Friends of the Earth International has backed calls from communities around the world for a halt to the Canadian mining company Barrick Gold’s “destructive practices” in Papua New Guinea and other countries.
Campaigners were present at the company’s annual general meeting and joined a protest rally outside the meeting venue in Toronto.
Barrick Gold, the largest gold miner in the world, has been the subject of many documented studies of human rights abuses and environmental devastation globally, including in Australia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines and Tanzania.
Friends of the Earth International calls in to question the necessity of the Canadian-owned corporation’s gold mining operations. With the vast majority of gold used for jewellery, Barrick’s gold mines on average use more water than the entire bottle water industry in Canada, and this water is polluted with mining waste products such as cyanide, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, selenium, and sulphides.
Romel de Vera, coordinator of Friends of the Earth International’s programme on Resisting Mining, Oil and Gas, said: “All this waste, pollution and impacts on communities lives and livelihoods is in exchange for a product that has very few practical applications.
“With environmental costs almost entirely unaccounted for, the processing costs are all that stand in the way for companies to realise huge profits at the expense of those living next to the mines.”
Last year, the Norwegian Pension fund divested $230 million from Barrick for “ethical reasons”, especially related to their mine in Papua New Guinea. And when Swiss Research firm Covalace compiled both quantitative and qualitative data spanning seven years and 581 companies they listed Barrick as the 12 least ethical company in the world.
Heri Ayubu, from Lawyers Environmental Action Team/Friends of the Earth Tanzania said: “ There have been two reports confirming lasting negative effects of a toxic spill from Barrick Gold’s North Mara operation in Tanzania that occurred in May 2010.
“Villagers alleged that up to 40 people and from 700 to 1000 herds of livestock died from the contaminated water and the nearby community are still experiencing health problems to date. Despite this Barrick has taken no action and is still endangering peoples’ right to life.”
Natalie Lowrey, from Friends of the Earth Australia, who was at the annual meeting and joined the rally outside, said: “In Australia, Barrick has desecrated an ecologically and culturally significant site on Wiradjuri lands with an open-pit mine in the bed of Lake Cowal within a flood plain.
“Wiradjuri Traditional Owners have been fighting Barrick in the courts for 10 years on the desecration of sacred sites at Lake Cowal and on the protection of Wiradjuri Native Title Rights.”
Friends of the Earth is joining Protest Barrick.net with Barrick Gold impacted communities from Tanzania, Philippines and Papua New Guinea on a two-week speaking tour in Canada from April 27 until May 15.