Buried Alive? The Bulyanhulu accusationsPublished by MAC on 2001-04-23
Buried Alive? The Bulyanhulu accusations
Canadian mining corporation accused of burying more than 50 African miners alive.
1. Report from Council of Canadians, Sept 27, 2001 http://www.canadians.org/
New evidence links Canada to death of Tanzanian miners (OTTAWA) -
Citing dramatic new evidence uncovered by Tanzanian investigators, the Council of Canadians, Mining Watch Canada and the NGO Working Group on the Export Development Corporation (EDC - Canada) joined today with environmental and human rights groups in the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Tanzania to call for an independent investigation into allegations of mass killings and forced relocation of small scale miners at the Bulyanhulu gold mine in Tanzania in 1996.
Eyewitness accounts, family testimony, photos and police videotape recently uncovered by the Lawyer's Environmental Action Team (LEAT) of Tanzania corroborate long-standing allegations that employees of the Canadian owned Kahama Mining Corporation, LTD (KMCL) in conjunction with the Tanzanian police, buried over fifty artisanal miners by bulldozing over the entrances to the shafts in which they worked. LEAT has also compiled significant evidence that tens of thousands of small-scale miners and their families were forcibly evicted from the area without any compensation to enable the Canadian mining company to take over the property.
To release the evidence, the Council of Canadians, Mining Watch Canada and the NGO Working Group were joined by Tundu Lissu, a human rights lawyer from Tanzania who has been monitoring this case for years. "The video, the photographs and the testimony of family members and eye witnesses show incontrovertibly that there was a massacre. All this in its totality proves a scandal of international proportions," said Lissu.
(This video should soon be on the Council of Canadians website http://www.canadians.org/)
Since the allegations had been publicized in the Tanzanian press prior to EDC providing political risk insurance, the question must be asked if EDC (Canada's Export Development Corporation) was aware of these allegations when it provided political risk insurance worth $117 million US for the mine last year. Since the EDC falls under the jurisdiction of the (Canada's) Minister of International Trade, the groups called upon Minister Pettigrew to support an international independent investigation.
"The Canadian government likes to portray itself as a defender of democracy and human rights around the world. This is truly a test of the government's will to live up to that image. If Minister Pettigrew is really committed to human rights he will call for an investigation and make sure that one happens," said Maude Barlow, Volunteer Chair of the Council of Canadians.
"The livelihoods and lives of small scale miners and villagers in the Bulyanhulu area of Tanzania have been sacrificed to ensure enormous profits for the owners of Canadian companies. The companies involved are celebrated as outstanding corporate citizens. As a Canadian I am ashamed - not only that these forced removals have taken place - but that the truth about what happened there has not occasioned an outcry in this country," said Joan Kuyek, National co-ordinator, Mining Watch Canada.
It is unacceptable that Canada, through EDC, continues to provide support to a project with allegations like these around. The Minister must require an independent investigation and ensure EDC develop an effective human rights assessment process," said Émilie Revil, Coordinator of the NGO Working.
The group also expressed outrage that journalists and others involved in researching the stories have been threatened with legal action. Rather than welcoming the efforts to clear up the allegations, the company (Barrick Gold Corp of Toronto) has been using its lawyers and its political connections to try to keep this story buried.
Today the groups issued the following demands to the Canadian government:
that the Minister publicly call for and offer full support to an independent international human rights investigation into the deaths at Bulyanhulu in August 1996 that Minister Pettigrew ensure that EDC's withdraw the political risk insurance for the Bulyanhulu mine site that the government specifically examine the mandate and policies of the EDC in light of its involvement in this case that threats of legal action to journalists and human rights organizations in an attempt to keep this story buried be stopped
For more information:
+ 00 1 - 613 233-4487 ext. 234, or (613) 795-8685 (cell).
The Council of Canadians 502-151 Slater Street, Ottawa, Ontario, K1P 5H3, Canada
Telephone: + 001 613-233-2773, 1-800-387-7177 -
By ALLAN ROBINSON, MINING REPORTER
Barrick Gold Corp. has been caught in the middle of an international human rights controversy, and denies allegations that peasant miners were buried alive at a Tanzanian mine site it now owns.
The Lawyers' Environmental Action Team of Tanzania alleges that up to 52 miners were killed in August, 1996, as a result of efforts to clear an estimated 2,000 artisanal miners from the site. The miners had dug their own pits and tunnels to extract gold.
At the time, the site was owned by Sutton Resources Ltd. of Vancouver, which Toronto-based Barrick acquired in 1999 for almost $500-million.
But the allegations have resurfaced, and LEAT is to air them today at a news conference in Ottawa along with videotapes purportedly showing "new evidence."
Barrick maintains that no one was killed at the $280-million (U.S.) Bulyanhulu gold mine, and cites police reports, government investigations and reports by independent agencies.
"It does not reflect well on [LEAT], or on the professional standards of attorneys who have pledged to protect Tanzania's environment and improve the quality of governance in Tanzania, to misrepresent the contents of the videotape," said Barrick counsel Patrick Garver.
Mr. Garver, also a Barrick executive vice-president, accused the group in an open letter of repeating the allegations "in reckless disregard of the facts."
Last night, the World Bank's Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency in Washington said the "new evidence" does not show any wrongdoing on the part of either the government or the companies involved. It said that the so-called new evidence "in the form of a videotape in Swahili with an interpretative statement that is at best misleading."
Barrick concurs, saying the videotapes tell a false story. It says that bodies depicted in the tapes "are demonstrably not of 'exhumed miners,' " as is being claimed by the Tanzanian lawyers' group. "In fact, the bodies are of people who died of other causes, and were filmed several kilometres away from where the pits were being closed," and at several different locations, the company said.
But human rights groups, in a media advisory yesterday, said they would present "damning new evidence" in the deaths of the Tanzanian miners.
The news conference scheduled for today (Ottawa, Sept 27, 2001) is sponsored by the Council of Canadians, Mining Watch Canada and the Halifax Initiative.
"We can't comment ahead of the press conference," said a spokeswoman for the Council of Canadians. "That defeats the purpose."
LEAT, in a letter to the World Bank on Aug. 23, said that because of the videotape and other photographs, an international commission should be established to investigate the events.
The issue is important to Barrick because much of the mine's bank financing carries political risk insurance, which is guaranteed by the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency and Canada's Export Development Corp. The insurance is conditional on the company not violating human rights.
"It's absolute garbage," Michael Kenyon said yesterday of the allegations being made. Mr. Kenyon was a director of Sutton at the time it began to explore and develop the mine in Tanzania. "It's just ridiculous."
Police reports at the time described the claims as "hearsay without any truth," according to Agence France-Presse. Local officials also investigated and found nothing, Barrick said.
Sutton described the evictions at the time as being done in a safe and systematic way without physical harm to the miners.
The eviction of the small-scale miners was monitored by police, government officials, tunnel inspectors and company officials, Barrick said. All pits were checked before being filled by bulldozers. The entire process was videotaped, Barrick said.
Subsequent police investigations also found no evidence to substantiate any reports of deaths or of missing people, Barrick said.
Investigations by the International Finance Corp. also failed to find evidence of wrongdoing, Barrick said.
Copyright © 2001 Globe Interactive, a division of Bell Globemedia Publishing Inc.
By SHAWN MCCARTHY, PARLIAMENTARY BUREAU CHIEF
OTTAWA -- New Democratic Party Leader Alexa McDonough has joined a chorus of calls for an international investigation into allegations that peasant miners were buried alive at a Tanzanian mine site now owned by Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corp.
In the House of Commons yesterday, Ms. McDonough lent her voice to a group of Tanzanian, Canadian and American advocacy groups that are calling for an independent review of claims that 52 miners were killed in August, 1996, as part of an effort to clear artisanal miners from the area.
"This government will be aware of allegations about a Canadian company's involvement in sordid and shocking atrocities in Tanzania," Ms. McDonough said.
"The allegations are deadly serious, miners driven from their homes, miners buried alive."
However, Barrick -- which bought the mine in 1999 for $500-million -- said the allegations are simply false. Barrick counsel Pat Garver said yesterday that the Tanzanian government, the World Bank and Amnesty International have all investigated and found no evidence that miners were buried.
A spokeswoman for the World Bank said its officials conducted a thorough review of allegations when it provided $56-million in political-risk insurance when Barrick took over Vancouver-based Sutton Resources Ltd., which owned the Bulyanhulu mine at the time of the alleged incidents.
"There was nothing to substantiate the allegations," World Bank spokeswoman Moina Varkie said yesterday.
Amnesty International said, however, that it has not refuted the allegations as Barrick claims. It was unable to conduct a full-scale investigation and has called for a judicial inquiry in Tanzania, Amnesty spokesman John Tackaberry said.
In Ottawa, Tanzanian lawyer Tundu Lissu produced a video -- taped during a police inquiry shortly after the alleged incident -- in which a number of witnesses tell police about miners who were trapped underground.
In the video -- which was shot during the initial police investigation and obtained by Mr. Lissu -- officers can be seen walking from pit to pit over the hardscrabble Tanzanian terrain.