When Barrick took over operational control of its Tanzanian assets under two years ago, it faced daunting challenges: a government that was actively hostile to the mining industry in general and the former operator in particular; serious environmental issues which had halted production at North Mara; long-standing land disputes; allegations of human rights abuses; and a non-existent social licence to operate.
Since then, Barrick has formed a pioneering partnership with the government, through which they will share the economic benefits generated by the mines. These have not only been brought back into production but have been set on course to potentially become another Tier One complex for the company. Barrick has settled the land disputes and resolved other grievances and is dealing with historical human rights accusations in an open and transparent way.
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Barrick has an absolute and unwavering commitment to minimizing the environmental impact of its operations, and its first priority was to fix the Tailings Storage Facility (TSF) and the water management situation at North Mara, says Grant Beringer, group sustainability executive.
The company will invest $65 million in water management initiatives, which has included an upgrade of the water treatment plant, increasing its capacity 16-fold, and has drained the excess water from the TSF, bringing it back to within its permit levels. The next big project is a brine plant, the first of its kind in African mining, which will reduce the volume of salts and increase their concentration to allow for safe storage in the TSF. This plant is scheduled for commissioning in the third quarter of this year.
Community development committees have been established at the mines, and through consultation with these and the authorities, Barrick reached agreement on land compensation rates. To date, almost all the compensation has been paid in a process overseen by the government, the local authorities and the affected communities.
Barrick has worked with independent specialists Avanzar to update its human rights policies, standards and procedures, and to develop human rights workshops for managers and supervisors, the first of which was held in January of this year. Avanzar has also conducted a human rights impact assessment.
The international security provider has been replaced by a local company with close community ties, the mines’ relationship with the police has been reviewed to establish clear boundaries, and arms and ammunition are no longer stored on site.
“While there is still a lot of work to be done, we are encouraged by the progress we have made in establishing Barrick’s social licence to operate in Tanzania and in transforming moribund mines into a valuable addition to our global portfolio. The fact that ESG is so deeply ingrained in Barrick meant that we did not have to invent a strategy for dealing with Tanzania — we simply applied our existing principles and procedures,” he says.