Out-of-Court Settlement Good for Some Tanzanian Villagers - But Many Others Hindered from Participation by Barrick's Grievance


RAID-UK/MiningWatch Canada – News Release

Date of publication: 
9 February 2015

Oxford (UK) and Ottawa – Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID) and MiningWatch Canada (MiningWatch) recognise the significance of the settlement, announced on Friday 6 February 2015, of claims brought by Tanzanian villagers alleging that African Barrick Gold (now Acacia Mining) and its subsidiary were liable, through complicity, for killing and injuring of locals at the North Mara mine by police guarding the mine. The claims, brought by leading law firm Leigh Day, were denied by the companies. The settlement will be of substantial material benefit to the claimants concerned, yet wider questions about alleged human rights violations at the mine remain unanswered. No one has been brought to justice for the abuses and those victims who were not included in the settlement will be unable to benefit from the more generous compensation offered to those who persevered with the claim. Acacia Mining and Leigh Day have not provided any details about the terms of settlement in this case.

The North Mara mine has long experienced violence allegedly involving both mine security and local police who are paid under an agreement to provide security at the sprawling Tanzanian mine.

“The settlement is good news for the 9 claimants and their 13 dependents. Leigh Day is one of few law firms willing to take on such cases. But Acacia Mining should not be let off the hook about its obligations towards the many other victims of ongoing mine violence. Justice has not yet been achieved,” said Patricia Feeney, RAID’s Executive Director.

Originally, Leigh Day represented 33 claimants but the number was rapidly whittled down: “It is deeply troubling that some of Leigh Day’s former clients whom we interviewed in June and July 2014 told us that they had been specifically targeted to forgo their legal claims and sign up to the Mine’s flawed remedy programme,” said MiningWatch’s Catherine Coumans.

In 2013, in an apparent response to the threat of litigation, the company hastily put in place a grievance mechanism to deal with alleged cases of human rights abuses. In order to receive compensation victims must sign a controversial legal waiver preventing them from suing Barrick or any of its subsidiaries in any jurisdiction for the harm they have suffered. Many of Leigh Day’s original clients were persuaded to sign up to the programme without the benefit of having their lawyers’ present. Some now regret this and believe that they fell victim to a process by which they received paltry levels of compensation for life-changing injuries or deaths sustained in security incidents at the mine.

Apart from the legal waivers, MiningWatch and RAID found other flaws with the North Mara grievance mechanism. It is not transparent, the findings of internal investigations are not published, it is administered by mine staff in a seemingly ad hoc fashion and the level of compensation being offered is often neither appropriate nor commensurate with the harm suffered.

There are continuing reports of violence at the mine: since September 2014, local human rights sources allege that there have been at least 20 new cases of deaths or serious injury at the North Mara.

For more information, please contact:

Patricia Feeney, Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID) +44 7796 178447, tricia.feeney [at] raid-uk [dot] org
Catherine Coumans, MiningWatch Canada +1 613-569-3439, catherine [at] miningwatch [dot] ca


British gold mining firm agrees settlement over deaths of Tanzanian villagers

John Vidal – http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/feb/10/british-gold-mining-s...

10 February 2015

Acacia Mining – formerly African Barrick Gold – has agreed an undisclosed payout over claims that hired police and security guards killed and injured villagers at its North Mara mine in Tanzania

A British gold mining firm whose hired police officers​ were involved in an incident that saw ​Tanzanian villagers killed and injured has settled claims brought against it in the London high court.

Twelve villagers, including relatives of people who died in incidents near the North Mara mine, sued African Barrick Gold, now renamed Acacia Mining, in Britain’s High Court in 2013. They had claimed the company’s subsidiary, North Mara Gold Mine Ltd (Nmgml) had failed to prevent the use of excessive force by police and security which had led to six deaths and other injuries in 2008.

Acacia Mining denied all the claims but under the terms of the out of court settlement, it is not known how many people were compensated or how much they were awarded. A spokesman for Acacia said in a statement: “The claims were denied by Acacia Mining and Nmgml and litigation and further claims have been settled out of court.”

However, it is believed that six of the claims relate to deaths at the mine and three to people shot and injured, including one man who was paralysed following a gunshot to his spine.

Acacia mining, whose parent company ​Barrick Gold Corp is the world’s largest gold mining company, had claimed that the villagers died when hired police officers and their own security guards came under attack from people trying to invade their large open-pit mine which is close to several villages in the far north of ​ Tanzania.

In 2011 the company told the Guardian in a statement: “the majority of the claims … originate from an incident which involved violent intruders who invaded the mine. After receiving repeated warnings of the risks associated with such activities, some of these intruders were injured by members of the Tanzanian police acting in self defence or in defence of the safety of mine employees.”

The mine, which employs several thousand people, has had a troubled history with allegations of pollution, human rights abuses and calls for it to be closed. In one incident, in 2008, local people broke into the site and allegedly destroyed $15m (£10m) worth of Barrick property. In 2009, Barrick said that it had launched an investigation into allegations of sexual assault at the mine but the results were not disclosed.

British law firm Leigh Day, acting for some of the injured and relatives of the dead, had claimed in the London high court that the police hired by ​Acacia were an integral part of the mine’s security and that the company had used tear gas and live bullets against ​villagers.

The company rejected all accusations that it was complicit in the deaths and injuries and and said it would not compensate illegitimate claims.

Tanzanian and international human rights groups welcomed the financial settlements but said multinational companies working in African countries were often able to silence local dissent and mostly only acted on human rights abuses when cases against them were taken to rich countries like Britain.

“We are aware that other people in the [North mara] community who had also suffered injuries accepted the limited compensation which the company [first] offered. They later found that this was insufficient to cover their needs since they have injuries which will hamper them for their rest of their lives. We understand that they were required to waive their legal rights as [a] condition of getting compensation,”​ said Fiona Gooch, policy officer with Traidcraft.

The case follows 15,000 villagers in the Niger delta settling with Shell for £55m​ of compensation in London last month for damage done to livelihoods by oil pollution in 2011. The original offer​ for compensation​ is understood to have been £4,000​.