A new report into the mining industry in Tanzania has exposed endemic corruption, displacement of the poor, environmental destruction and deteriorating working conditions in the poverty-stricken country as international corporations clean up.
The Bomani report found that two companies in particular, Canadian group Barrick and the South African firm AngloGold Ashanti, which between them hold the vast majority of the mining rights and operating facilities in Africa, have been systematically cutting local communities out of the deicision-making process, manipulating state and national politics and mistreating workers as they haul in huge profits.
The news undermines predictions made in the early part of this century that Tanzania, which has had substantial economic problems leading to a 67% unemployment rate at slack points in the agricultural season, would see major benefits from the extraction of its substantial gold and other mineral reserves.
Rural communities, unable to make headway against the legally-savvy companies, are being thrown off their land with little support, according to the report: “Basically, the real situation shows that the whole compensation process is not clear and not fair. Many people have been displaced without being paid the compensation or being allocated alternative places.”
The government has also come in for severe criticism, after parliamentary sources confirmed that a Canadian delegation had been doing deals in private talks with influential legislators from both the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party and the official Opposition. As a result, deals have gone through which see substantial tax breaks for the multinationals, and a blind eye has been turned to unpaid corporation tax, according to several church groups including Christian Aid – amounting to around $265.5m in lost revenues, according to one estimate.
The government have also been blamed for giving “big portions of land to multinational mining companies without considering the real use of it by those who owned the place.”
Furthermore, the mining companies have been accused by local communities of polluting the environment in the localities where they conduct operations, subsequently endangering the lives of local people. In North Mara, where Barrick has a mining site, the tailings dam is freely running into pastures and fields, and heavily contaminated waters from the processing plant are adversely affecting local people by leaking into their water sources.
Large scale mining may even be depressing employment, according to some sources. The A Golden Opportunity? report, also recently released, found that large-scale mining had thrown around 400,000 small-scale miners out of work, while employing just 10,000 in the six major companies involved.
Within these companies, it has been found that employees’ rights and treatment have been amongst the worst in the country. In October of last year, 1,370 workers for the Barrick Gold Corporation were sacked en masse for demanding that the company honour their rights to medical insurance and other benefits which are company policy in other countries, but not in the dangerous tunnels.
The concluding comment of the Bomani Commission’s report says, “It is in the mining zones where locals have remained poor instead of being economically stable after the coming of foreign large scale mining companies.”
First published in Freedom newspaper