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Second Quarter Reporting: What will Barrick hide from their shareholders this time?
by Sakura Saunders ( sakura.saunders [at] gmail [dot] com )
Thursday Aug 2nd, 2007 3:15 AM
August 2 marks the publishing date of Barrick Gold's second quarter results. With profits down by 14 percent, the Pascua Lama project delayed, and Norway's pension fund considering pulling their investment on ethical grounds, things aren't looking good for this gold mining giant. But, are any of these developments a big surprise? There are many shareholders who might think so, but that is only because Barrick has been systematically hiding vital information from them through glaring omissions and outright lies. (title photo of Diaguita Woman, taken by Isabel Orellana. The Diaguitas, despite the fact that Barrick is planning to mine for gold on their ancestral land and the fact that they have a lawsuit and several formal complaints against Barrick, are not mentioned any of Barrick's Annual Reports since 2001.)

August 2 marks the publishing date of Barrick Gold's second quarter results. With profits down by 14 percent, the Pascua Lama project delayed, and Norway's pension fund considering pulling their investment on ethical grounds, things aren't looking good for this gold mining giant. But, are any of these developments a big surprise? There are many shareholders who might think so, but that is only because Barrick has been systematically hiding vital information from them through glaring omissions and outright lies.

Glaring Omissions

The first place to look for Barrick's reporting on shareholder's issues would be their 2006 annual report, seemingly complete with a section listing "Litigations and Claims." However, Barrick failed to even mention a costly lawsuit with landowner Rodolfo Villar, a stumbling block that could prove costly (around the tune of $300 million) and one which will possibly delay the Pascua Lama project, a proposed mine on the border of Chile and Argentina, according to the Valaparaiso Times.

From the Washington Post ...

When Rodolfo Villar sold 20,000 acres to Barrick Gold for its Pascua Lama gold mining project, the mineral speculator signed a contract that he thought would pay him $1 million. Instead, the contract gave him only $19, and a fine-print stipulation that if he tried to obtain rights to any other lands in the surrounding area, he would face a $95,000 fine.

Aided by legal team of 30, including some of Chile’s most prominent lawyers, Villar sued Barrick and won. Rather than getting the million dollars, he got his land back and is now asking $300 million for it. “Literally, we are sitting on a gold mine,” remarked one of his lawyers to the Washington Post. Barrick is appealing the case.

But that's not all, Barrick also failed to mention a 2005 complaint filed with the Organization of American States (OAS) on behalf of the Diaguita indigenous communities. It alleges that the Pascua Lama project poses a grave risk to the subsistence rights of the Diaguita indigenous communities in the area, and that the Chilean government would be breaking its international commitments if it approves the project. The Diaguita also had a lawsuit filed in 2001 that lays claim to disputed land needed for the project. Despite this litigation, formal complaints, and two letters written by Diaguita leadership to Barrick and the President Bachelet of Chile in 2006, the Diaguita Indigenous group are not mentioned once in any of Barrick's Annual reports since 2001.*

In the U.S., Barrick failed to mention a lawsuit brought by the Te-Moak Tribe, the Western Shoshone Defense Project, and Great Basin Mine Watch against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management that Barrick is also party to. At the center of the lawsuit is the Bureau of Land Management’s approval of Cortez Gold Mines’ gold mining exploration proposal on and around Mt. Tenabo and Horse Canyon, important spiritual areas for the Western Shoshone. It causes one to wonder if Barrick will mention to their shareholders that the 135-year-old hard-rock mining law that grants Barrick cheap mining in the U.S. is now being reviewed by the U.S. Congress. A change in the law could impose the first-ever royalty fees and environmental restrictions for mining on public land.

Outright Lies

Beyond the omissions – of which there are too many to mention here – there are lies that Barrick continues to peddle to the press and shareholders about their operations. Among the most visible, literally, is the mystery of the depleted glaciers near Pascua Lama. This issue has recently been getting a lot of press in both Chile and Argentina, as a recent study has revealed a 50 to 70 percent depletion in the glaciers near Barrick's exploration activity. While Barrick continuously blames Global Warming, a simple comparison with other glaciers in the same area (but not near Barrick's activities) illustrates that this is not the case. (see picture)

The real reason for the depletion is the dust kicked up by the construction activity, acccording to Luís Faura Cortes, a Councilperson from Alto del Carmen. According to Faura, the dust kicked up from Barrick's activites settles on the glaciers, causing them to absorb heat rather than reflect the sun rays, causing them to melt at a faster rate. (see picture)

Will anyone hold Barrick accountable for these lapses in their own reporting? WIll Barrick finally own up to the difficulties that they face and acknowledge resistance to their mining operations? Or will this be another Bre-X case where shareholders are merely left with the lesson and reminder of the lax regulatory standards that Canada's mining corporations face.

* a remark about methodology, I downloaded every annual report since 2001 and used a search function to find mention of the Diaguita.

§Map of Glacier Depletion at Pascua Lama over 20 years (in spanish)
by Sakura Saunders Thursday Aug 2nd, 2007 3:15 AM

This map was provided by Luis Faura, a Councilperson from Alto del Carmen, a town near Pascua Lama. It clearly shows that a dramatic depletion in glaciers is unique to the glaciers near Barrick's operations.
§Photo of Dust (Polvo) on the Glaciers of Pascua Lama
by Sakura Saunders Thursday Aug 2nd, 2007 3:15 AM
polvo_extinci__n.jpg
polvo_extinci__n.jpg

This photo, titled "Polvo (dust) = Extincion" illustrates the amount of dust that is on top of the glaciers near the Pascua Lama project. Debris from Barrick's operations over the last 20 years is blamed for the 50 to 70 percent depletion of the three glaciers near the Pascua Lama project. photo: Luis Faura
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