By Klaire Gain, Media Coop
At Barrick Gold’s annual general meeting today, Brock University masters student Klaire Gain took the mic during question period. She has led and participated in delegations to Barrick and Goldcorp’s Pueblo Viejo mine in the Dominican Republic several times over the past four years, in solidarity with communities impacted by Barrick’s operations there. Her entire statement deserves to be read in full, so here it is:
See the entire intervention here (including Barrick’s response!). (VIDEO)
“Two years ago at this AGM, a shareholder, who had just returned from a family vacation in the Dominican Republic expressed that the people in the Dominican were not impressed with Barrick Gold. Kelvin Dushnisky immediately responded that the man was totally mistaken and that the “issues” of contamination were caused by Rosario, but that the communities have respect for Barrick.
Kelvin also said that the office at Pueblo Viejo was in direct communication with the head office in Toronto at all times. That being said, I have not heard anything in your presentation today about what has happened since this past Sunday April 23rd. Our contacts in the Dominican Republic are telling us that there have been sirens sounding since Sunday and there is a red alert. They say they’ve been experiencing heavy rain for the past 48 hours and the workers from the mine claim that there are cracks in the damn that restrains the Mejita tailings pond.
Unfortunately this is not the first time this has occurred. Last year when the community experienced heavy rains, the tailings ponds rose to an extremely high level. Sirens from the mine caused mine personnel to evacuate- yet the community members were told nothing. So, It’s very nice that you claim to be in close communication with the communities near the mine, I’ve spent a lot of time in this area in the past 4 years, and every time I visit the mine there is an entire community that hasn’t received much, if any communication from your company. Not to mention there have already been 84 deaths, allegedly due to contamination since Barrick began industrial production. And over 2,000 livestock have been killed.
With a mine life expectancy of 25+ years, what will the life of community members be like then?
The people in the communities compare Barrick Gold to cancer – an evil disease that slowly kills it’s host. They want Barrick Gold to get out of their country before they contaminate the entire region. They, at the very minimum, want to know what the red alert is about – why are the families being woken up in the middle of the night from these loud sirens?!
Why are there 84 dead and over 50 people with alleged chemical wounds on their body from contamination? Why are the mothers giving birth to babies with chemical wounds already on their bodies?! This did not happen before Pueblo Viejo began production. Why have you not acknowledged these very serious, life-threatening issues?
One community member explained: “Barrick says that the mine will bring good to the community- but the only good thing that Barrick has brought to us is that it has taught us to resist” Given that your 21st century vision is the generation of wealth through responsible mining – wealth for your owners, your people, and the communities with which you partner, then why are there so many concerns in the Dominican Republic?
This is a clear demonstration of your lack of responsibility as a company. To the shareholders, I strongly urge you to sell your shares in this company right after this meeting. To Barrick Gold – the majority of people in the Dominican Republic, Papua New Guinea and everywhere else that you’re operating, don’t want you to be there – this in itself is a serious problem.”