North Mara waste pileLast month, LMN got together with friends at Rights and Accountability in Development, MiningWatch Canada and CORE to produce a briefing for investors and equity analysts. The subject was human rights at African Barrick Gold’s North Mara mine in Tanzania. There has been a long history of violence at the mine, including multiple deaths and injuries caused by Tanzanian police officers who are paid by the company to protect the mine, as well as credible evidence of rapes of women by members of the Tanzanian police and employees of the mine’s security unit.
ABG is being sued in the High Court in England by Tanzanian villagers who claim that ABG and its 100% subsidiary, North Mara Gold Mine Limited (NMGML), are liable for the deaths and injuries allegedly caused by the use of excessive force at the Mine. The claimants include the relatives of six men who were killed and one man who has been left paraplegic. They are suing the companies in the hope of receiving just compensation.
The companies deny the allegations. They contend that the police used reasonable force against armed and violent intruders and that they have no control over the police.
In 2013, ABG and NMGML tried to get a Tanzanian court to declare that they could not be liable. However, the Claimants successfully obtained an anti-suit injunction in the High Court in England, preventing ABG and NMGML from pursuing the proceedings in Tanzania.
The High Court also ordered that ABG and NMGML pay the costs of the Claimants, including over £100,000 on account.
ABG states that the shootings have occurred on occasions when villagers entering the Mine have been armed and violent and that the police have responded with reasonable force to defend life and property. However the Tanzanian police force is internationally recognised as brutal and corrupt. The United States Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices for each of the past several years for Tanzania notes that “excessive force, police corruption, and impunity were reported throughout the year”. It lists the “use of excessive force by police” as one of the “most widespread and systemic human rights issues in the country”.
ABG continues to rely on the Tanzanian police as an integral part of the Mine’s security system, paying them to patrol the perimeter and calling them onto the site several times a day. Through its subsidiary, ABG has an agreement with police under which the police get paid to provide security to the Mine. They are supposed to follow international standards which say that lethal force must only be used to protect life (not property) and only as a last resort.
Until ABG improves its relations with the North Mara community and puts in place a security strategy that is compliant with international standards, these incidents are likely to continue to occur. Relying on police who all too readily use live ammunition to protect the Mine is not the solution.
You can read the whole briefing here.