Can a Baloch journalist, green activists upset Barrick Gold’s plans in Balochistan?

New Delhi: Just one sentence, “You should go back to Balochistan”, has put Barrick Gold CEO Mark Bristow in hot water.

In a shareholders’ meet on Wednesday, Bristow told Baloch journalist Lateef Johar Baloch that he should go back to Balochistan after a heated exchange over the mining company’s activities in the conflict-torn province.

Canadian environmental organisations, that keep a sharp eye on mining activities across the world, sided with Baloch. Mining Watch Canada, EarthWorks and Mining Injustice Solidarity Network defended Baloch against Barrick Gold.

The CEO’s comments are being described as racially motivated and insensitive.

In a tweet, EarthWorks said: “Earthworks stands in solidarity w/ Lateef and communities around the world calling for Barrick Gold to stop the harm. We condemn racist tactics to silence communities and commit to challenging/dismantling racism and systemic oppression in all its forms.”

Describing his experience at the shareholders’ meeting with Barrick, Baloch said: “Instead of addressing the issues I raised around violence, corruption, and a lack of transparency in the region…Bristow chose to question my authenticity and immigration status in a racist attempt to discredit me in front of shareholders.”

Baloch, who is seeking asylum in Canada, alleged that the company head behaved as if “…he knew more about what was happening in Balochistan than I did, in my own homeland”.

The Balochistan journalist put up the video on various social media platforms and tweeted: “I thank everyone for standing with me and #Balochistan’s people, spreading the word about @BarrickGold’s exploitation and it’s CEO’s discriminative attitude towards Indigenous people. The fight against the Barrick and its racist CEO goes on until we make them accountable”.

Disseminating the incidents of the day on its website, Mining Watch Canada highlighted how communities and activists from different parts of the world shared their messages with shareholders of Canada’s largest gold mining company, which “…is failing to respect Indigenous rights, contaminating their water and harming their ways of life”.

It also mentioned how Baloch told the Ceo and the people at the meeting that Barrick will “extract gold and copper from the Reko Diq mining site without the consent of surrounding communities”.

Barrick, the Canada-based mining company, had signed an agreement with the ousted Imran Khan government in early 2022 over the extraction of gold and copper from its south-western Balochistan province. Baloch insurgent organisations immediately warned the company not to operate in their region as they oppose Pakistan’s attitude of sucking their resources without providing economic benefits to the local people.

Balochistan has a raging insurgency against Pakistan with numerous armed groups fighting the Pakistani army and paramilitary forces.

The Reqo Dik and Saindak mines in the resource-rich region of Balochistan are considered to be one of the largest copper and gold deposits in the world. A Chinese company is working at the Saindak mines while Barrick plans to initiate work at Reqo Dik.

The agreement signed between Islamabad and Barrick has been rejected by the Baloch people.


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