Workers Still on Strike as Harper Meets with Canadian Mine Reps in Tanzania

Friday, November 30, 2007


Written by Kim Mackrael

He may have just announced a new Canadian pledge to fight preventable diseases in Asia and Africa, but Stephen Harper’s visit to Tanzania was about more than benevolent foreign aid.

Within hours of the pledge announcement, the Canadian Prime Minister was in a private – and unannounced – meeting with executives from Barrick Gold, a controversial Canadian mining company that operates in the east African country.

About half of the workers at Barrick’s Bulyanhulu mine have been on strike since late October to demand more pay, better health care and higher risk allowances. The Tanzania Mines and Construction Workers Union (TAMICO) are seeking a court injunction against Barrick to prevent the company from hiring replacements before the strike is resolved.

Barrick has been accused of numerous human rights abuses at its Tanzanian mines, including the displacement of small scale miners, the destruction of several lakes and the murders of Tanzanians who had been critical of the mining operations.

In 2005, the Canadian Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs announced that Canada’s legal system does not hold mining corporations responsible for abuses committed abroad.

“Canada does not yet have laws to ensure that the activities of Canadian mining companies in developing countries conform to human rights standards, including rights of workers and indigenous peoples,” the Committee said.

A UN report earlier this year called on Canada to improve its regulation of Canadian-registered transnational corporations, but there has been no official response from Ottawa since.

Mining uses 7 to 10 per cent of the world’s energy, creates less than 1 per cent of world gross national products, and less than .5 per cent of world jobs.

The Tanzanian government is currently considering raising the 3 per cent royalty rate transnational companies like Barrick pay to operate within its borders.

After meeting with Barrick earlier this week, Harper cautioned:

“It is important that a review (of the 3 % rates) consults all of the actors, including investors and possible investors. Our companies are very active here and very anxious to work to help Tanzania realize its full potential in the mining industry.”

Harper did not comment on the ongoing strike or allegations of human rights abuses by Barrick.

Canada is home to 60 per cent of the world’s mining corporations. Toronto-based Barrick Gold is the biggest gold-mining company in the world.

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