Arrests of Tanzania mine activists

17 January 2002

In late November the Tanzanian authorities took action against an organisation which has been investigating the death and dispersal of artisanal miners at a project backed by the World Bank Group. They arrested Rugemeleza Nshala, President of the Lawyers Environmental Action Team (LEAT), and raided the house of another LEAT lawyer, Tundu Lissu, as well as the National Chairman of the Tanzanian Labour Party.

LEAT had been investigating the alleged killings of 62 small-scale miners and eviction of thousands more at the Bulyanhulu mine in August 1996. The arrests came just a few days after LEAT had called a press conference to reiterate its demand for an international commission of inquiry to investigate the alleged killings.

International NGOs have supported LEAT‘s demands for such an inquiry and have been asking the Bank to help establish one. Since the arrests they have also been asking the Bank to intervene to help stop the intimidation of the Tanzanian organisations investigating the case.

The Bank is supporting the Bulyanhulu mine through its private sector investment arm, the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA). In 2000, MIGA issued a US$115 million guarantee against political risks to a syndicate of banks for their loan to Kahama Mining Corporation Limited, a subsidiary of Canada-based Barrick Gold Corporation. In March 1999 a US$56 million guarantee was also issued to Barrick.

While the alleged killings and evictions took place prior to MIGA‘s involvement in the project, LEAT and others have pointed to what appear to be major failures in MIGA‘s due diligence procedures with regards to Bulyanhulu. LEAT claims that Barrick failed to disclose to MIGA information on the alleged killings and forced evictions. Barrick also did not mention the existence of legal proceedings on these allegations that were pending in the Tanzanian courts. LEAT also claims that the Bank officials who visited the site were told of the forced evictions and killings by a representative of the Bulyanhulu Miners Committee, but did little.

LEAT has also challenged the legality of Barrick’s prospecting rights to Bulyanhulu, maintaining that no licence was issued at the time the evictions and alleged killings took place. The Bank had plenty of information about the Tanzanian mining sector as it was backing a mining law reform programme throughout much of the 1990s. This involved rewriting mining sector legislation to liberalise licensing regulations and taxes to encourage private companies to operate.

A longer report, plus a selection of links on Bulyanhulu

Mines and Communities Company