, Papua New Guinea at UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York in 2010.
The annual shareholders meeting of Barrick Gold has been a rite of spring for Protest Barrick. On Tuesday, April 26, the group marks a decade of protest against the firm outside the company's AGM at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. There protestors will be calling for, among other things, adequate compensation for 120 women sexually assaulted – many allegedly gang raped – by Barrick security guards at its mine in Papua New Guinea. The group's co-founder, Sakura Saunders, says it's time for the federal government to start holding Canadian companies more accountable for human rights violations and environmental destruction abroad.
You've been organizing protests against Barrick Gold at its annual shareholders meeting for 10 years. What is it about the company that first caught your attention?
I used to work for CorpWatch and one of my roles was to scour the mainstream and independent media for articles about corporations doing bad things. I was always attracted to mining stories, because such a clear critique emerged from them: it was always a big corporation, often negotiating with high levels of government, to screw over a rural, mostly Indigenous and politically marginalized population.
I also traveled a lot for my job and met three representatives of communities that were impacted by Barrick all in one year. By the time I met the third, I had decided that it was my calling to start a campaign.
Would you explain the rationale when you say that we don't need to mine gold?
We currently get 34 per cent of our gold from recycled sources. And we only use 11 per cent of gold for anything other than jewelry or investment. So, from my perspective, we get more than three times our practical use of the metal from recycled sources. At the same time, gold mining is ridiculously destructive. So, not only do we not need gold, but we are much worse off if we allow it to be mined.
Why protest Barrick and not the industry as a whole?
I take Barrick to be indicative of systemic abuse. If we just cherry-pick the worst cases, there is this illusion that some small percentage of the industry is really bad. I took one company and looked at about half of their operations in detail to dispels the "bad apple" argument.
Why do you target the AGM each year?
It's a time that people from Barrick-impacted communities can speak to the shareholders directly, so we have a rally outside to support them. We don't really expect to successfully shame shareholders into turning on the company, but we feel it is important to access this platform so that at least their grievances get on some sort of public record.
We have used this time to lobby MPs, organize grassroots tours of Canada, and take concerns to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, so the shareholders are just one of the many audiences we pursue.
I have been pretty disappointed in the mainstream media's response to this presence though. Every year, impacted communities get the mic at the shareholder's meeting, but only occasionally do the reporters covering the meeting pick up on what they say.
Throughout the years, what has changed about Barrick, and how has your campaign changed?
Barrick is constantly adapting to our pressure. They set up corporate social responsibility (CSR) advisory committees, redress programs for rape survivors, human rights trainings for their security guards and incentive programs tying manager bonuses to CSR reporting. This is where working with the impacted communities is so important, because at a distance these programs look like positive changes. But Barrick were repeatedly fined for turning in false reports.
Meanwhile, Mining Watch has done great work exposing how their redress programs for survivors forced people to sign away their right to sue the company in exchange for very little money.
Barrick admitted that their security guards gang raped women in Papua New Guinea. After an intense screening process, they compensated 120 of them with about $10,000 each. So, Barrick got out of that scandal for $1.2 million total. Does that seem like justice to anyone?
You've had some interaction with Barrick founder Peter Munk. What do you think of each other?
He seems to divide NGOs into two categories, those he can work with, and those he can't. The ones he can work with will take Barrick's money to do some good work near Barrick's mine sites, but never tell of the abuses. The ones that he can't work with would never take his money to begin with. You can guess which category I fall into.
I think of him as someone who justifies the harm that his company does by imagining that the communities would be in even worse squalor without him. He has been quoted saying things like human rights are idealistic and gang rape is just a cultural habit of some places.
What do you see next for Protest Barrick?
The documentation, protests and support for the communities I'm in touch with will continue, but now that a new government is in power in Canada, I would like to work in coalition with a range of folks working on mining issues and international issues to push for some major reforms. The Liberals definitely will not do anything on their own, but with a lot of pushing, change is at least possible, which is more than I can say for government under Harper.
Any advice for young people wanting to launch a global campaign against a massive multinational corporation?
Don't start any campaign unless you are in touch with and accountable to the people most impacted, don't promise more than you can deliver and stick to your word even when it may not make the most sense. Building trust is the most important pillar of your campaign. Also, be aware of who you are empowering and how that is affecting community dynamics.
While that may all seem like a lot to be accountable for, right now there are so many networks to tap into that it is easier than you might think. If you are the type of person who works well with others, is a good communicator and can make good on long-term commitments, there is likely a network of impacted communities and advocates already formed out there that could use help organizing.
David Gray-Donald is a freelance journalist and community organizer.
Barrick Gold subsidiary evaded Tanzanian taxes, tribunal rules
The Globe and Mail
5 April 2016
JOHANNESBURG — The African subsidiary of Barrick Gold Corp. has engaged in a “sophisticated scheme of tax evasion” to dodge more than $40-million (U.S.) in corporate taxes, a Tanzanian tribunal has ruled.
The tribunal, headed by a High Court judge, said the subsidiary of the Toronto-based company had failed to pay any corporate taxes in Tanzania from 2010 to 2013 while still paying more than $400-million in dividends to its shareholders from its gold-mining profits in the East African country.
The tribunal ordered the company to pay $41.25-million in taxes to the Tanzanian government.
The ruling is the latest sign of growing scrutiny of the tax arrangements of foreign investors worldwide, including Canada’s mining companies. The leaked documents known as the Panama Papers are another example of the mounting controversy over alleged tax avoidance.
The Barrick subsidiary said it would appeal the tax ruling to Tanzania’s highest court, calling it a “fundamentally flawed” decision. It denied any wrongdoing, and said it was merely following the terms of its investment agreement with the Tanzanian government.
The London-based subsidiary, formerly known as African Barrick Gold (ABG) and now known as Acacia Mining, is the biggest mining company in Tanzania and operates three major gold mines there.
The Tax Revenue Appeals Tribunal, in a ruling on March 31, said the company’s explanation for its lack of corporate tax payments was “far from plausible.” It accepted the government’s argument that the company’s transactions were “aimed at tax evasion.”
It noted that the company’s three Tanzanian gold mines were its only source of profits for the dividend payout.
“Ultimately, the fact that none of ABG’s subsidiaries is declaring any profit that could provide its holding company with such huge net profits sufficient to distribute to its shareholders four years in a row is what in our respectful opinion constitutes the evidence of a sophisticated scheme of tax evasion,” the tribunal said.
The tribunal’s ruling has sparked much publicity in Tanzania, adding to the growing concerns about foreign miners. “Mining companies have long been suspected of being tax cheats, causing the government to get less than its fair share of revenues from the sector,” one Tanzanian newspaper, The Guardian, said on Monday.
But the Barrick subsidiary sees itself as the victim of a flawed understanding of its tax agreements. It calculates that it has invested about $3-billion in Tanzania and it says the government has agreed that this investment can be deducted from its corporate taxes.
It believes it will be another three years before its corporate tax obligations will outweigh its remaining deductions from those investments. But as a goodwill gesture last month, it agreed to make an advance payment of $20-million on its future corporate tax obligations “to demonstrate our commitment to Tanzania.”
It says it has paid a further $372-million in other taxes and royalties over the past three years.
“Acacia and its subsidiaries fully comply with all international and domestic tax legislation and have not and never will undertake any form of tax evasion or tax avoidance schemes,” the company said on Tuesday in response to the tribunal’s ruling.
Jamie Kneen, a researcher at Ottawa-based civil society group MiningWatch Canada, said many governments in Africa are becoming convinced that the taxes paid by mining companies are insufficient.
“The whole mining sector has been increasingly under the microscope around the world as the public realizes how little it contributes to public accounts in exchange for depleting non-renewable resources and leaving behind massive public liabilities in health and the environment,” he said.
“Tanzania is just one of many countries where tax holidays, sweetheart deals with mining companies and tax evasion have been the subject of heated debate.”
Canada, indeed, has pledged to tackle tax avoidance in the mining sector. In 2013, the federal government promised to help Tanzania and other developing countries to improve their tax-reporting and royalty-collecting systems in the mining and energy sectors.
Response to News Articles in Tanzania
4 April 2016
On Monday 4th April 2016 several newspapers in Tanzania reported on an allegation that Acacia Mining plc has been running a "sophisticated tax evasion" scheme in Tanzania following a ruling issued by the Tax Appeals Tribunal on March 31st 2016.
Acacia and its subsidiaries fully comply with all international and domestic tax legislation and have not and never will undertake any form of tax evasion or tax avoidance schemes. Acacia and its subsidiaries have recently agreed to pre-pay US$20 million of corporate tax to demonstrate our commitment to Tanzania, in addition to our direct contribution of US$372 million in taxes and mining royalty payments over the past three years.
The Company’s financial reporting conforms to international best practice and is thoroughly audited by internationally recognised accounting firms and Government organisations.
We would further like to note as of 3rd April 2016, Acacia had yet to be supplied with the full Tax Tribunal Ruling. The Company believes that the judgment is fundamentally flawed and will be appealing against the ruling to the Court of Appeal.