23 February 2013

Tanzania: North Mara Gold Mine Enjoys Improved Relations With Locals

Nyamongo — AFRICAN Barrick Gold (ABG) has continued to enjoy improved relations and good cooperation with local communities surrounding its North Mara Gold Mine in recent months.

The North Mara Gold Mine General Manager, Mr Gary Chapman, said this on Wednesday when handing over staff houses, the mine constructed for medical personnel, at Genkuru Dispensary. The mine has spent 116m/- to construct a new house as well as rehabilitating an old one all with the capacity of accommodating three medical personnel at the government owned dispensary.

Officials estimate that the public dispensary serves over 10, 000 people living in the underdeveloped Genkuru Village which is also located near one of the country's largest gold mine. "It is great pleasure to witness the successful completion of this project and this clearly shows good cooperation. Together we can do things much better than we can do alone," Mr Chapman said at the ceremony that was coloured by Kurya tribe traditional dance, locally known as Iritungu.

"Better health is not about having huge buildings. It is about having the right health facility, and education and health go hand in hand and I believe our children will have much better future," the mine chief added. Dozens of local leaders and ordinary people as well as government nurses and doctors graced the occasion.

"This is a big celebration as we witness handing over of these modern houses for our nurses and doctors. We hope they will enable them deliver better treatment to patients," Genkuru Village Chairman, Mr Chacha Nyamohanga said. Improvement of staff housing at the rural health facility is part of the Villages Benefits Implementation Agreements (VBIA) signed between the Canadian miner and several villages surrounding North Mara Gold Mine late 2011. ABG says it will spend about 13 million US dollars to finance community development projects in areas of education, health , rural roads as well supporting establishment of self help and income-generating projects in the villages.

A few weeks ago, Mr Chapman announced that in 2013 alone, the mine is schedule to spend about 8bn/- to execute several projects including supporting establishment of what he described as alternative sustainable sources of livelihood. Last year, the mine poured nearly 5bn/- to support similar projects which are executed by local contractors, a move which also greatly support development of local businesses as well as creating job opportunities in the area.

Signing of the deal was among other things triggered by frequent conflicts that the mine has been experiencing with local people since 2002, when it was officially inaugurated by retired president of the third phase government, Benjamin Mkapa. Local people have always been blaming the mine for failing to honour promises it made to improve their living conditions. The mine has passed under the hands of several giant foreign gold mining companies which the local people accuse of ignoring their welfare.

Reports had it that majority of the people living near the rich gold area is still living below poverty datum line. Hundreds of youths have been invading the mine to steal gold sand and later clash with police officers guarding the mine 24 hours. A number of intruders had been shot dead while at the mine in the past few years but the situation is reportedly changing for the better at this time, according to the Regional Police Commander (RPC) for Tarime Special Police Zone Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Justus Kamugisha.

However, the Canadian investor has also been forced to set up a multimillion wall fence to boost safety and security at the mine which is located in Nyamongo area of the Northern Tarime District in Mara Region.

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