A gold mining company from Canada is facing an alliance of watchdogs presenting a slew of claims from countries around the world. Residents are calling out the precious-metal giant for inflicting harm on communities and on our planet.
“Barrick has spilled toxic chemicals into the water of the Jáchal River multiple times. … They have not been transparent about their impacts,” Domingo Jofré, from Argentina, said in a report posted by MiningWatch Canada.
What is gold mined for?
Gold is used in multiple industries, including jewelry, medicine, electronics, and aerospace projects.
The World Gold Council has a timeline for the lifecycle of a typical mine, which includes decades of work — from up to 15 years of exploration and development, through 10 to 30 years of mining, and another one to five years to close the operation.
The council is a group of international mining companies — including Barrick — that works to ensure “a sustainable gold mining industry.”
And Barrick CEO Mark Bristow seems to fall in line with the mission statement, at least in words.
“We strive to be a good corporate citizen and a genuine partner for our host communities,” he’s quoted as saying on the company’s website.
What’s going wrong?
Barrick is facing multiple allegations of ruining rivers from different countries. Mining for gold can release toxic waste, including lead, arsenic, and mercury, into waterways, according to Earthworks, which also notes that nearly 200 million tons of waste is dumped into rivers, lakes, and streams each year by gold mines.
Barrick mined 4.1 million ounces of gold in 2022 with net earnings of $432 million, according to a company fact sheet. The company claims to have contributed $15.26 billion in taxes and other funding to host governments in 2022, providing $36.2 million in community investments.
But more complaints are coming from the Philippines, Pakistan, and the United States, among others. More contaminated rivers and cultural harm to Native Americans are some of the troubles detailed by MiningWatch.
“Livelihoods continue to be affected by the contamination of our rivers,” Elizabeth Manggol, of the Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns in the Philippines, told MiningWatch. “It is time that Barrick lives up to its claims of being a responsible company and takes responsibility for the mess left behind.”
What’s being done to help?
In the near term, a combination of whistleblowing and lawsuits will continue to shine light on the industry. Improved recycling technology can also help reuse Earth’s rare metals, so invasive mines don’t have to be used as much.
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