THURSDAY October 5, 2023
By Deus Bugaywa
The Tranquility News Correspondent, Tanzania
Unwavering commitment to turn North Mara Gold Mine into a trusted partner to the hosting community and the nation at large has sat well with neighbouring traditional leaders in Tarime District, Tanzania.
Twelve leaders from watimbura, wakira, wanchari, warenchoka, wanyabasi, wanyamongo, wamera, wahunyanga, wakenye, wasweta and watobori clans that form Kurya community in the district incorporated Barrick president and CEO Mark Bristow into their leadership team.
Speaking during a ceremony to officially install Bristow into the status of a leader of the clans at Ingwe Secondary School grounds at Nyamongo area in the district, leader of the clan elders Nchaga Ntogoli said Bristow had since become one of the elders of their community.
Ntogoli said the honour was Bestowed on the Barrick president and CEO in recognition of his company’s contribution to their community.
“As a community, we were trapped in the mire, our relationship with the mine was marred by constant skirmishes,” recalled Ntogoli, admitting that Bristow had done a praiseworthy job in the past four years, as the company had become a responsible member of the community, immensely contributing to its development.
The elders’ reminiscence resonates with that of Barrick Regional Sustainability Manager for Africa and Middle East Thomas Wilson:
“If it is good for the people, they will support you. We genuinely try to have a positive impact on communities we operate in. They are our hosts, our neighbours, and our partners. If we improve their lives, they will be advocates for our business.”
The traditional leaders testified that North Mara had contributed immensely to the living standard of the surrounding community, confessing that almost all spheres of life had improved.
“You have improved health, education, infrastructure and welfare of our community, am aware that the Matongo agribusiness project has sustainably empowered youth and women,” another clan elder Charles Matiko Marwa said.
Upon receiving the honour, Bristow expressed his gratitude to the elders, urging them to join hands on issues of concern to the community, especially on its development, as wished-for in the Barrick’s Sustainable Vision.
“The Barrick’s Sustainable Vision requires us to contribute to the social and economic development of our host countries and communities,” he explained.
However, Bristow cautioned that Barrick’s commitment alone without full support of the community could not meet the vision’s requirement.
“In our zulu community, we have a saying that you cannot wash your hands using one hand, it’s true with how we relate here. For the success of each of us, we need to fully cooperate and commit ourselves for what it’s better for the community and the nation,” he stressed.
Bristow pleaded with the community to work together to bring to an end regular invasion of the mine, advising the community members to grab opportunities the mine offered for sustainable development of the society.
Ever since Barrick took over operations of North Mara in 2019, it had reviewed its relationship with the local Police to establish clear boundaries. They now only enter the mine’s site when senior management officials request for them to engage on criminal matters.
The mine is, in its attempt to nurture a solid bond with the neighbouring community, deploying a local security firm whose officials know and understand needs and concerns of the community.
“Security personnel are trained in international security and human rights principles, voluntary principles on security and human rights, Barrick’s own human rights policy and security standards, and in addition, ammunition is no longer kept on site,” he explained.
When Barrick took over operational control of North Mara in 2019, the legacy of mistrust between the mine and the community called the shot, leading to rocky relations with its neighbours.
Barrick has, for the past four years, been taking fundamental steps to drive improved and trust-based relationships with the community.
It, among other things, establishment Community Development Committee, and an elected committee comprising local leaders and community members, including representatives from women, youth and disadvantaged groups, which is responsible for identifying and implementing community projects under the Barrick’s Corporate Social Responsibility drive.
Other remarkable measures were engaging locals in devising the mine’s plans and commitment to the community, and understanding, working on and fulfilling voluntary promises the previous owners made to their neighbours.
Barrick is also working with local non-government organisations to assist it in communicating, socialising and entrenching a grievance mechanism with the local community.
A business development programme Barrick launched in 2021 is another key initiative providing opportunities and means of generating income among members of the community, and youth and women, in particular.
The programme offers small and medium-sized enterprises professional training and business consulting to strengthen their skills for them to make profit from the mining value chain.
Currently, North Mara Gold Mine boasts having about 200 local and regional suppliers, equivalent to 200 per cent increase compared with 58 suppliers in 2019. The mine spent approximately $83 million on local goods and services in 2022, up from $50 million in 2021.
Construction of a 300,000-litre water reservoir for Mjini Kati Village as part of the $435,000 worth Matongo project funded by North Mara Gold Mine partly brings about a harmonious relationship between the mine and the hosts.
More than 70,000 residents of four villages benefit from the project, and plans to make the precious liquid accessible to all 11 villages neighbouring the mine are underway.
“Water is life, it was our biggest challenge. It is now a history, we are really happy,” said Rachel Matiko, admitting that the supply of clean and safe water indicated the mine cared for them. “This guy (Bristow) deserves to become one of our elders,” she stresses.
Last year, the taxman officially recognised North Mara as the Tanzania’s largest taxpayer, while the National Social Security Fund awarded Bulyanhulu, its sister mine, the Best Compliant Employer prize.
North Mara and Bulyanhulu also received the first and second runner-up recognition awards, respectively, for export of minerals and generation of the much-needed foreign currency.
Since the 2019 take-over, Barrick has pumped $2.4 billion into the Tanzania’s economy. Last year, it paid $303 million in taxes, royalties, levies, dividends and shareholder loan repayments, let alone $476 million it paid local suppliers.
Through Twiga Mineral partnership, both mines continue prioritising employing locals, with Tanzanians constituting 96 per cent of their workforce, and 45 per cent of newly hired personnel are drawn from the surrounding communities.
The mines, have through their community development committees, invested more than $10 million in improving healthcare, education, access to clean and safe water, and road infrastructureΩ