Africa: violence plagues mineral sector

Seven people were killed May 16 at Barrick Gold‘s North Mara mine in Tanzania after more than 1,000 people, desperate to find leftover scraps of gold, invaded the mine site. Following the the fatal confrontation, police reportedly stormed a local mortuary and seized the bodies of four of the dead. They also arrested and charged two members of Parliament, a legal adviser, and journalists for “instigating people to cause violence.” The deadly clash is the latest in an ongoing battle between the giant Canadian miner and locals who scavenge for gold-laced rocks on the lucrative property, which Barrick acquired in 2006. Many of the “criminal intruders,” as Barrick called them, were displaced artisanal miners, armed with pick-axes and machetes. Since the confrontation, tensions have been high in the Tarime district, which has been flooded with security forces.

Confrontations at the mine site are not uncommon. Bloomberg news agency reported in Dec. 23 that “at least seven people have been killed in clashes with security forces at the mine in the past two years.” These security forces, according to company documents, include police who Barrick pays to guard its North Mara mine. (Intercontinental Cry, June 1; ProtestBarrick, May 26; Toronto Star, May 17)

Authorities in Zambia are investigating claims that managers at a Chinese-run coal mine in the south of the country shot and wounded at least 11 miners in October. Two Chinese managers from Collum Mine, about 200 miles south of the capital Lusaka, were arrested and charged with attempted murder in connection with the shooting, which occured during a protest against poor pay and conditions. (Reuters, Oct. 22; BBC, Oct. 16, 2010)

See our last posts on China in Africa and the global mineral cartel.

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