Friday, June 3, 2011 | Categories: Documentaries |
Sometimes just getting a bad reputation, deserved or not, can be bad for business.
That's what Barrick Gold is finding out - and why it's looking for ways to make peace with its critics and polish its image. Barrick, based in Toronto, is the biggest gold mining corporation in the world. It operates in some of the world's poorest countries. This has led to violence -- and a severely tarnished reputation.
At Barrick mines in Papua New Guinea and Tanzania, thousands of impoverished villagers regularly comb the waste dumps and sometimes invade the mines, searching for chunks of rock that contain infinitesimal amounts of gold. In Tanzania last month, seven invaders were shot and killed.
And there are allegations that Barrick security guards at both mines, captured and gang-raped women. Barrick issued a statement calling these "deplorable crimes that, if confirmed, are neither acceptable or excusable," and vowing a full investigation.
Barrick is increasingly being held to account - not only by the media and human rights organizations, but by investors and lenders. The Norwegian government pension fund recently divested itself of Barrick shares, citing the company's "lack of openness in environmental reporting".
But there is, Barrick has discovered, a way to finesse political dissent, de-fang opponents and still walk away with the money.
This management style is on full display at Pascua Lama, a Barrick mine that is under construction, high in the Andes on the border of Chile and Argentina. Its sister mine, Veladero, a few kilometers away, is already up and running.
Pascua Lama has provoked the strongest anti-mining reaction that Chile has ever seen. Argentina has passed legislation that could shut it down.
But there's 20 billion dollars worth of gold sitting in that mountain and Barrick is pulling out all the stops - to make sure they bring it all back home.
Karin Wells' documentary is called,The Gold at the Roof of the World.