A cornerstone of our human rights program is a stand-alone, independent human rights assessment program for Barrick-operated properties.

Started in 2011, the program has assessed all high- and medium-risk sites operated by Barrick at least once, and the highest-risk operations have been assessed more than once. The assessments are conducted by Avanzar, a highly respected independent consulting organization that focuses on human rights–related assessments. Avanzar assesses the actual, potential, and perceived human rights risks and impacts at every high-risk Barrick operation and advanced project. In 2015, an assessment was conducted at the Pueblo Viejo mine in the Dominican Republic.  In 2016, impact assessments were conducted at the Lagunas Norte and Pierina mines in Peru and the Lumwana mine in Zambia.

Fund for Peace, a well-regarded NGO that works to prevent conflict and human rights abuses, has served as an external and independent advisor to the company in this project. Their role has included reviewing and editing the assessment tool used by Avanzar, providing guidance on the assessment plan, reviewing the reports, and discussing follow-up priorities. Professor John Ruggie, former UN Secretary General Special Representative for Business and Human Rights, may also provide advice and guidance on discrete issues associated with the assessments. Finally, several years ago, we developed a partnership with the Danish Institute for Human Rights, from which we have received detailed assessments of applicable country-level laws and the extent to which those laws are implemented, which has further informed our assessment approach.

The Methodology Used

The third-party assessments of Barrick-operated properties use an assessment tool that covers all potentially relevant human rights and hundreds of individual indicators.  The tool focuses on seven categories where extractive companies commonly face the prospect of causing, contributing to or being linked to negative human rights impacts:  (1) labor and working conditions; (2) indigenous peoples; (3) economic, social and cultural rights; (4) environment and health and safety; (5) land rights; (6) security; and (7) anti-corruption. Issues related to supply chain, third parties, and vulnerable peoples also are embedded throughout these seven categories.  Each of the categories includes several sub-categories, composed of multiple individual indicators, which feed into a three-part question for the sub-category. These questions are:  does management have a procedure to address the risk? What actions demonstrate that the procedure has been followed? Do stakeholders believe the company is respecting the human right at issue?

Avanzar’s methodology consists of documentary and desktop reviews to identify areas of greatest risk and concern at a country and site level (including consideration of geographic, social and economic-related risks); determining the assessment scope for each site; semi-structured interviews with Barrick employees (on-site and by phone); semi-structured interviews with key external stakeholders (on-site and by phone); and draft report preparation for the Office of the General Counsel (OGC). The process includes substantial internal and external stakeholder engagement to gather information regarding perceived human rights impacts and to verify human rights risks and impacts identified. Avanzar’s engagement methodology applies recognized qualitative research methods, including interviews, focus groups, and observation, to capture stakeholder concerns and issues related to Barrick’s operations. Key providers of information include specific external rights-holders whose rights may be impacted by the mine, such as nearby communities, individuals who have been resettled, employees of mine contractors, and individuals who have lodged grievances with human rights implications.

Drafting the Report and Integration of Findings

After information is gathered and assessed against the tool, Avanzar provides a draft report to the OGC, incorporating and following our enterprise risk management matrix.  The OGC shares a draft report with the external independent reviewer, and then with local management and relevant functional unit employees who may be involved in managing salient issues. Those comments are reviewed and integrated, and the OGC issues a final report and proposed action plan.  This plan is then reviewed, adjusted and adopted by local management and other relevant personnel who may be involved in managing the pertinent issues. Once finalized, the process calls for action plan items to be included in a data system that automatically follows up with the assigned personnel to create accountability for executing the plan. Presentations on the reviews and follow-up are reported on a monthly basis during BPR sessions with senior company leaders, and quarterly to the Corporate Responsibility Committee of the Board of Directors.  Avanzar also assesses whether issues identified in prior assessments have been effectively remediated. Where issues are not effectively remediated, we have learned, the causes can be lack of adequately dedicated resources, lack of training or understanding, or simply a lack of prioritization.

The findings, along with other perceived risks of negative impacts, are incorporated into our overall assessment of enterprise risks under our enterprise risk management system, which is presented to and overseen by the Risk Committee of the Board of Directors.  Responses to issues and concerns identified by local external stakeholders are generally addressed by Community Relations personnel, management, and others at each individual site.  To the extent tensions arise between mitigating impacts and other business objectives, those tensions may be resolved through dialogue at the Board Committee level, during the BPRs, or in discussions between the OGC and relevant business units.

This assessment approach is distinguished from one-time “stand-alone” assessments, such as predictive assessments conducted during the feasibility and pre-feasibility stages of a project, and functional unit management system assessments designed to measure compliance with policies and procedures at mine sites. However, consistent with our holistic approach, we try to create synergies with other assessments that relate to human rights to help enhance our ability to accurately identify our human rights impacts and risks. Our compliance with the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, for instance, is assessed regularly through multiple internal and external review channels, with the outcomes considered by the company and Avanzar. Internal assurance work for functional areas whose activities present salient human rights risks, including Community Relations, Safety and Health, and Environment, also occur regularly. 

2015 & 2016 Assessments

In 2015, Avanzar conducted a human rights assessment at the Pueblo Viejo mine, in the Dominican Republic (a high-risk site). As in prior years, the assessment was conducted simultaneously with – and to some extent in conjunction with – internal Community, Health and Safety, Environment, and Security audits, which were conducted by auditors from the corporate office. The assessment identified several areas of potential negative human rights impacts, including in relation to monitoring contractor working conditions and their compliance with domestic labor laws and international standards, gaps in noise monitoring by the site, impacts on a local river, and sexual harassment. The assessment also identified steps the site has been taking to address, mitigate and prevent these and previously identified risks, which include:

  • Due diligence, including human rights–related due diligence, on new and renewing vendors, and self-certification of Barrick’s Supplier Code of Ethics;
  • Investigations and audits of contractors where complaints are lodged (including complaints by contractor employees);
  • Dismissing contractors who fail to comply with our policies or the law;
  • A risk assessment in the supply chain;
  • Environmental monitoring, along with policies, procedures and a management system that includes audits and assessments; and
  • Enhanced human resources policies, procedures and training related to sexual harassment and discrimination more generally.

In 2016, Avanzar conducted human rights assessments at the Pierina and Lagunas Norte mines in Peru and the Lumwana mine in Zambia.  As in Pueblo Viejo, these assessments also were conducted, to a large extent, simultaneously and in conjunction with audits related to relevant functional units.  The assessments identified a number of risk areas and actual or potential negative human rights impacts, including some repeat findings from prior assessments. These included:

  • for Lagunas Norte: potential indirect contributions to promoting unsafe working and living conditions, as well as child labor, through donations for local community purchasing of coal; and negatively impacting the population of trout in a river used by a local community.  The Lagunas assessment also noted that a variety of prior identified risks and impacts had in fact been mitigated or corrected, including in relation to allegations of discrimination by contractors and employees, purchases of land from local landowners, and the removal of squatters from company land. 
  • for Pierina:  potential impacts on rights to information about water quality based on reporting, and needs around water quality management more generally, along with a potential risk to one community around long-term access to water quantity.  The assessment identified several positive contributions at Pierina, including programs to respect workers’ rights during workforce reductions, and a contractor management program to help prevent infringement on labor rights of contract employees.
  • for Lumwana: inadequate monitoring of working conditions and potential adverse impacts on worker rights by contractors (a repeat finding that was uncorrected); personal questions being asked during job interviews that could lead to potential discrimination allegations, and some contractors asking prospective and current employees for medical tests for pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections; some employees and contractors claiming they could not refuse overtime, creating risks of forced overtime issues; project-induced migration in nearby communities impacting access to basic services, including education, water and sanitation systems; potential impacts on loss of access to forests and destruction of an archaeological site; allegations of private security using excessive force during apprehension of trespassers.  The assessment identified several improvements at Lumwana, including: workshops on harassment and discrimination for all managers and supervisors, resulting in a reduction in perceived workplace discrimination by supervisors; most job descriptions including “community engagement and ensuring a positive impact on local communities”; and an effective local employment program, with a Local Employment Register that the site and all its contractors must use, that tracks all local hires by the company and its contractors.

In addition, assessment findings from past years (some of which relate to sites Barrick no longer operates) have included concerns around use of force by security personnel, various issues related to contractors and suppliers (including their lack of awareness of site grievance mechanisms and their respect for the rights of workers to form unions), unequal treatment between nationals and expatriates, and industrial hygiene programs. Overall, for the sites Barrick presently operates, the negative risks and impacts identified in 2016 and prior years do not seem to indicate broader policy or procedural weaknesses, but rather help identify our salient risks and the challenges associated with them, along with discrete implementation issues and issues arising from in-migration at several locations.

Past assessments have also identified examples of good practice and improvements in areas related to Barrick’s salient risks, including in relation to resettlement and consultations, training and vetting of security personnel, participatory water monitoring initiatives, and working with governments to increase access to potable water.

Other previously identified steps that Barrick has undertaken to address noted risks are extensive. Examples include:

  • Automating corrective action plans so that appropriate personnel receive timely notifications if the action plans are delayed;
  • Strengthening the supplier due diligence programs and onboarding process;
  • Enhancing awareness and trust in the implementation of site grievance mechanisms;
  • Providing human rights training for grievance officers;
  • Conducting certain health impact assessments;
  • Continuing a partnership with the White Ribbon Campaign to address gender-based violence at our mine sites;
  • Providing third-party training for public security forces;
  • Working with international partners to help strengthen the judicial system;
  • Increasing the use of alternative screening methods during employment onboarding;
  • Improving the training of security guards in ways that include stepped- up use of scenarios;
  • Strengthening the culture of whistle blowing, transparency and responsibility; and
  • Improving the approach of the Community, Health, Environment, Safety, Security (CHESS) assurance work related to health and safety.

Working Conditions

Pilot Project Adds Children's Perspective

Child vulnerability matrix to be integrated into all future human rights impact assessments at Barrick sites

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