|Mining firm at loggerheads again with Tarime residents |
by Ray Naluyaga, The Citizen Bureau Chief, The Citizen (Tanzania)
January 22nd, 2011
Conflicts between mines and communities surrounding them has in most
parts of Africa been the normal way of life as exemplified by the case
of North Mara Gold Mine operating in Tarime, north-eastern Tanzania.
The mine has severally been invaded by groups of hundreds of people seeking gold sand, leading to the frequent clashes that left mine properties worth billions of shillings destroyed as well as scores of lives lost.
A remarkable conflict was about the poisoning of the Tigithe-- the river supplying the villagers with fresh water-- by chemical residues from the mine, which contaminated the main water source, thereby threatening lives of people and livestock, apart from destroying the environment.
Indeed according to village leaders, Tigithe contamination led to loss of human and livestock lives, drying up of food crops as well as various other plants in the area. This was however soon to be followed by a somewhat new chapter in the company and community’s relations, as each of the parties undertook to cooperate to normalise relations and engage in dialogue to solve any thorny differences and hostilities.
Barrick even thereafter launched the process to establish a major small scale miners’ pilot improvement project and pledged some $2 million for starters.
And now, another dispute has risen, this time after the mine reportedly stopped paying school fees for over 2,000 students hailing from five surrounding villages because of massive cheating allegedly perpetrated with the connivance of village leaders.
However, the chairman of elders from the five villages Mr Elisha Nyamhanga, from Nyangoto village, denies the claims and insists the mine has to come out open on the matter.
About two weeks ago, the mine’s acting general manager Mr Gerhard Herman was quoted in the media as saying the North Mara Gold Mine has been paying millions of shillings as school fees for an average of 1,680 ghost students every year.
As a result, the mine’s education trust fund has dried up of funds and no school fees were available for this academic year. Part of the reason, he implied was fraud, adding, “There were a lot of children on the list who did not exist and even phantom education institutions listed.” This move now threatens hundreds of students from poor backgrounds who have hitherto benefited.
But the village leaders have protested the move and claim Mr Herman had contradicted a report released by the mine last September in which it was found that the school fees scheme was 95 per cent successful.
Mr Nyamhanga says Barrick was opening a new front for conflict by pitting the leaders against the villagers. He argued the funds for fees could not be treated as a trust fund but a one pr cent royalty due to the villages as agreed when mining commenced.
“Mr Herman has also forgotten that the trust fund is still in the process of being established after the idea was muted only recently to bring in more players and encourage the communities to take part as well.”
He says it was surprising that the mine was pulling out even as its officials were recently declaring that there were funds awaiting villagers’ approval before disbursement.
In response to questions sent to him by The Citizen on Sunday, the mine’s general manager Mr Kevin Moxham says four of the five villages have overspent their royalty advances. However, Genkuru village still receives royalties from the pit which cover, amongst other things, education expenses.
On the trust issue, Mr Moxham says it is an arrangement --and not a trust set up between the mine and a local businessman Mr Aloyce Chacha Mosabi alias Keng’anya--- to advance communities development, and many projects have been initiated including building of teachers houses, water wells as well as payment of school fees.
Keng’anya is a locally owned mining company with mining rights in Tarime that opted to enter into contract with Barrick. Mr Mosabi who owns the firm also earns an equivalent of one per cent of gold mined under his licensed area in royalty arrangement that has made him a billionaire overnight.
The businessman recently told The Citizen on Sunday that he regretted the delay in the establishment of the trust fund to give the community own management rights to effectively use any money received from the mine in contributions.
According to Mr Nyamhanga, the school fees payment arrangement between the villages and the mine started in 2004.
says the arrangement was a loan to the villages to be offset through
income from their share of gold from the mining area which belonged to
them but later entered into contract with East Africa Gold Mine and
Mr Moxham says have from 2006 been invited to inspect the audited results just like the individual royalty holders do.
He added that following a meeting with village leaders on Wednesday, it was resolved that North Mara Gold Mine continue to pay the said school fees pending investigations.
“I am going to ask Africa Barrick Gold together with the Tarime district council to raise funds and audit the scheme from the time it started, if anyone is found to have been involved in fraudulent acts, legal action must be taken against them,” he said.
He added that after the auditing is
complete, Barrick North Mara should continue to pay the school fees for
students from poor families.