By Samantha Cole of Tanzania Business Ethics
Barrick Gold operates a mine on the island of the Dominican Republic (borders with Haiti), called the Pueblo Viejo mine. It is one of the largest gold mines in the Dominican Republic.
In the Dominican Republic, there exists an Environment Law which requires that 5% of net profits from mining activities is delivered to the surrounding communities (towns and villages) for the purpose of investing in development projects in the region and as important, to have the funds to deal with the problems caused to the environment by the mining company’s activities.
The problems, crises and scandals of Barrick Gold in the Dominican Republic go back some six years:
> Barrick’s mine workers strikes caused the Labor Ministry to investigate if Barrick were respecting their workers’ rights.
> There were THREE setbacks for Barrick in 2010, including calls to review the exploitation contract over alleged non‐binding clauses on environmental cleanup, and food poisoning which sickened hundreds of workers.
> In addition, the Senate Environmental Commission asked the Presidency to review the gold mining contract with Barrick to obtain better advantages and compensate affected communities.
> Reports exposed Barrick as being dishonest about poisoning more than 300 Barrick workers at the Pueblo Viejo mine.
Activists demand to ban cyanide outside Barrick’s offices
> Government halts Barrick gold shipment worth millions at the airport due to Barrick not reaching an agreement with the government.
> The Congress said it wants a “more favorable” contract with Barrick for their mine. The original contract was made in 2009 but looked upon suspiciously.
> Residents sue Barrick’s mine for poisoning rivers, causing illnesses and the death of farm animals.
> Government halts yet another Barrick shipment at the airport in effort for Barrick to reach an agreement with the government. Customs official inspect the shipment and find alleged irregularities resulting in Barrick being fined US$ 96 Million.
> Court application filed for an injunction to halt Barrick’s local mining operation
Reports of environmental damage to local residents as far as an hour away from Barrick’s mine.
> Farmers there say that even the cattle refuse to drink the water!
> Barrick back in court to defend land dispute cases from local farmers. Hundreds of farmers gathered at the Land Court for the fifth hearing in their case against the Barrick.
Hundreds of people sued the mining company to demand payment for the farmers’ properties.
All in all, this mine appears to be another success story for Barrick Gold’s Balance Sheet and good profits for their shareholders, whilst for the local residents living in the towns and villages in the region of the Pueblo Viejo mine, it is nothing short of a nightmare. Another Barrick Gold nightmare.
And now, to add insult to injury, these same local residents are not receiving the 5% of net profits from the Pueblo Viejo mining activities that is laid down in the above-mentioned Environment Law.
It was reported that yesterday (Monday) that hundreds of community leaders and residents of towns and villages directly affected by Barrick Gold’s mine at Pueblo Viejo gathered in the nearby town of Cotuí, the capital of the Province to demand that Dominican President, Danilo Medina and the Congress will follow the Environment Law and release the 5% allocation of the profits which the government received from Barrick.
The communities including farmers have a group organization called “Campaign to Develop Mining Communities“. The purpose of this “Campaign” is to ensure that every peso of the 5%, that the Environment Law specifies must be paid to the communities, is used ONLY to develop projects and NOT to end up in the hands of corrupt politicians “as has been the case on previous occasions”.
This Campaign is there both to ensure the 5% is collected and also that the 5% is utilised correctly.
Sister Luisa Suarez, head of the Training Center for Women, CEFORMOMALI, who served as spokeswoman for the group, said that “It’s a shame that naturally rich communities live in poverty, and whose basic needs go unmet. Our communities are among the poorest in the northern region”.
According to figures provided by the organisers, until 2014 the government had failed to hand over more than RD$1.3 billion (US$ 28.3 million) to the mine’s surrounding towns, the amount representing the 5% of profits from all activities of mining and exporting gold and other valuable metals.
The towns and villages in the region of Barrick Gold’s Pueblo Viejo mine desperately need their 5% for the purpose of investing in development projects in the region and as important, maybe even more important, to have the finances available to deal immediately with the problems caused to the environment by Barrick’s mining operations. We all know what environment tragedies have come from Barrick’s mine and who takes responsibility?
Is Barrick responsible for this 5% not having been paid over to the towns and villages in the region? Who knows the truth?
Is Barrick part of a corruption scheme with the politicians who are NOT paying over the 5% (US$ 28.3 million) to the mine’s surrounding towns and villages? Who knows the truth?
Are the residents of the towns and villages suffering as a result of the 5% NOT being paid to them? Definitely, YES! That is the truth.
We have seen a terrible, cruel and vicious track record of ethics and compassion of Barrick Gold and their daughter company, Acacia Mining, on and off during the past 2 decades. When will Barrick learn to help and assist instead of being so focused on making that extra dollar for their shareholders?
(Our appreciation to the “Dominican Today” newspaper for some of the information that we used for this article)