Twenty-one Tanzanian nationals have filed a legal case against Canadian mining giant Barrick Gold for grave human rights violations at the company’s North Mara gold mine in Tanzania.
This is the first time Barrick is facing legal action in Canada for human rights violations at one of its operations abroad, in this case Tanzania.
The action by the plaintiffs, who are members of the Indigenous Kuria (Wakuria) community amongst whose villages in northern Tanzania the mine has been built, concerns brutal killings, shootings and torture.
Those atrocities are allegedly committed by police engaged to guard the mine (who local residents refer to as “mine police”).
They are represented by the law firms Camp Fiorante Matthews Mogerman LLP and Waddell Phillips.
Filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, the case includes claims for five deaths, five incidents of torture, and a further five injuries from shootings by the “mine police”.
The North Mara mine is notorious for violence against the Kuria people who lived on, farmed and mined the land on which Barrick’s mine has been built.
Earlier this month, RAID reported that the North Mara mine ranks as one of the deadliest industrial mines in Africa for security-related violence.
The mine is said to feature at least 77 deaths of people and 304 injuries, many on multiple occasions, by police responsible for the Mine security.
Most of these incidents occurred after Barrick acquired the mine in 2006.
As RAID has reported, central to the violence has been the mine’s use of Tanzanian police officers for security.
The North Mara mine pays, equips, feeds and houses approximately 150 police officers on an ongoing basis, who operate under a signed agreement between the company and the police.
They are armed with rifles, submachine guns, batons and wooden clubs, as well as teargas and sound bombs that they fire from launchers.
RAID’s research, including interviews with a whistleblower from the mine’s internal security team, has found that the police form an important part of the North Mara mine’s security structure.
They are present in the mine’s central control room, share the same radio frequency as the mine’s internal security team, and are continuously deployed around the mine site.
According to a senior police commissioner, the police engaged by the mine provide their services exclusively to the mine, and not to the community at large.
In correspondence with RAID, Barrick says that the mine does not employ, “supervise, direct or control” police assigned to it, and is not responsible for their conduct.
Whether Barrick may be held responsible under the law for the harm caused in these cases is a question Canadian courts are now being asked to rule on.
RAID began in 1998 as a pioneering research project at the University of Oxford focused on the human rights impact of the privatisation of Zambia’s state-owned copper mines.
The project uncovered secret investment agreements, inadequate oversight by government bodies and corporate malpractice, with little or no consideration of the rights of local populations.
The findings were ground-breaking and helped set the direction for RAID’s subsequent work: clarifying the human rights responsibilities of corporations and seeking to develop effective mechanisms for curbing corporate misconduct.