Tanzanian villagers accuse the Canadian mining giant of being an accomplice to murder and torture at the North Mara gold mine.
A group of Tanzanian villagers are suing Canadian mining giant Barrick Gold for alleged murder, torture and other abuses by police at a northwest gold mine Tanzania.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in the Superior Court of Justice in Ontario, Canada, accuses the world’s second-largest gold miner of being complicit in extrajudicial killings by police guarding its North Mara facility, located in about 30 km (18 miles) from the border with Kenya.
The plaintiffs include relatives of five men killed by Tanzanian police assigned to the mine, according to the filing. Nine of the complainants were themselves beaten or shot by the police, he added.
The claim says residents routinely enter “tailings areas” in North Mara to retrieve rocks containing trace gold, which they process and sell. Police responded violently to people entering the mine, the lawsuit said.
It also claims that Barrick “exerted effective and practical control” over the Tanzanian police stationed at the mine and that the company’s security arrangements with the police effectively make it the “private and heavily armed security force” of the mine. mine.
“The action of the plaintiffs, who are members of the indigenous Kurya community in the northern Tanzanian villages where the mine was built, relate to brutal killings, shootings and torture which they allege were committed by the police hired to guard the mine,” RAID, a corporate watchdog, said in a statement Wednesday.
A spokesperson for Barrick Gold told Reuters news agency that the company had received a copy of the lawsuit and that it “is riddled with inaccuracies”.
The spokesperson said the lawsuit “attempts to advance claims against Barrick Gold Corporation in Ontario based on alleged actions of the Tanzanian police, even though Barrick has no control or direction of any kind. on the Tanzanian police”.
“We intend to vigorously defend ourselves against these allegations in the appropriate forum,” she said.
This is the first case filed against Barrick Gold in a Canadian court for alleged violations abroad. This comes after the highest court in the land in 2019 ruled that the Canadian company Nevsun Resources Ltd could be prosecuted in Canada for allegations of forced labor and other abuses at a mine in Eritrea.
For years, Canadian companies have been accused of being complicit or failing to investigate or prevent alleged rights violations and environmental harms in their operations outside the country.
Canada “is home to nearly half of the world’s publicly traded mining and exploration companies,” Natural Resources Canada, a federal department, says on its website.
The work of overseas companies accounts for the bulk of profits. In 2020, 730 Canadian mining and exploration companies had assets in 97 foreign countries, valued at $150 billion (C$188.2 billion), the department reports.
While Canada has created the office of the Canadian Ombudsman for Responsible Business (CORE) to monitor business practices involving Canadian companies in the mining and other sectors, advocates say government must do more to curb abuse.
Wednesday’s complaint against Barrick Gold is the seventh human rights complaint filed by foreign complainants against a mining company in Canada since 2010, according to the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability.
“We stand in solidarity with these complainants and will follow the case closely. At the same time, we are calling on Ottawa to step in and pass legislation to prevent the abuse from happening in the first place,” Emily Dwyer, the group’s director of policy, said in a statement.
Anneke Van Woudenberg, Executive Director of RAID, also hailed the Ontario lawsuit, saying, “Tanzanian communities have had no choice but to turn to Canadian courts for justice and an end to the culture of violence in the mine “.
“This case is an important test of whether Canada is prepared to hold its own companies accountable for wrongdoing, or whether its legal human rights commitments are set aside when it comes to people. harmed by Canadian companies operating abroad,” she said in a statement. statement.