Rhetoric vs Record: Communities Call out Barrick for Falling Short on Human Rights

MiningWatch Canada — Earthworks — Global Justice Clinic, NYU School of Law

Representatives of communities impacted by Barrick Gold’s mining operations claim the company systemically ignores their concerns. Despite President and CEO Mark Bristow’s claim that “recognizing and respecting human rights have long been a fundamental value” for the company, people living near Barrick operations in the Dominican Republic, Argentina, Tanzania, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Pakistan, and the United States tell a different story. 

As Barrick prepares for its Annual General Meeting on May 2nd, frontline communities are launching a Week of Action from April 11-16 calling out the gap between Barrick’s rhetoric and record. They claim oppressive violence, perpetual water pollution, violations of Indigenous Rights, and destroyed livelihoods. Their experiences call Barrick’s social license to operate into question. 

These community leaders are calling on Barrick to turn its rhetoric into reality: to listen to their demands, act transparently, and remedy the harms they have already experienced. Below are their statements.

“Barrick’s proposed Donlin Gold mine puts the Yup’ik and Cup’ik ways of life in harm’s way for the rest of time. Our people rely on our river and fish for food security and risking contamination with toxic slurries stands against our traditional values, which is shown with wide Tribal opposition to the Donlin project. I encourage Barrick to revoke their investment in Donlin Gold and the exploratory efforts 35 miles away. Barrick and partners do not have a social license or a relationship with the Tribes and it is important to understand for-profit Native corporations do not represent our people. Barrick does not have our consent.”

Anaan’arar, Sophie Irene Swope, Mother Kuskokwim Tribal Coalition, Southwest Alaska’s Yukon-Kuskokwim Region

“Barrick has spilled toxic chemicals into the water of the Jáchal River multiple times, while operating in the heart of the San Guillermo Biosphere Reserve, an ecologically sensitive area. They have not been transparent about their impacts, which violates our democratic institutions. The solution is for the company to leave.” 

Domingo Jofré, Asamblea Jáchal No se Toca, San Juan, Argentina

“We have been calling for more than 20 years for justice for the people of the Island of Marinduque whose lives and livelihoods continue to be affected by the contamination of our rivers and marine areas from almost 30 years of irresponsible mining. Barrick is fighting us in our courts rather than providing the compensation we need to do the clean-up ourselves. Marinduqueños have waited long enough, it is time that Barrick lives up to its claims of being a responsible company and takes responsibility for the mess left behind in Marinduque.”

Elizabeth Manggol, Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns, Marinduque, Philippines

“We have never stopped advocating for justice for the many men, women, and children who have become the victims of the Porgera Joint Venture mine, through the pollution of our rivers, through the house burnings by mine security and police, and through the rapes and killings and beatings of our Ipili and Engan Indigenous people by mine security and police. We oppose Barrick reopening the mine until all the victims of Porgera Joint Venture have been fairly compensated and until we know that Barrick will clean up the mine waste that surrounds our houses.”

James Wangia, Akali Tange Association, Porgera, Papua New Guinea 

“Last December, Barrick Gold reached an unlawful agreement with the central government of Pakistan to extract gold and copper from the Reko Diq mining site. The locals in Balochistan, especially the locals surrounding the mining sites in Chaghi District, did not consent to this project. This violation not only threatens the region's autonomy and environment but also exacerbates the difficulties already faced by the suppressed local population. Barrick Gold must disclose every detail of the agreement to the masses and the media, and stop working until the local people approve the project.”

Lateef Johar Baloch, A Human Rights Defender with main focus on Balochistan, affiliated with Human Rights Council of Balochistan (HRCB).

“Barrick says they bring progress, but we are one of the poorest provinces in the country, even though we live next to one of the largest gold mines in the world. In 2012, Barrick Gold built the El Llagal tailings dam at the Pueblo Viejo mine. Twenty-one streams have dried up and the project has impacted two principal rivers, the Llagal and the Maguaca. Now, we receive drinking water from the government. We want to ask: if the company is allowed to destroy the streams and rivers that provided water to six communities, why hasn’t there been any efforts to relocate us to another area without all of the pollution and with access to water?”

Leoncia Ramos, Comité Nuevo Renacer, Cotuí, Dominican Republic

“The environmental impacts generated by Barrick Gold have been devastating culturally and spiritually for the Western Shoshone, and yet the company claims to ensure responsible mining practices that respects, protects, and preserves our cultural heritage. Barrick’s attempt to mitigate for the protection and preservation of Western Shoshone cultural heritage is to provide funding to assist with establishing a cultural center and language program, funding support for local cultural activities, and trips for the elders to attend other cultural gatherings. This may all sound and look good but is it? Eventually, Western Shoshone people will become totally dependent on funding from an industry that sets out to destroy our homelands. There is no long-term benefit in the destruction of our land and culture.”

Mary Gibson, Western Shoshone Defense Project, Newe Sogobia, Nevada, United States

In addition to the statements above, Tanzanian Kuria peoples from villages surrounding the North Mara Gold Mine are currently in court in both the UK and Canada claiming excess use of force by mine security and police guarding the mine leading to deaths and maimings.

Earthworks is dedicated to protecting communities and the environment from the adverse impacts of mineral and energy development while seeking sustainable solutions. The Global Justice Clinic (GJC) at NYU School of Law partners with social movements and community organizations to prevent, challenge, and redress economic, racial, and climate injustice, while training the next generation of social justice lawyers. Statements of the Global Justice Clinic do not purport to represent the views of NYU, if any. MiningWatch Canada works toward a world in which Indigenous peoples can effectively exercise their rights to self-determination, communities must consent before any mining activities may occur, mineworkers are guaranteed safe and healthy conditions and there is effective access to justice and reparations for mining harms.