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Barrick launches new corporate social responsibility advisory board

by Craig WongThe Canadian Press
March 2nd, 2012

Editor's note: to see a short list of Barrick's many abuses, see http://protestbarrick.net/section.php@id=5.

Barrick Gold Corp. (TSX:ABX) is setting up a new corporate social responsibility advisory board that includes former Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler.

The five-member board, which will report directly to Barrick chief executive Aaron Regent, will help provide advice on community relations, sustainable development, the environment, human rights and other issues.

Regent said it is an area that is continuing to evolve and become more complicated.

"As a company we are proud of what we've achieved and what we've done, but we recognize that we need to continue to look at ways to improve," he said.

"This is an ongoing part of the broader steps that we've taken as a company to improve our CSR practices."

Last year, Barrick launched an independent investigation into allegations of sexual assaults at its North Mara mine in Tanzania where police also shot and killed seven people after hundreds of people tried to steal ore from the mine.

The allegations in Tanzania echoed allegations at another Barrick gold mine in Papua New Guinea where a report by Human Rights Watch found half a dozen incidents of alleged rape by private security guards.

Barrick has promised to make the results of its investigation at North Mara public once it is complete. However the review, which began in May of last year, is still ongoing.

Jamie Kneen of Mining Watch Canada said Barrick has gone to some lengths to try and attract high-profile people with some history in various areas related to corporate social responsibility.

"As with anything else I think the question is why they aren't putting the same effort into actually solving some of the outstanding issues at their operations," he said.

"I guess the question in my mind is what an advisory committee is going to tell them that isn't already quite well known and documented...and where the solutions have also been proposed and they're actually just awaiting implementation."

Regent acknowledged that Barrick will always face some criticism for not doing enough, but said the company is working to improve its operations.

The committee is expected to hold its first meeting in April when Barrick will help bring it up to speed on what it is already doing.

"From there they will have the foundation to have a broader and specific discussions about their observations," Regent said.

In addition to Fowler, a former senior foreign policy adviser and ambassador to the United Nations who was held for 130 days by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the board also includes:

Aron Cramer, president and CEO of Business for Social Responsibility; Elizabeth Dowdeswell, president and CEO, Council of Canadian Academies and former executive director of the United Nations Environment Program; Ed Liebow, director of the Battelle Memorial Institute's Seattle-based Centre for Public Health Research and Evaluation; and Gare Smith, former principal deputy assistant secretary in the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour.

John Ruggie, a professor at Harvard and author of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, will also serve as a special consultant.

Barrick owns and operates gold mines in Canada, the U.S., Peru, Argentina, Chile, Australia and Papua New Guinea. Its major development projects include Pueblo Viejo in the Dominican Republic, Cortez Hills in Nevada and Pascua-Lama on the border between Argentina and Chile.

 

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