BARRICK Gold CEO, Mark Bristow, said the company had asked human rights activists to take a claim regarding alleged abuses at the firm’s Tanzanian mines to the UK courts so a viable settlement could be reached.
“Lawyers wanted us to pay out and settle the matter but we wanted to settle on something that was appropriate,” said Mark Bristow, CEO of Barrick Gold in an interview following the firm’s fourth quarter and full-year results last week.
“We agreed to waiver the jurisdiction so it could be heard in the UK. I want to make sure that these legacy issues are dealt with.”
On February 10, it emerged that a group of seven Tanzanian human rights victims launched a legal claim at the UK’s High Court against Barrick Gold subsidiaries, including Barrick Tz, formerly Acacia Mining.
Mining Watch Canada and RAID, a UK-based corporate watchdog, said that the claimants cite human rights violations at Barrick’s North Mara mine that date back to 2014 involving local police hired by Acacia Mining.
In 2019, Barrick bought out the minority shareholders of Acacia, delisted the company from the London and Dar es Salaam Stock Exchanges, and took it back under its control. This was after the Tanzanian government, led by President John Magufuli, refused to negotiate with Acacia on the tax claims.
According to Mining Watch Canada and RAID, the group of claimants live in communities around the North Mara mine and includes the father of a nine-year-old girl killed by a mine vehicle in July 2018. The claimants also include a 16-year-old youth who says he was shot in the back and then beaten by the police employed by the mine.
The claimants are represented by British law firm, Hugh James.
“It’s an old story that’s come out now because RAID is involved,” said Bristow. “We decided to waive the jurisdiction because they didn’t trust the Tanzanian courts.”
He was primarily referring to claims lodged by the Tanzanian government that Acacia owed it billions of dollars in unpaid tax which he said was “… a measure of the desperation felt” by the Tanzanian government.