May 02, 2011
Natalie Lowrey from Friends of the Earth Australia reports back on her attempts to question Barrick Gold at its annual general meeting and her participation in a 200 strong protest against the corporations dire human and environmental rights record.
On 27 April, the day of the meeting, my intention was to gain access to the AGM and ask a few difficult questions of the board. Sakura Saunders, co-editor of ProtestBarrick.net, owned a share in Barrick Gold and was therefore entitled entry to the AGM, or send a proxy, as is the right of any shareholder. I was to be Sakura's proxy.
However, as soon as I walked up to the registration desk I was surrounded by three burly cops that knew my name. I was asked whether I was there to disrupt the meeting. I replied 'No', I was there to ask questions on Barrick Gold's mine in Lake Cowal, Australia and I had a proxy.
I was then handed over to a man who was official Barrick Gold security. He also asked me what my intentions were. When he led me back to the registration desk I noted a piece of paper with my name on it, the Papua New Guinea representatives' names and those of a few other people who have been campaigning with communities impacted by Barrick Gold. They told me at the desk that my proxy hadn't been registered.
I went back outside and asked Sakura, the shareholder, to go in. They also refused to let her in. She is now in process of seeking legal advice as it is illegal to not let a shareholder into an AGM.
BARRICK'S INFLUENCE OVER WHO ENTERS CANADA
Meanwhile the two community members from Porgera, Papua New Guinea, Jethro Tulin and Mark Ekepa were delayed getting into Canada. This saga had started the night before when they were trying to leave the United States. As they were going through the boarding process they were stopped and told that they couldn't go to Canada because they didn't have visas. Both have come to Canada for the past three years and never had this problem. We are not sure if the power of Barrick is behind this or it's simply coincidental. We are investigating.
Pieter, a member of the Lawyers Environmental Action Team/Friends of the Earth Tanzania also had a proxy - fortunately he got in as he has never been directly associated with the work of any protest group. Before he read the Tanzanian statement and questions he had prepared he also stated that I had not been allowed in with my proxy and that the Papua New Guineas hadn't made it in time.
Aaron Regent, the CEO of Barrick Gold stated that it was a shame that the Papua New Guineans' flight had been delayed. How did Barrick Gold know that the Papua New Guinean delegation's plane was delayed? This does pose the question whether Barrick Gold is trying all avenues to make sure affected communities don't get to ask questions inside their shareholder meetings.
200 PEOPLE STRONG PROTEST BARRICK RALLY OUTSIDE THE SHAREHOLDER MEETING
Meanwhile outside the meeting up to 200 people gathered with colour and music rallying against Barrick's ongoing environmental and human rights abuses around the world. ProtestBarrick.net's editor, Sakura Saunders introduced the speakers, which included: Myself (Natalie Lowrey), Friends of the Earth Australia; Catherine Coumans, Mining Watch Canada; Jacob Nuremberg, Anthropology student the University of Toronto (UofT) and organiser for the UofT General Assembly and Munk Out of UofT campaign; Illian Burbano, CUPE International Solidarity; Marcos from Latin American Solidarity Coalition and Jethro Tulin from the Porgera Alliance.
The rally started outside Barrick's shareholder meeting at the Toronto Metro Convention Center then we all marched to Barrick Gold's head office.
The rally was supported by: http://www.foei.org, http://protestbarrick.net, http://porgeraalliance.net/, http://savelakecowal.org/ , http://munkoutofuoft.wordpress/ , http://leat.or.tz/ , http://foe.org.au/ , http://solidarityresponse.net/ , http://ejtoronto.wordpress.com/ , http://cupe.on.ca/doc.php?subject_id=253
Read the Friends of the Earth International press release
Thanks for your ongoing support. We have two mining conferences we will be attending with other mining impacted communities before we hit the road for a speaking tour to Southern Ontario, Montreal and New York for the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. We will be keeping you posted, you can also get updates by joining ProtestBarrick.net facebook and twitter