Barrick Gold holds off scrutiny drive

A shareholder resolution calling Barrick Gold to account drew about 20 percent support of shares voted at the corporation’s annual meeting in Toronto.

Ethical Funds, a “socially responsible” Canadian mutual fund, sponsored the resolution asking Barrick Gold’s board of directors to commission an independent review of the company’s practices at the Cortez Hill mine in Nevada.

Last year, Ethical sent two analysts to Nevada to inspect the Barrick site and hear Western Shoshone complaints about the corporation’s practices, particularly treatment of Mt. Tenabo, a sacred Shoshone site. On Jan. 30, Barrick was expelled from the Norwegian government’s state pension plan on grounds that “investing in the company entails an unacceptable risk of the [pension plan] contributing to serious environmental damage.”

Ethical sponsored the shareholder resolution after Barrick rejected Ethical’s request for an assessment of the impact of Barrick’s conduct on Western Shoshone rights. Also supporting greater corporate accountability of Barrick are consumer groups Shareholder Association for Research and Education (SHARE), Global Aware and CorpWatch.

A statement posted on Barrick’s website reads, “The allegation that Barrick is operating on lands owned by the Western Shoshone without community consent is deliberately misleading. Under U.S. law, the company owns the land and mineral rights at the Cortez site. Some members of the Western Shoshone community have pursued land claims against the United States government with respect to federal lands. Those claims have been determined to be without merit by the United States Supreme Court. CorpWatch’s claim that mining activities at Cortez are ‘being pushed forward’ without consultation with the Western Shoshone is simply not true.”

Barrick operates at 27 mine sites around the world. Like most mining corporations operating in Nevada, it is a Canadian company.

When a similar request for a site evaluation was made of Newmont Gold, which also operates in Nevada, it agreed, and the review was mostly favorable to the company.