AS CLIMATE CONFAB OPENS IN GLASGOW, FOUR ARE SHOT OVER GOLD MINING IN THE DRC

“Gold mining is one of the most destructive industries in the world. It can displace communities, contaminate drinking water, hurt workers, and destroy pristine environments. It pollutes water and land with mercury and cyanide, endangering the health of people and ecosystems.”

Just those factors alone, cited by Earthworks.org, a Washington, DC environmental organization, would appear to be reason enough to reconsider expansion of the Kibali gold mine – already one of the largest gold mines in Africa –  in the northeast part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

But last month, operators of the Kibali mine, local authorities and state security moved to evict residents said to be living on the mine company’s property. They were met by protestors objecting to the evictions with the result that four people, including one soldier, were shot dead and 14 others wounded on Oct. 22, according to Reuters.  At least one police station was reportedly destroyed.

In company records cited by Mining.com, this was the second major eviction of local residents by the Kibali mining operation. Previously, some 17,000 people were removed from the Kibali property with compensation. In an early interview with the Denver-based show The Street, Barrick CEO Mark Bristow proudly described the project as “a fully integrated gold mine in the middle of nowhere.”

A parliamentary mission sent to investigate the recent fatalities blamed local authorities for failing to properly communicate the proposed removal of residents and faulted state security for the disproportionate use of force against the demonstrators, causing the loss of life.

The government report said those evicted “suffered significant damage” with the demolition of a church and a school of at least 400, plus unemployment. Locals from Kilimalande, one of the resettlement sites for the displaced villagers, said they were unable to accommodate those left homeless by the evictions.

Kibali country director Cyrille Mutombo said the people who built homes in Kibali’s concession ignored concrete markers showing the boundaries of the exclusion zone.

“With the involvement of government, markers were erected and trees planted to demarcate the exclusion zone. (However) some people don’t think that’s enough,” he acknowledged.

Kibali is 45%-owned by Barrick Gold, 45% by AngloGold Ashanti and 10% by state-owned gold company SOKIMO. It produced 814,027 ounces of gold in 2019, according to Mining Technology.com and is expected to produce 600,000 ounces of gold per year for the first 12 years of operation.

In April of this year, Kibali Goldmines accused the state-owned company (SOKIMO) of attempting to extort certain benefits by filing proceedings with the commercial court in Kinshasa.

The deadly confrontation over evictions preceded COP26, the international summit on climate change in Glasgow, Scotland, that ran from Oct. 31 to Nov. 15 attended by leaders of developed and developing countries and thousands of young people demanding environmental accountability from the rich nations of the world.

There, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres made the following remarks about burning, drilling and mining. “It’s time to say ‘enough,’” said the U.N. chief. “Enough of treating nature like a toilet…Enough of burning and drilling and mining… We are digging our own graves.”

Elsewhere in gold mining, some 10,000 people harmed by the New Liberty Gold Mine in Liberia have moved forward with their complaint against German and French national development banks – DEG and Proparco – for their links to the project. Injuries include drinking water polluted by a cyanide and arsenic spill, loss of homes and farms, and broken promises to provide jobs, schools and other facilities.

The complainants are supported by Oxfam, Novib, Inclusive Development International and Liberian NGOs, among others. The full story of New Liberty can be found at www.thenewhumanitarian.org