TORONTO – Shareholders of Canada’s largest gold mining company were greeted today with strong messages from communities affected by its global operations. A mobile billboard parked outside Barrick Gold’s annual shareholder meeting in downtown Toronto projected messages from communities from Alaska to Papua New Guinea, alleging the company is failing to respect Indigenous rights, contaminating their water and harming their ways of life.
Dozens of protesters greeted shareholders inside the building with banners highlighting community demands and allegations such as “resettle Porgera and Pueblo Viejo” and “Barrick destroys, Barrick lies.”
“Today we made absolutely sure that Barrick’s CEO Mark Bristow and every shareholder who attended the meeting were confronted with the reality that communities around the world near Barrick’s mines are denouncing the company for refusing to respond to their concerns, act transparently, prevent harm, or provide remedy,” says Rachel Small, an organizer with the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network. “If shareholders missed the billboard on the street and the protest inside the building, they couldn’t ignore that every single question raised at Barrick’s annual meeting today brought attention to significant harm at Barrick’s mines and called into question the company’s social license,” continues Small.
All questions raised during the 50-minute shareholder meeting centered on allegations of harm tied to Barrick’s global operations: the impact of mining operations on the Kuskokwim River watershed and salmon populations near Barrick’s Donlin Gold mine in Yup’ik and Cup’ik territory in Alaska, unaddressed human rights claims at the Porgera mine in Papua New Guinea, and significant violence and repression against local communities by police providing security to Barrick’s North Mara mine in Tanzania – the subject of a current lawsuit against the company in Ontario courts.
Lateef Johar, a human rights defender from Balochistan, Pakistan, attended the shareholder meeting to question CEO Mark Bristow about agreements reached last December with the central government of Pakistan to extract gold and copper from the Reko Diq mining site without the consent of surrounding communities. “I was surprised that instead of addressing the issues I raised around violence, corruption, and a lack of transparency in the region, CEO Mark Bristow chose to question my authenticity and immigration status in a racist attempt to discredit me in front of shareholders,” says Johar. “I was shocked when he implied that he knew more about what was happening in Balochistan than I did, in my own homeland.” Following his question, Johar was escorted out of the meeting by security.
The video projected outside the shareholder meeting was produced as part of a Global Week of Action in the days leading up to the meeting, bringing together voices from Argentina, the Dominican Republic, Papua New Guinea, Alaska, Nevada, Pakistan, and the Philippines who organized public actions and spoke out to demand justice.