Thursday, April 21, 2016

Cyanide Spills and Raped Villagers Take Centre Stage at Barrick's Toronto AGM

Barrick Gold's rapes, cyanide spills and pollution take centre stage at Annual General Meeting

by Sakura Saunders

Calls for laws holding corporations accountable for crimes committed abroad grows

Toronto - Impacted community members will be joining human rights and environmental rights activists at Barrick's Annual General Meeting for the 10th year in a row.

For two decades, women and girls living near the Porgera mine have been brutally raped by the mine's security guards. Many suffer from lasting physical and emotional injuries, as well as marginalization and social isolation in their community. Barrick denied these assaults and only after investigative reports from groups like ATA, MiningWatch Canada, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International, did the company admit in 2011 that there was a problem.

In 2012, Barrick set up a "Remedial Framework" to enable rape survivors to apply for limited benefits. More than two hundred women lodged complaints of rape and gang rape; local advocates believe that the actual number of victims may be even higher.

120 women accepted these packages without legal council and were required to sign an agreement promising never to sue Barrick for their injuries. Columbia and Harvard Law School wrote an in-depth report showing deep flaws in the process:

They will be highlighting:

  • adequate compensation for 120 women raped by Barrick guards in Papua New Guinea.
  • opposition to Barrick's Veladero mine which spilled 1 million litres of cyanide into the river system in Argentina.
  • villagers seeking resettlement away from Barrick and Goldcorp's leaking Pueblo Viejo mine in the Dominican Republic
  • creation of laws in Canada that hold Canadian corporations accountable for crimes committed in developing countries.

WHEN: 12pm, April 26, 2016
WHERE: Barrick Gold Annual General Meeting, Metro Toronto Convention Centre 255 Front St.
VISUALS: Large Art Installation, banners and signs, and a live marching band

media contact: Sakura Saunders,


Rape Survivors seek just compensation

Eleven women represented by legal firm EarthRights International rejected the agreements offered through the Remedial Framework. Barrick Gold turned around and provided these 11 women received almost 10 times the compensation received by the 120 rape survivors in April 2015 before a case could proceed in US courts.

Once these 11 women received compensation - the 120 women - began to organize and agitate to get the same compensation. They occupied Barrick's offices, and have been raising their voices in Papua New Guinea - in the face of immense patriarchy and social constraints.

Spills and resistance at Barrick's Veladero Mine

In September of last year, a faulty valve on a pipe carrying cyanide solution spilled at Barrick's Veladero mine. Initially reporting the spill as small, within weeks Barrick revised the size of the spill from 15,000 litres to 224,000 litres and eventually to over a million litres of cyanide solution spilled into the river system.

United Nations Office for Project Services and the United Nations Environment Programme conducted a test of the surface water that showed no contamination had taken place. However, a subsequently released University de Cuyo report commissioned by the municipality of Jachal found the water unfit for consumption.

This study, as well as Barrick's initial decision not to inform the municipality of the spill, prompted a fierce resistance from Jachal, a mining town. This resistance has included pressure on the government for legal action, a permanent encampment (since October 2015) by protesters, and several big marches.

Just last month, Argentina's San Juan province announced it had fined Barrick Gold Corp. 145.7 million pesos ($9.82-million) on Friday for mining code breaches. Charges against nine former and current Barrick employees were also accepted by the province in connection with the spill. Now, reports have been released showing that the Veladero mine in Argentina had three cyanide leaks between 2011 and 2012. Barrick Veladeo mine is certified under the International Cyanide Management Code, and had an audit as recently as 2015. This code is considered by critics to be a voluntary code, funded and created by the gold mining industry.

Toxic pollution at Pueblo Viejo

Local reports and video confirms that the El Yagal tailings dam has overflown and can not handle more toxic waste from the Pueblo Viejo mine. Local residents complain that the pollution causes nausea, dizziness and vomiting and kids are often sent home from school sick on days because of smells coming from the mine. Locals estimate that the the livestock death count is up to 2200 since the mine opened in 2012. They are seeking resettlement away from this mine site as a long term solution for their community.

Documentation of the local resident's complaints has been carried out for the past 2 years by students from Western University in London, Ontario. In 2014, a student group visited the Pueblo Viejo mine and a group of students have since founded and organization called 'Mining Morality Canada' and is completing a documentary entitled 'The Weight of Gold'.

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