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Gold mining giant Barrick investigates sexual assaults at Tanzanian mine, faces human rights claims

Company takes unusual step of publishing internal investigation details.

Canada’s Barrick Gold Corporation, the world’s largest gold producer, has taken the unusual step of publishing details of an internal investigation into sexual assaults against local women by security staff and police at its North Mara mine in Tanzania. The mine is run by its majority-owned African Barrick Gold (ABG) subsidiary. Barrick has been a controversial company among investors, but mainly for environmental problems at some of its global mining operations. However, the company is also facing allegations of human rights abuses at its Porgera mine in Papua New Guinea, underlining high risks in the mining sector. ABG said the latest investigation had identified credible evidence of sexual assaults by members of the Tanzanian police and employees of ABG’s own security unit. The investigation is ongoing. The North Mara mine is located in a remote, underdeveloped part of Tanzania close to the Kenyan border. Barrick said migration from other countries and limited law enforcement capacity had made the region a magnet for criminals and organized crime. ABG said itwas trying to improve its human rights programme while Barrick said it had started a new human rights compliance regime.The mining giant is a member of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights and said it was “deeply distressed” by the evidence that had emerged from Tanzania: “Both companies are aligned in their zero tolerance approach to human rights violations.” In 2009, the Norwegian Government Pension Fund blacklisted Barrick Gold from its portfolio for breaching its ethical codes. The fund sold shares worth NOK1,248m (€140m) in Barrick because of concerns about environmental damage at the Porgera mine in Papua New Guinea, which is run by Porgera Joint Venture, in which Barrick Gold has a 95% stake. Barrick said that following recent events at Porgera in Papua New Guinea, employees had “a heightened sensitivity to these issues”. Campaigners say alleged rapes, beatings and killings by Barrick’s security forces at the Porgera mine have been documented by a research team from Harvard University and New York State University, as well as by Human Rights Watch.