On December 10, 2023, commemorating Human Rights Day and the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Barrick Gold Corporation, a prominent Canadian mining company operating globally in gold and copper, published a lengthy, self-congratulatory post about their unwavering commitment to human rights. The lengthy piece touted its “zero tolerance” policy and its vision of “socio-economic upliftment.”
They emphasized that at Barrick, respect for human rights stands as a cornerstone of their sustainability vision, asserting a zero-tolerance policy for any violations committed by employees, affiliates, or third parties associated with their operations.
The narrative continued, outlining the positive impact of responsible mining on local communities, host countries, and society at large. Barrick acknowledged the potential adverse effects their activities might have on stakeholders and human rights, emphasizing the need for careful management to mitigate negative impacts and enhance project benefits.
Barrick’s Saindak shame
However, Rahim Baloch, a distinguished lawyer, a Member of BNM, and former Secretary General of BNM & Chairman of BSO, cast a critical light on Barrick Gold Corporation. He exposed the corporation’s facade, not with words, but with a single image: a primary school in Dalbandin, located in Pak-occupied Balochistan near the Saindak Gold mines, a desolate testament to Barrick’s alleged commitment.
The school, constructed from rugged carpets and frail wooden logs, portrayed the dire state of Balochistan under the control of the Pakistan Army. This image pierced through Barrick’s carefully crafted narrative. While they boast of “zero tolerance” for human rights violations, their silence on the systematic oppression of Balochistan speaks volumes. The lawyer questioned Barrick’s commitment, highlighting their seeming indifference to the grim conditions in Pak-occupied-Balochistan.
Since 1948, the Pakistan Army has occupied Balochistan, its iron fist crushing the region’s aspirations for independence and development. Enforced disappearances, staged encounters, target killings, torture, humiliation, and kidnappings for ransom have become the norm. And, the Saindak Gold mine, operated by Barrick, sits like a monument to this oppression, extracting resources while impoverishing the local population.
Despite an ongoing long march protesting the Pakistan Army’s “kill and dump” policy, involving extrajudicial killings and abductions, corporations remained silent. Every raid, every disappearance, every staged encounter is a testament to their disregard for human rights. Barrick Gold, for all its claims of zero tolerance for human rights violations and socio-economic development, failed to address this crisis. Barrick, complicit in this exploitation through their resource extraction, chooses to turn a blind eye to the suffering they enable.
The case of Barrick and Balochistan is not an isolated incident. It highlights the complex challenges of balancing corporate interests with human rights concerns in resource-rich regions. It raises questions about corporate accountability, transparency, and the true cost of resource extraction. The plight of Balochistan demands more than lip service; it demands accountability and a genuine commitment to upholding the very values Barrick claims to champion.
Barrick’s Human Rights Day post served as a stark reminder that corporations cannot simply pay lip service to human rights while profiting from exploitation. We must look beyond their carefully crafted narratives and demand genuine action. Only then can we hope to see a future where human rights are not just words on paper, but a lived reality for all.