For Barrick, Tanzanian mines lose their lustre – by Geoffrey York (Globe and Mail – August 17, 2012)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

JOHANNESBURG — Barrick Gold Corp.’s mining operations in Africa have been a publicity nightmare for the company for years, but until now the company had always seemed confident that the mines were profitable enough to withstand the damage to its reputation.

With a steady drumbeat of violent clashes and civilian deaths in recent years, the company’s North Mara gold mine in Tanzania has been one of the most controversial Barrick mines in the world.

Protesters and activists in Canada and Tanzania have accused Barrick of turning a blind eye to human rights abuses at its African mines. Last year alone, at least five villagers were shot dead at North Mara when they invaded the site to steal waste rock.

A report by a respected Tanzanian group, the Legal and Human Rights Centre, concluded that 19 villagers were killed by police and security guards at North Mara from the beginning of 2009 to the middle of 2010. (Barrick says it disagrees with this estimate but won’t provide its own estimate.)

The company also disclosed last year that it was investigating allegations of sexual assault by about a dozen police and security guards at North Mara. About 10 women told investigators that they were sexually assaulted after being arrested at the gold mine.

But while the company has suffered a public relations disaster as a result of the killings and alleged sexual assaults in Tanzania, it had always insisted that it was committed to its African business. The mines in Tanzania, in fact, were profitable enough to persuade Barrick to invest heavily in a major expansion plan.

In the 18 months beginning in January, 2009, for example, Barrick collected $155-million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization from its North Mara operations. That was the same period in which the 19 villagers were allegedly killed at the mine site.

“We believe quite strongly in the asset,” African Barrick Gold’s chief executive officer Greg Hawkins told The Globe and Mail in an interview last year.

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