Tanzanian villagers accuse the Canadian mining giant of complicity in murders and torture at the North Mara gold mine.

A group of Tanzanian villagers are suing Canadian mining giant Barrick Gold over alleged police killings, torture and other abuses at a gold mine in northwestern Tanzania. Tanzania.

The claim, filed Wednesday in the Superior Court of Justice in Ontario, Canada, accuses the world’s second-largest prospector of complicity in extrajudicial killings by police guarding the North Mara facility, located about 30 km away. (18 miles) from the border with Kenya.

The accusers include relatives of five men killed by Tanzanian police assigned to the mine, according to the filing. Nine of the plaintiffs were themselves beaten or shot by police, it said.

The claim states that residents routinely enter “waste rock areas” in North Mara to retrieve rocks with trace amounts of gold, which they process and sell. Police there have reacted violently to people entering the mine, the lawsuit said.

It also claims that Barrick has had “effective and practical control” over the Tanzanian police stationed at the mine and that the company’s security agreements with the police effectively make them the mine’s “private and heavily armed security force”.

“The action taken by the plaintiffs, who are members of the indigenous Kurya community in whose villages in northern Tanzania the mine was built, involves brutal killings, shootings and torture which they allege were committed by police called in to guard the mine,” RAID, a corporate watchdog, said in a pronunciation on Wednesday.

Logo of Barrick Gold with people walking down an escalator in the background
The plaintiffs accuse Barrick Gold of being complicit in abuses in Tanzania [File: Chris Helgren/Reuters]

A spokesman for Barrick Gold told Reuters news agency the company had received a copy of the legal action and it was “riddled with inaccuracies”.

The spokesman said the lawsuit “attempts to bring claims against Ontario’s Barrick Gold Corporation based on alleged actions by the Tanzanian police, even though Barrick does not exercise any control or direction over the Tanzanian police”.

“We intend to vigorously defend these allegations in the appropriate forum,” she said.

This is the first case brought against Barrick Gold in a Canadian court for alleged violations abroad. It comes after the country’s highest court in 2019 reigned that the Canadian company Nevsun Resources Ltd could be sued in Canada for alleged forced labor and other abuses at a mine in Eritrea.

For years, Canadian companies have been accused of complicity in, or failure to investigate or prevent alleged rights violations and environmental damage in their operations abroad.

Canada “is home to nearly half of the world’s publicly traded mining and mineral exploration companies,” Natural Resources Canada, a federal ministry, says on its website.

The work of the firms abroad generates most of the profits. In 2020, 730 Canadian mining and exploration companies had assets in 97 other countries, worth $150 billion (C$188.2 billion), the ministry reports.

While Canada has created the Office of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) to oversee trade practices involving Canadian companies in mining and other industries, Proponents believe that the government should do more to curb abuses.

Wednesday’s claim against Barrick Gold is the seventh human rights case brought since 2010 by foreign plaintiffs against a mining company in Canada, according to the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability.

“We stand in solidarity with these plaintiffs and will follow the case closely. At the same time, we are asking Ottawa to act and pass a law to prevent abuse,” Emily Dwyer, the group’s policy director, said in a statement.

RAID executive director Anneke Van Woudenberg also welcomed the lawsuit in Ontario, saying “Tanzanian communities have little choice but to turn to Canadian courts for justice and an end to the violent mining culture”.

“This case is an important test to see whether Canada is prepared to hold its own companies accountable for misconduct, or whether its legal human rights commitments are overruled when it comes to people harmed by Canadian companies. operating abroad,” she said in a statement. pronunciation.

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