World Rainforest Movement

Tanzania: World Bank supports Canadian mining plunder

In August 1996 the Tanzanian government authorities in collaboration with a Canadian-owned company called Kahama Mining Corporation Ltd. (KMCL), forcibly removed over 400,000 artisanal miners, peasant farmers, small traders and their families from their land in an area called Bulyanhulu in Shinyanga Region, central-western Tanzania. KMCL was then a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sutton Resources, based in Vancouver, Canada.

The removals were the culmination of a two-year struggle pitting the miners and the company over the control of gold deposits at Bulyanhulu. Within days of the operation to remove the miners, serious allegations emerged that over 50 artisanal miners were killed after they were buried alive in mineshafts when the authorities and company officials decided to backfill the shafts.

The Tanzanian government refused to investigate the alleged atrocities when they were reported. No compensation for loss of property or life was ever issued. Conversely, Tanzanian attorneys Tundu Lissu and Rugemeleza Nshala, of the Lawyers’ Environmental Action Team (LEAT), who spearheaded a campaign about the alleged killings, had faced charges of sedition for their advocacy on the grounds that they should provide evidence supporting allegations.

In March 1999, Barrick Gold Corporation, another Canadian mining giant acquired the Bulyanhulu deposits through its acquisition of Sutton Resources and its Tanzanian subsidiary. The Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), the World Bank Group’s political risk insurance arm, and Canada’s Export Development Corporation (EDC) guaranteed the project, covering the investment against the risks of transfer restriction, expropriation, and war and civil disturbance.

Barrick Gold has since built an ultra-modern underground gold mine at Bulyanhulu, which was opened amid great fanfare by Tanzanian President Benjamin W. Mkapa in July 2001.

However, in a submission to the Extractive Industries Review of the World Bank, held in Maputo, Mozambique in January 13-17, 2003, the Lawyers’ Environmental Action Team provides ample proof about the negative social, environmental and economic impacts of this mine (see internet address below). The submission summarizes its findings in this manner:

“The investment stands as a monument to the plunder of the natural resources of poor countries such as Tanzania by the multinational corporations of the rich industrial countries of the North; and the impoverishment and further marginalization of the mostly rural communities in mineral rich areas of Tanzania and elsewhere. It is a living testimony of the proposition that where multinational corporate interests are at stake, notions of rule of law, good governance and a respect for human rights take on a secondary importance to be swept aside whenever expedient. It provides the proof to the charge that the World Bank Group almost always acts against the interests of the vast majority of the poor and the marginalized groups of society. The Group cannot, therefore, live up to its poverty alleviation credentials while at the same time maintaining support for socially ruinous projects such as Bulyanhulu Gold Mine.”

Article based on information from: “Robbing the Poor to Give to the Rich. Human Rights Abuses and Impoverishment at the MIGA-Backed Bulyanhulu Gold Mine, Tanzania”, Submission to the Extractive Industries Review of the World Bank, Maputo, Mozambique, January 13-17, 2003, ; “Tanzanian Attorneys Face Charges of Sedition”, Issued jointly with the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide, U.S. Office EUGENE, Oregon, May 17, 2002, , Lawyers’ Environmental Action Team (LEAT), e-mail:

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