“We are asking Barrick to feel compassion for us. We are not asking for the little money they will give us for land. We are begging for our well-being, for our life, for our right to breathe air and drink water like we used to.”
On the heels of its annual general meeting in Toronto, those living near the operations of Barrick Gold, the world’s most powerful gold mining company, share through translators what it’s like having the Toronto-based multinational as their neighbour. The following interviews have been edited and condensed.
Lucy Yuki, 49, subsistence farmer in Pandaka village, Papua New Guinea, within the Porgera mine Special Mining Lease area (SML)
I belong to Andapo clan, Mamai tribe. I am a mother of six, and my eldest child is 19 years old.
Since the mine started, a lot of bad things have happened. Killing of harmless Indigenous people, raping of young girls and women and dumping of mine waste near my village has turned our lives upside down.
The company and government told us it was good to change our life style. But the mine has made our life miserable in the span of 20 years.
I find it hard to feed my family. My farming land has all been taken up by mine operations. The little land my family had [has] been taken up by the mine waste dump.
What can I do or say? Barrick and the government of Papua New Guinea must as a matter of urgency re-settle my tribe and members of other clans in the SML.
Eliana Mercado, from Jáchal, province of San Juan, Argentina, near the Veladero mine
In the past, Jáchal was a productive area. There were many farmers.
At the beginning, the company used large amounts of water so we couldn’t cultivate our farms. Barrick promised us good communication, but we don’t have any of that here.
With the spill of cyanide [in the Potrerillos River in September 2015], we live in panic because we don’t know if our water is okay or not. We are always frightened.
We have the Don’t Touch Jáchal Assembly, which organizes and protests against Barrick Gold and any other mining projects. Many members have been threatened by the government; the Assembly is a problem for them.
We have children who have heavy metals in their blood. Mega-mining activities have contaminated our environment. We are trying to make our authorities listen to us, but they have abandoned us. We are alone. You can’t trust anybody.
PHOTO: Catherine Coumans.
Name withheld, Tarime District, Mara Region, Tanzania
My younger brother was a picky-picky driver [a local form of motorbike transportation].
In 2011, his friends asked him to bring them to the [local] pit to search for gold rocks at night. When they got there, they heard shooting by the police mine guards. My brother was shot. The bullet went through his chest and out his back. He called out, “I’m dying,” but his friends were chased away by the police.
His friends called me to tell me what happened. I went to the pit to look for my brother. But the police accused me of being an intruder and beat me so badly that I had to go to the clinic.
My brother’s body [had been] brought by the police to the same clinic. They wanted us to bury him right away. But a local politician was there and said you can’t just remove the body without a postmortem. Later they took my brother’s body to the hospital.
The next day the police who guard the mine pressured our family to take the body for burial right away. But we hesitated. We said we were not ready for the burial.
The hospital would not give us the postmortem. They told us to bury the body. Later, when we asked for his death certificate, the hospital wanted to change the date on it as a condition to getting it. We never got the death certificate or the postmortem. The police who guard the mine threatened me. We just stopped talking about it.
PHOTO: Klaire Gain.
Juliana Guzman, Sanchez Ramirez province, Dominican Republic, Pueblo Viejo mine
I have lived in this community since I was born, and the last four years that Barrick has been here have been the worst of my life.
I don’t care about myself because I have lived a good life, but my children and grandchildren are stuck here dying because we are too poor to relocate and people in your country need gold.
We are no longer the owners of this land, so we need the new owners, Barrick Gold, to move us somewhere fair, please. We can’t stand it any more. We are the living dead here because we have nothing – no water, nothing. We are asking Barrick to feel compassion for us. We are not asking for the little money they will give us for land. We are begging for our well-being, for our life, for our right to breathe air and drink water like we used to.
PHOTO: Klaire Gain.
Ramon Ventura, Sanchez Ramirez province, Dominican Republic, Pueblo Viejo mine
Over 2,000 livestock have died in our communities, we have lost more than 60 per cent of our cacao production, and the land is not as fertile as it was. Many people, including children, have rashes and wounds on their skin from contamination. Our communities are in constant fear that the El Yagal tailings pond will overflow.
I had to leave my community and move further away from the mine and pay for another house because the smells, sounds and pollution were making my family so sick. The water is contaminated, you can’t even bathe in it, and we all know that without water you cannot live.
The reality is that Barrick has done absolutely nothing for our community. They have only caused harm, and they deny that this is true. What are we going to do? We are going to keep fighting until there is justice.