Dar es Salaam – Clashes between hundreds of villagers and police at a gold mine left seven people dead in north-west Tanzania, the mine’s owner African Barrick Gold said on Tuesday.
The clashes happened on Monday when “a number of the Tanzanian police came under sustained attack by approximately 800 criminal intruders who illegally entered the North Mara mine site and attempted to remove ore,” the company said in a statement.
It said the police “had been called to the area to respond and were set upon by the criminal intruders armed with machetes, rocks and hammers”.
“A number of intruders sustained gunshot wounds, resulting in seven intruder fatalities and twelve injuries,” it said, adding: “There have been no material impacts to the operation or production.”
The police had earlier put the toll from the clashes at five dead.
“It is estimated that there were between 800 and 1 000 people who charged towards the mine’s area. They did not stop after police and guards fired blanks in the air,” regional police commander Constantine Massawe told reporters.
“Police were forced to use live bullets after the villagers started attacking them using machetes and throwing rocks,” he said.
In addition to the fatalities, at least 10 people were injured in the riot, including seven policemen, he said.
African Barrick Gold said the police have launched an investigation into the incident and the company has started its own internal inquiry.
Additional police have also been deployed to the area. The mine is an open pit mine in Tarime District of Mara Region, approximately 100km east of Lake Victoria and 20km south of the Kenyan border.
“Tarime is a difficult area and incidents of crime including cattle rustling are rampant,” a local Barrick spokesperson in Tanzania, Teweli Teweli told reporters, adding: “last week there was another attempt to invade the mine, but police foiled it.”
“African Barrick Gold sincerely regrets any loss of life or injury on or near its mine sites. The company will continue to support the government and the community in their efforts to improve law and order and security in the North Mara region,” the company said.
African Barrick Gold is majority owned by Barrick of Canada and is quoted on the London Stock Exchange. – Sapa-AFP