How Dar’s embattled gold mines get new lease of life

North Mara and Bulyanhulu produce 500,000 ounces of gold annually

SUNDAY July 23, 2023

Operations in progress at one of the Barrick Tanzania’s gold mines. PHOTOS | FILE

By Deus Bugaywa

The Tranquility News Correspondent, Tanzania

North Mara and Bulyanhulu gold mines were both rundown and at standstill virtually, thanks to the deadlocked dispute pitting the Tanzania government and the previous operator — Acacia.

In 2019, Barrick took control over North Mara and Bulyanhulu gold mines, forming a joint venture with the government, founding Twiga Minerals Corporation and restoring Social License to Operate (SLO) — ongoing acceptance of a company’s standard business practices and operating procedures among its employees, players and the general public,

The SLO has since been imbuing the Tanzania’s gold mining industry with a new life and vitality, as it allows the Twiga Minerals Corporation to set standards for not only the East African country’s extractive industry alone, but also across the region, if not the continent.

“We settled the dispute and established Twiga as a 50:50 economic benefits sharing partnership, which also vested a 16 per cent shareholding in each mine with the government,” says Barrick’s president and CEO Mark Bristow during his North Mara site visit in July 2023, adding:

“We reinvented the mines which now, as a combined complex, produce gold at a Tier One level, in other words, one which can produce at least 500,000 ounces of gold annually for more than 10 years at the lower half of the industry cost curve.”

Barrick Gold president and Chief Executive Officer Mark Bristow was in January 2023 the first investor in Tanzania to be installed Sukuma Chief of Bulyanhulu due to contributions the mine makes to the community.

Obtaining and maintaining an SLO is one of the key elements for companies to be able to implement and operate their projects. In fact, with a social license in place, a company is often considered responsible.

For Twiga Minerals Corporation to obtain the social license, it had to work diligently to restore and rebuild its relationship with the local community, ensuring its members meaningfully benefit from the Barrick’s presence.

“One of the first actions we took was setting up a Community Development Committee (CDC) and engaging the local community by unveiling plans for the mine and commitments to the community,” Bristow explains.

The role of the CDC is to allocate budgets for investing in community projects and initiatives that meet needs of its members.

The committee comprises local leaders and community members, including representatives from women, youth, disadvantaged groups and Barrick, whose role is limited to oversight and administrative capacity.

Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan (Right) meets Barrick Gold Corporation Chief Mark Bristow (Left) in Dodoma in July 2021 to review progress at the Canadian miner’s operations under Twiga Minerals Corporation.

Speaking of the improved relationship with the mine, Matongo Village Chairman David Itembe says among many factors that win the public confidence in the mine is the widely accepted grievances resolution mechanism.

“When a person is aggrieved and there is no proper way to accommodate the complaints, it’s like adding petrol on the blazing fire, but Barrick established a proper grievances mechanism which helps reducing outstanding grievances inherited from Acacia,” Itembe admits.

Barrick established an effective grievance mechanism at North Mara and formed a grievances resolution committee to best resolve both legacy complaints and new ones.

The grievances procedure was subsequently rolled out at all eleven surrounding villages, those neighbouring them and within all relevant Barrick departments with multiple channels for lodging complaints, with anonymous toll free mobile and land-lines set.

“The grievance notice boards mounted in each of the 11 villages and regular engagements with various helped a lot to bring awareness and to share access to new grievance mechanisms which, in turn, brought harmonious relationships,” adds Nyamaganya Marwa, the Chairman of Komalera Village.

Chacha Machari assists experts to install drip irrigation lines for the North Mara Gold Mine agribusiness project initially targeting 100 youth like him.

According to Bristow, the mine keeps track of grievances received each month and is committed to try and resolve each received within 30 days of receipt.

In 2022, Barrick received a total of 41 grievances, of which 32 were successfully resolved, none of the grievances received were associated with human rights abuse since 2019.

In tireless efforts to mend the good relationship with the hosting community, in 2020, Barrick replaced the international security provider with a local company.

By using the local security firm, Barrick engaged the local community, making it part of the security team whose members know and understand their needs and concerns.

“Security personnel were trained in the international security and human rights principles and voluntary principles on security and human rights.

Intruders invade North Mara Gold Mine in broad daylight as surveillance cameras capture their pictures in one of the regular past scenarios which are slowly but surely becoming relics of a bygone age.

“The Barrack’s human rights policy and security standards and ammunition was no longer kept on site,” said the president and CEO.

Interventions applied towards the hosting community since Barrick’s buyout of the minority shareholders resulted into successful operations of the mines and a conducive environment for them to contribute over $2.8 billion to the Tanzanian economy in form of taxes, levies, dividends, salaries and payments to local suppliers.

“Equally important, we have fixed the environmental, land claims and human rights issues that destroyed these mines’ reputations and have restored their SLO as an integral member of their communities.

“Twiga has, since its establishment, invested more than $12.5 million in landmark projects identified in collaboration with the community development committees. The projects provide access to quality healthcare, educational facilities, potable water and alternative sources of income.

“Among these projects is an irrigation system which is expected to substantially improve production for 2,356 farmers,” explains Bristow.

Barrick’s president and CEO Mark Bristow says production at North Mara Gold Mine is well on track.

Operationally, Bristow says the Twiga complex continue with its strong production performance and is well on track in achieving its guidance for the year.

Both mines maintain a strong focus on the health and safety of their workers, and in April, Bulyanhulu won the Overall Tanzania OSHA Compliance Award for 2023 in the Mining Sector Category while North Mara emerged second runner-up.

Barrick’s global policy of prioritising local employment enables Twiga to boast having a workforce with 96 per cent Tanzanians, almost half of them are drawn from communities surrounding the minesΩ

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