BUNYANHULU

The Ombudsman’s Office for two World Bank agencies dismissed, at the end of October, the complaint by the Tanzanian Lawyers Environmental Action Team (LEAT), filed on behalf of the Small Scale Miners Committee of Kakola Village in Shinyanga, which had alleged that 52 miners were killed at Bulyanhulu Gold Mine in mid­1996. According to the ‘Assessment Report Summary’ on the complaint, dated October 21 and sent to the LEAT representative in Washington, and the ‘Office of the Compliance Advisory/Ombudsman’ (CAO) for the ‘Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency’ (MIGA) there was insufficient evidence to support the alleged deaths.

The report followed independent investigations by a Principal Specialist from the Ombudsman’s office. It noted that even though the CAO had no mandate to investigate allegations made against Tanzania, the events of 1996 took place before the World Bank Group had any interest in the mining operations and more than three years before MIGA offered a guarantee. However, as the allegations provided a risk to MIGA in its decision to offer a guarantee, the CAO was interested in examining the case. Referring to LEAT’s video evidence, the CAO said that it could not verify from the video, the location, date, timing or other details. The CAO found witnesses and other contemporaneous documentation that refuted the LEAT version of events.

On the issue of compensation paid to small scale miners at the time of the order to vacate the land in 1996, the CAO stated that this was a matter which fell within the government’s exclusive jurisdiction as at the time the mine was not a project of the World Bank Group.

The CAO had asked for a list of names of the 52 people alleged to be having been killed but neither LEAT nor the Small Scale Miners Committee had been able to supply such a list.

Amnesty International had recognized that the evidence for the deaths of 52 people relied on accounts supplied by people who were not present in the area at the time. Amnesty International never investigated the allegations itself and never went to the site or met with local people, eyewitnesses, the company or others. The LEAT President was later quoted in the Guardian as saying: “This report is completely biased. It favours MIGA. We shall tirelessly fight on. There are a lot of untrue and unjustified remarks in the report. It evades our submissions and evidence adduced. We have an uphill task to fight the giant Barrick Gold Company”.

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