Occupy Barrick Gold

Mining protest takes on shareholders meeting

Toronto’s Finest blocked the doors to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on Wednesday, but activists protesting outside Barrick Gold‘s annual general meeting managed to express their displeasure with help from a rejuvenated Occupy Toronto and a handful of shareholder activists.

After celebrating May Day with a human chess game, a garden party potluck and a rally and protest march, Occupy activists settled on Simcoe Park, directly across the street from the convention centre, to spend the night.

Sleep was at best fitful and illuminating thanks to constabulary wake-up services, but several dozen activists didn’t have to do much more than get their game face on to make the 10 am meeting start.

It wasn’t long before the crowd increased to about 100, with the usual mix of placards and banners.

One person walked about inside a tiny, portable child’s tent – try banning that!

Sakura Saunders of Protest Barrick welcomed everyone, describing years of protest against the Toronto-based company which mines for gold and other precious metals around the world.

Barrick’s operations have long come under fire. Early last year, following years of allegations, the company acknowledged rapes of civilians by security guards at the Porgera Joint Venture mine in Papua New Guinea. A few months later, police in Tanzania killed seven people after a fracas erupted at African Barrick Gold’s North Mara Mine. Activists have also expressed environmental concerns about the Pascua Lama gold project near the Chilean-Argentinian border which is scheduled to open next year.

Activists rallied Noam Chomsky to their cause last year when they protested the University of Toronto naming its School of Global Affairs after Barrick founder and chairman Peter Munk following his donation of $35 million.

On Wednesday, Saunders said Barrick provides relatively few jobs compared to its impact on local people and the environment, and referred to the company as “representing the one percent.”

“The average Barrick mine uses almost double the entire volume of water consumption of Canada,” Saunders said.

The crowd quickly reached Occupy-style consensus to march, first to an intersection where shareholders were expected to pass as they left the convention centre. The group then converged on the sidewalk directly in front of the centre.

Shareholders evaded the protest, finding other doors to leave the building, prompting one activist to remark into the microphone that “they’re ashamed of what they’re doing.” Another activist responded that they simply don’t want to think about the impact of mining activities.

Pieter Basedow attended the meeting as a shareholder activist and managed to speak during a question and answer session.

Outside, afterwards, he read the statement he made on behalf of Porgera Alliance, a local group from Papua New Guinea.

“Our request, the solution, is to relocate our people to an area where we can live away from the mine, away from the daily environmental hazards, the militarization, the detentions, the shootings and the rapes,” Basedow said.

“We want to live in an area where we can live a subsistence lifestyle, where our garden areas aren’t overrun by waste.”

Basedow said alliance members have addressed meetings in previous years. But their concerns, which have also been raised by groups such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and MiningWatch Canada, have been ignored.

As the protest wound down, organizers reminded those gathered about the Mining Injustice conference this weekend, which will address Barrick’s activities and other mining troubles at home and abroad.

Then, after chants of “Hey hey, ho ho, Barrick Gold has got to go,” activists headed back across the street to re-occupy Simcoe Park

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