Tanzanian gold miners' families sue UK industry body
- A British law firm, Leigh Day, representing the families, said it has filed a legal claim at the High Court in London alleging that the LBMA “has been wrongly certifying that gold originating from a Tanzanian mine as free from major human rights abuses.”
Dar es Salaam. The families of two miners allegedly killed at a Tanzanian gold mine in 2019 have launched a legal claim against the London Bullion Market Authority (LBMA) for certifying its gold.
A British law firm, Leigh Day, representing the families, said it has filed a legal claim at the High Court in London alleging that the LBMA “has been wrongly certifying that gold originating from a Tanzanian mine as free from major human rights abuses.”
According to the statement, the two men, both 23, died while working at the North Mara Gold Mine. Barrick Gold Corporation owns the majority of the facility in north-eastern Tanzania.
“The claimants assert that despite a publicly recognised pattern of systemic human rights abuses associated with the mine over many years, the LBMA has continued to certify gold from the mine under its LBMA Responsible Gold Standard,” the law firm claimed.
It further stated that the LBMA had until early next year to reply to the claim.
According to Leigh Day, the first miner died in July, 2019 after being shot by security staff at the facility while the second miner died in December of the same year after being shot by Tanzanian police.
The LBMA, whose gold market prices are recognised as a standard around the world, also verifies global mining output of the precious metal. “The legal issues raised by this case turn on whether a certification body, like the LBMA, can be held legally responsible for a flawed certification process which causes or contributes to ongoing human rights abuses,” Leigh Day added.
In response, the LBMA expressed sympathy over the deaths but argued that the legal action had no merit.
“LBMA would like to express its deepest sympathy to the families of all those injured or killed in the course of gold mining in Tanzania,” it said.
However, the organisation added that its certification operated via “transparent and well-published principles that all refiners must follow.”
“LBMA and its legal advisors believe this claim has no merit,” it claimed.
Before the filing of the suit, Barrick Gold Corporation had refuted the allegations, saying Barrick had frequently made it clear that North Mara’s security personnel are unarmed and that the mine does not supervise, direct, control or instruct any mission, assignment or function of the Tanzanian police force, which is a state institution.
Barrick president and chief executive Mark Bristow said the group was proud of its human rights record around the world and of North Mara’s strong working relationship with the communities around the mine.
He said many of the mine’s employees have been drawn from the surrounding villages and in line with Barrick’s other operations, North Mara prioritises local employment and procurement.
“While the vast majority of local residents are law-abiding, there are rogue bands, armed and well-organised, who from time to time invade North Mara to steal gold-bearing rock, presenting a serious risk to the safety of mine personnel and community members in the process,” said Mr Bristow.
“As recently as last month, North Mara was attacked by an armed force of almost 100 men. Despite the police’s attempts to repel them, 71 managed to scale the site’s nine-metre-high perimeter wall and engaged with the mine’s unarmed security personnel.
The policemen eventually removed them, but one of the intruders died as a result of his injuries.
He added: “Two of the policemen were also injured. Barrick made a public announcement about the incident at the time. This was far from being a one-off occurrence and North Mara lives with the constant threat of such invasions.”
Mr Bristow said: “Barrick was troubled by RAID’s involvement in the litigation as that organisation had a long history of making unfounded allegations about purported human rights abuses at North Mara.”