Thursday, July 23, 2009

It is NOT an Exeggeration

It looks very awkward at times when we talk about atrocities committed by Barrick Gold Corporation in the communities they operate. A lot of people think that people exaggerate when reports have it that Barrick Gold Corporation is poor on CSR and putting more lives in danger. It does not just happen in Tanzania but in Australia and other places. We need to learn from our friends who are facing the same case in the other parts of the world. A few people determined to rescue their land can defeat a legion, no matter how powerful…

Neville Chappy Williams, who has consistently opposed the open-pit mine at Lake Cowal in the middle of the Murray-Darling Basin, has delivered documents to the Deputy Canadian High Commissioner, Mr René Cremonese,
and the Minerals Council of Australia in Canberra as part of the Global Day of Action against open-pit mining.

Neville Chappy Williams is a Traditional Owner of Lake Cowal and has fought many court cases against mining at Lake Cowal.

“It is my sacred duty to protect Lake Cowal and our ancient cultural heritage. We will never give up. I will fight to the bitter end.” Currently, he has halted the proposed expansion of the gold mine in Barrick v Williams in the NSW Court of Appeal.

“The Lake Cowal gold mine operated by Barrick Gold from Toronto, Canada is desecrating our sacred heartland of the Wiradjuri between the Kalara/Lachlan and the Murrumbidgee rivers in central west New South Wales.

Lake Cowal is an ephemeral lake and also a wetland of international significance – home and breeding ground to thousands of water birds when full, including numerous endangered species.

“The open-pit cuts into the ancient lake bed and already there have been at least twenty landslides as the pitwall collapses, at times covering blast holes full of explosives and endangering workers’ lives.”

“Barrick is importing 6090 tonnes of sodium cyanide into the floodplain of Lake Cowal and the Kalara/Lachlan river, which becomes an inland sea during major flooding.”

“We have even been to Barrick’s AGMs and to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues to stop this madness. But the governments seem hand in glove with the mining company.” Neville Chappy Williams concludes.

Friday, July 10, 2009

North Mara Saga: News from the ground II (Verbatim)

In the midst of the closure calls on North Mara Barrick Gold Corporation’s site, a number of incidents are reported and the situation in the North Mara region is appalling. Here’s another testimonial from the ground…

Dear Partners and Colleagues,

Greetings from Musoma.

Let me take this opportunity to update you with what have happened of recent and proposed way forward.

In late June I was supposed to meet the Parliamentary committee on environment and natural resources headed by Hon Job Ndugai. I could not make it die to vehicle breakdown in Shinyanga. I did, however, use the Foundation for Civil Society Bunge exhibition to meet some MPs on North Mara saga. I sought audience with the PM (a proposal put forward to me by the Hon. Dr Wanyancha, the Serengeti MP upon viewing the dvd on the incidence and reactions from the wananchi). However, it was advised that since the matter was going to be probed by the Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Environment we should meet the committee in Musoma or Tarime when they come.

TARIME Presentation:

On Sunday July 5th, 2009 we got a call from PINGOs official who was in Dodoma requesting us to meet Hon Ndugai as he needed to establishing links with people on the ground. We communicated with his Committee secretary Mr Michael Kadebe for appointment. Later, upon their arrival in Musoma, we presented a DVD and a Tigite River report to Hon. Ndugai, Hon. Charles Mwera (MP for Tarime), Hon. Ngeleja and Hon. Burian and while preparing to go to Tarime I received a call from Hon Ndugai who requested me to prepare a 30 minutes presentation to the members of his committee and the energy and mineral committee members in Tarime. We prepared to meet the MPs and the Ministers (Hon. Aisha Kigoda; Hon. Ngeleja and Hon. Burian) on Monday 6th July 2009.

Matters arising during the Tarime meeting

The first presentation was done by Eng. Baya, the MD of NEMC. In his presentation, he stressed that the pH is not the only criterion for deciding whether the water was safe for domestic and livestock consumption. The official from Lake Victoria Basin Office (LVBO) had tough time when he was asked on the reasons for allowing Barrick North Mara to drain its water into Tigithe River. He was asked if he was ready to be responsible if the water was found unfit for human consumption.

Our presentation followed Baya's and gave an account of the incidence and how we have responded to the issue. The samples taken and the results information were briefly given. Main questions were 1. Why did Foundation HELP decide to involve religious leaders instead of govt officials (Hon. Burian etc). 2. Have we conducted toxicology tests to determine whether the water was the source of the ailments that has been reported in the area and what was our response to the situation. The answers were obvious and in response to Dr Mashimba's (question our recommendation was enough to silence them.

One evident thing is that no govt agency (regional medical officer), Chief Chemist, NEMC or LVBO had scientific data to give to the committee. The Minister of Energy and Minerals requested us to join in the tour to Kibasuka and Matongo.

Our recommendations were undertaking independent environmental audit (an idea supported by Hon. Daniel Nsanzugwanko, Deputy Chair-Mineral and energy committee); independent study to determine levels of heavy metals in plants, animals and humans in the area; alternative water for livestock and humans; environmental management and control programs and rehabilitation programs.

Kibasuka meeting

According to the Kibasuka Ward Councillor 43 (24 men and 19 women) people have died since May 2009 until early July. We found 2 more deaths of people making the figures to rise to 45 people. Up to now 102 people are seriously sick in the ward suffering from what was named 'Tigithe water-caused diseases'. In terms of livestock, 401 cows, 523 goats, 185 sheep, 63 donkeys and 227 dogs have lost life during this time.

Matongo visit

The committee visited Matongo Ward where there were cries from the community on the injustices done by the mine to the community including killings of innocent people and pollution in the area. The Minister of Minerals and energy had hard time at Matongo to give satisfactory answers to the community members.

Against my will (was in one vehicle with Hon Ngeleja) I visited the mine where Barrick had a presentation to make. There was whole slide on misinformation which elaborated on how this incidence has been reported and had Evans' photo taken from his blog. The presentation had nothing significant to convince the committee as when asked to confirm whether the water on Tigite was safe and clean so that it can be put on record the person in charge of environment declined to give any comment.

Role of the Media

Barrick Tanzania had their own fleet of journalists from Dar, Tarime and Mwanza. These included (Names withheld but will be availed on demand). These were paid by Teweli Teweli. The mentality of bribing the media people needs to be worked out by having a clear media strategy to follow up this matter.

We managed to get a few dignified and patriotic journalists who stand for what journalism is all about and have written on this matter in the newspapers against their colleagues who have been blaming them for not helping Barrick at a fee!

Wrap-up meeting

We could not be allowed to be in the meeting but details of what transpired will be known soon after meeting one of our insiders in the meeting.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Africa: Governance & Accountability Challenges

The PWYP Africa Coordinator Marie-Ange presenting during the Launch

The Launch of Publish What You Pay in Zambia

It is an undisputed truth that Africa as a continent is endowed with massive reserves of natural resources but this truth is crowded by the sad truth that the same continent is rocked by poverty the world has never seen before.

The state of issues in our continent has made a number of people and or organisations come up with different strategies to ensure that Africa reclaims her glory, which has always been there but marred by the economic hit-man’s strategy. So we saw the launch of Publish What You Pay – PWYP Zambian Chapter.

It was interesting to note that when human beings and all the living creatures came into being the creator made sure that there was enough to sustain life. This was done by way of making sure that mother earth had enough to support the inhabitants thereon.

It was done by creating massive deposits of all sorts of natural wealth in its entire diversified manner. Mankind was neither meant to go without food nor to live a life that is encroached by abject poverty resulting in sorrow and mourning as African children fight for their rightful place in the world.

Good Strategies, unbalanced beginning

A number of actors have come up with seemingly good plans but have fallen short of reaching the desired goal due to rampant destructive bureaucracy around development in Africa. We have heard and known of the way a number of developed countries have used the money power to ensure that people who will favour their interests in our countries.

I hope we have not forgotten how the third phase government in Tanzania was quoted by a number of media houses in relationship to the Canadian multinational investment in the in the extractive industry in Tanzania. “Our man has been sworn in the office… now the Bulyanhulu file will move!”

Even at the launching of such good strategies as the PWYP, you hear the voices of concern on whether these will be affected and made operational in a local context to the benefit of the citizens of the land.

On this particular launch, the concern was raised on the negative picture the governments in Africa have evidenced on the discussion surrounding the extractive industries transparency initiative (EITI).

It was a shared concern on the effectiveness of the council (s) of EITI in individual countries’ when the ministries handling the management of natural resources (ministries of minerals, in particular) does not show openness even in the way the invitations are sent out to key stakeholders.

In the Zambian case, a number of council members do not even know what EITI is all about. This was blamed on the fact that the ministry of minerals gave notice of the existence of such initiative to key stakeholders “a day before the meeting that was to discuss EITI.”

Now this attitude of our leaders must stop. These initiatives are not meant for personal use but for corporate and societal use to create a better world, which I believe is every man, woman, boy and girls longing. Selfishness on sharing information should be seen by our leaders as a destructive tool that works even against them.

Our policy makers should know better that failure to share such information; they stand a chance to lose their standing ovation politically speaking when other people offer such information.

All Governments are the same

In the context of Zambia just as it was in Tanzania, the ministries of minerals in the two countries were reported to have not sent out the invitations to the crucial gatherings that were discussing transparency issues on management of natural resources and the revenues thereof.

Participants complained of how the governments, “sent out the invites at the eleventh hour, expecting endorsement from the civil society organisations (CSOs) without even going through the materials that were supposed to be circulated to stakeholders some time before the meeting.”

This attitude of the governments in Africa places precedence for non-transparent dialogue on how Africa’s massive natural resource deposits could be a catalyst to an improved socioeconomic standing.

It must not go without saying that while Publish What You Pay is mandatory, the EITI remains voluntary and open-ended. This was another point of concern and something has to be done. In my view, this open-endedness of the EITI leaves a lot of space for ‘looting-minded’ multinational organisations to refuse signing.

There must be a way in which the countries which support and are registered members this initiative call for a more mandatory law and or policy to get companies from the developed North to open their books for scrutiny.

Arrogance and evading Scrutiny

I recall an experience with the general manager of Barrick Gold Corporation’s Bulyanhulu mine site, Greg Walker when we paid him a visit with a group of journalists in September/November 2008. He was asked by one of the journalists if he could give a statement of the mine’s annual financial report, annual production report and to tell the group the percent of royalty they pay; he retorted, “Go ask your government, I am not ready to answer such questions!”

That is the same kind of an answer you get from the Ministry of Energy and Minerals in Tanzania (unless they have changed in the last one month.) In Tanzania, even those who were chosen to be in the EITI council are people who are looked as ‘non-challenging’ development allies of the government. Here you must have in mind the fact that most of our African leaders even when they are said to be young; are in reality “a chip from the old block.”

It is time therefore that, such good project and development strategies are brought forth with well thought terms of references so as to reach the desired better end. We have a big struggle to ensure that the mother grinding in the traditional stone mill in the African most rural villages would see, taste and benefit from the harvest that God placed on mother Africa before He placed her inhabitants.
As we pursue equity, let us not forget that, “The work of many of the greatest men, inspired by duty, has been done amidst suffering and trial and difficulty. They have struggled against the tide, and reached the shore exhausted.”
But at the end they overcame.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

North Mara: Witnesses on the Ground I

North Mara area and Tarime in general has become rather volatile. This situation is as a result of ethnic clashes but mostly the wrangles between the local communities and Barrick Gold Corporation. The latter has proved to aggravate the situation to an extent that social and economic welfare of the people in Nyamongo is interfered with greatly. Below, is a testimony of a member of society who recently visited the North Mara area…

Hello Friends!!!

I would like to thank you for your concern on this matter in Nyamongo Tarime. The sampling exercise was done extremely well without any problem. We managed to do some interview with a reasonable number of the community members in various areas and both political leaders.
It was good that we never involved the local media crew who are in Tarime otherwise they could notify the Company about our presence something which could frustrate our mission.

On the preliminary indications the samples gives us very shocking impressions. We managed to witness three dead cows, and the meat had abnormal colour, and we have taken some pieces of internal organs for laboratory check up.

We are set to meet the Tarime District commissioner on Monday morning for the interview and to hear about the government's action on this matter. We would like to report in his office for protocol purposes but also know his position and view on this matter.

I do believe that my colleagues will be in a position to share their views on what exactly occurred on the field. My general observation is that Barrick Gold mine is very rude and does not care about the wellbeing of the people. What matters to Barrick Goldmine Company is only gold.

My suggestion to this situation is to mobilise all stakeholder to meet as quick as possible and put down necessary strategies to force the Company to cease production for a while so as to allow thorough investigations and solutions towards the problems that are facing the communities surrounding this area.

We need to do it very quickly to rescue the lives and the future of the generations to come. The situation is very tense between the villagers and the company, I was surprised to see a big number of field force Police men guarding the piles of stones in this area while the people and the environment are perishing.

We invite all well wishers to join our efforts, otherwise Tanzania and the people in Tarime will be left in an extreme poverty and death cases are obvious in a very few years to come.

Continue to pray for God's intervention in this matter those who are responsible have decided to side with the company and not the poor communities.
It is very unfortunate that this inhuman behaviour and injustices are done by rich companies. May God be seen in this situation.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

North Mara Saga: Witnesses from the Ground

Friends, the North Mara saga pitting Barrick Gold Corporation, the local communities and Civil Society Organisations mindful of human beings and environment has culminated to accusing fingers. Due to this, I am going to be posting verbatim accounts from the people on the ground. This therefore, will be one of the series that I will be posting for the readers as I get the information. Let’s read together this account on what really happened in North Mara’s Barrick Gold Corporation mining site…

…I managed to rush to Nyamongo on 15th May 2009 in the afternoon where I joined a team from the Ministry of Water and Irrigation and the Regional Resident Mines Officer. This was after cutting short my field trip after receiving information on the pollution incident at the Barrick North Mara goldmines.

Here are some facts as far as the pollution of river Tigithe is concerned;

The problem of toxic spillage into the Tigithe River came from the Nyabigena mining area and is a result of acid water from acid retaining ponds infiltrating through the embankment that makes the haul road for ore from Nyabigena to the processing plant at Nyabirama, some 7km away. The acid water leachate flowed into river Tigithe polluting it and leaving behind dried grass and other plants. The effect of acid water to fish and other living things is obvious, until dilution happens to tolerant levels.

An eye observation of the waste rock materials from the Nyabigena goldmine show brownish colour indicating high content of sulfur. When this is exposed as it is, it oxidizes and with water, it forms Sulfur acid.

This is supported by geochemical analysis carried out during the development of a Supplementary Environmental Management Plan for the Gokona-Nyabigena goldmines project (Supplementary Environmental Management Plan (Gokona-Nyabigena).

Main Report, by EARTH SYSTEMS which revealed that waste rock materials from the Nyabigena pit showed high content of sulfur, is potentially acid forming and runoff from this waste rock can generate acidic leachate.

To contain this situation, the North Mara Goldmines (now under Barrick) constructed two ponds that would collect acid leachate from the Nyabigena waste rock dump by a series of pipes leading into these ponds.

In order to minimize acid infiltration, these two ponds were lined by a special PVC lining material laid at the base of the ponds. We saw part of this material that remained after some had been cut off from the sides of the pond through vandalism by the local community. (What the mines management told us.)

The top part of these two ponds was bare and would therefore allow this acid water, whose pH is between 2 -3 infiltrate through the road embankment to the other side and then easily flow into river Tigithe about 500m downstream. The system is such that one pond receives the leachate and at some level flows into the second pond, from which the acid water is pumped to the Tailings Storage Facility at Nyabirama.

There is however another pond that is not lined that receives acid water leachate from a new waste rock dump. This leachate flows as a small stream into this pond. Since this is not lined, it is therefore a major source of acid water infiltration through the road embankment to the other side and would easily find its way to the river.

When the acid water level in the ponds is low, the difference in hydraulic levels between the two sides is small and the rate of infiltration is also small and may not be noticeable on the ground surface.

There is another freshwater pond from which water is drawn by trucks of the company to water the road from Nyabigena mines to the processing plant at Nyabirama. The pH value tested instantly by the man from the water laboratory in Musoma indicated a reading of 9.2 (alkaline).

What happened on the Fateful day!

There was heavy rainfall on the fateful day resulting into higher flows of acid leachate into the ponds, which resulted into higher acid water levels and higher hydraulic gradient forcing a lot of acid water to infiltrate through the embankment and then flow into the Tigithe River. The unlined pond must have contributed much of this acid water runoff. The general impact of this situation includes;
• The permanent loss of the arable land through which the acid water flowed to river Tigithe through acidification
• Permanent threat to contamination by acidic drainage of water sources located within the periphery of this waste rock dump including Tigithe river
• Continuing conflicts between Barrick Goldmines and the local community
• We shall forever remain with this toxic stock pile of waste rock!

Actions to mitigate the situation!

According to a statement issued by the Mr. Teweli, the PR and Communications Officer for Barrick Gold Tanzania, the actions to mitigate the situation include;
• Pumping acid water from the pond that is not lined into that is lined with PVC (this was observed at the site)
• Fitting of new liners
• Interception methods to prevent lower pH water from leaving the site
• Relocation of temporary low grade ore stockpile
• Agreement with community leaders to ensure that acts of vandalism affecting the integrity of the ponds do not reoccur

The same stories when something fateful happens! Who is going to monitor and ensure that these actions are fulfilled? Who is going to rehabilitate the acidified farm of this poor farmer? Or who is going to compensate this family for the permanent loss of their land through acidification?
There are several questions without Answers.
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