Thousands raid Barrick’s North Mara mine, destroy $15 million in equipment
by Sakura Saunders
Why would “criminals” set fire to millions worth in mine equipment? How was it that these “intruders” had an estimated 3,000 people backing them up? In what appears to be a spontaneous civilian movement against Barrick Gold, the world’s largest gold miner, thousands of people invaded Barrick`s North Mara Gold Mine this week in Tarime District and destroyed equipment worth $15 million. (photo of a “boma,” or series of huts, in the Nyamongo village where the Mwita family lives. credit: Allan Cedillo Lissner, SomeoneElsesTreasure.blogspot.com)
Why would “criminals” set fire to millions worth in mine equipment?
How was it that these “intruders” had an estimated 3,000 people backing them up?
In what appears to be a spontaneous civilian movement against Barrick Gold, the world’s largest gold miner, thousands of people invaded Barrick`s North Mara Gold Mine this week in Tarime District and destroyed equipment worth 15 million. According to a Barrick Public Relations officer (as reported by the Tanzanian Guardian newspaper), “the intruders stoned the security personnel relentlessly until they overpowered them. The guards abandoned their posts and retreated to safety.”
While Barrick implies that “high levels of crime” are the cause of this recent outbreak, recent reports suggest a different picture.
Allan Cedillos Lissner, a photojournalist who recently documented mine life near the North Mara mine, explains:
Ongoing conflict between the mine and local communities have created a climate of fear for those who live nearby. Since the mine opened in 2002, the Mwita family say that they live in a state of constant anxiety because they have been repeatedly harassed and intimidated by the mine’s private security forces and by government police. There have been several deadly confrontations in the area and every time there are problems at the mine, the Mwita family say their compound is the first place the police come looking. During police operations the family scatters in fear to hide in the bush, “like fugitives,” for weeks at a time waiting for the situation to calm down. They used to farm and raise livestock, “but now there are no pastures because the mine has almost taken the whole land … we have no sources of income and we are living only through God’s wishes. … We had never experienced poverty before the mine came here.” They say they would like to be relocated, but the application process has been complicated, and they feel the amount of compensation they have been offered is “candy.”
Evans Rubara, an investigative journalist from Tanzania, blames this action on angry locals from the North Mara area who are opposed to Barrick’s presence there. “This comes one week after Barrick threatened to leave the country based on claims that they weren’t making profit,” comments Evans after explaining that Barrick does not report profit to avoid taxes in the country. “This is a sign to both the government of Tanzania and the International community (especially Canada) that Poor and Marginalised people also get tired of oppression, and that they would like Barrick to leave.”
Allan also recalls hearing stories of violent confrontation against the company. “One journalist in the North Mara area told me a story about a Barrick helicopter being struck down by a group of kids who threw rocks at it.”
One thing is sure, these reports of hundreds attacking mine infrastructure – a move that allegedly took the life of one civilian – reflects a resentment that goes beyond mere criminal action. And this surge in violence should be examined in the context of the on-going exploitation and repressive environment surrounding the mine.
This is a water hole in Nyamongo that was built by Barrick Gold near their North Mara Gold mine on behalf of the local communities (the endge of the mine pit can be seen in the top left corner). But the water appears milky and dirty and the plants around the water hole are dying, but this is the only water source available to the community. photo: Allan Cedillo Lissner,
by Bring the struggle home!
Barrick Gold’s corporate headquarters is at:
136 E South Temple # 1300
Salt Lake City, Utah
Phone: (801) 990-3900
You can locate this and other offices and facilities by going to http://maps.google.com/ and typing “Barrick Gold” in the search box.
Comments from a contractor who worked at the North Mara Mine
I worked as a contractor there when this incident happened. shortly after dinner, i was talking with my business partner when security left the area and fled to the mine site because of a situation that was occuring. when they returned, they told us to return to our rooms, and prepare for evacuation. I was worried but prepared to leave on a moments notice not knowing what to expect. I had no beef with the natives, but after speaking with several of the barrick personell, at various times, what thet told us would make you believe it could be your last days on earth. They were not to be trusted, and after speaking with several of the contractors personell, these are africans that are not from the village, but were concerned also, about their own safety. After finding out why the villagers were so resentful, I found out the tanzanian goverrment had taken the property away from the villagers and sold it to one other company and then eventually purchased by Barrick. Barrick employed locals, but did not provide anything that I am aware of. The villagers had to walk to their local watering holes, which was a fair distance away. Barrick should have invested money to help the infrastructure of the village, and probably would not have this situation today. Giving back to the community is the best choice, in my opinion. But What barrick lost in equipment damage part of those funds could have been invested in the infrastructure of the village. I was scheduled to leave on monday 15th by mine plane, but flights were cancelled on friday 12-14-08 as I was told the airport was overrun by villagers. We ended up driving out on friday, escorted by one of our mechanics and a friend from the village for safety reasons. The comment from one of the mine supt, is “you are on your own once you leave the mine property”
which we were concerned but had to take the chance to get to wmanza. Everything work ok for us, thanks to god.
I believe either Barrick needs to make a mends or move their operations out of Tanzania, please remenber, it was the country that sold their own people out, barrick just took advantage of the situation. if I had been aware of the history behind the problems here, I may have decided not to make the trip.