300 workers in Dominican Republic ill from food poisoning

Barrick Gold confirms 236 workers became ill - Norwegian Pension Fund divested $230 million CAD from Barrick Gold for ethical concerns..........

Cotuí, Dominican Republic. - Although initial reports said a boiler had exploded on Sunday and led to the intoxication of the mine’s workers, by Monday afternoon (yesterday) Barrick Gold’s local operation had confirmed that at least 300 employees became ill from food poisoning, and that they use the cafeteria services of the company Sodexo.

FILE.- More than 1,000 workers of the mining company Barrick Gold who were preparing to exploit a gold deposit in the northeast village Pueblo Viejo, Cotuí, were today intoxicated by inhaling an as yet unspecified chemical substance, possibly a case of food poisoning.

Initial reports describe an explosion of a boiler as the source of the chemical.

The victims were taken to nearby clinics and a public hospital in Cotuí, whereas others were transferred to the towns San Francisco, Bonao, Santiago, La Vega and Maimón.

Many of the doctors and paramedics who attend the victims had to wear masks as the result of agent’s extreme toxicity, as Emergency Operations Center (COE) director Juan Manuel Méndez confirmed the reports.

The workers reportedly began to feel woozy, headaches and other symptoms including vomiting and one miner said the number of injured may rise.

The doctors said some of the affected are in guarded but not life-threatening condition.

One of the workers taken to a clinic in Cotuí said a loud explosion was heard in the company and that many people near the area suddenly began to feel faint, headaches even became unconscious.

“Public Health should urgently send help to Cotuí and other towns because people will die if not attended adequately,” said Doctor José Miguel de Peña by telephone on the morning radio program Z101 FM.

Other reports affirm that the workers were affected by food poisoning in the mine’s cafeteria.

Barrick Gold executive denies incident

Although executives of the gold mining company haven’t informed on the possible causes of the incident, news source elnacional.com.do reported that the head of Pueblo Viejo Dominicana Corporation, Fernando Sanchez Albavera denied the poisoning of the workers. “In no way, nothing has happened with the workers of the company.”

source: DominicanToday


Barrick refused to give information to deputies

The head of the Chamber of Deputies Health Commission, Victor Terrero, complained yesterday that Barrick Gold executives had refused to give him any information about the reasons why more than 300 employees had experienced health problems on Sunday. Terrero said that the commission believed that the deputies needed to know what had happened to so many people. He said "...We have tried to make contact with the owners of Barrick Gold so that we can enter the facility to see with our own eyes, but we have yet to receive an answer".
Speaking with reporters, the deputy said that he was sorry that he had voted for the approval of the contract with Barrick.
Geologist Osiris de Leon says that Barrick Gold must be hiding something about the illness that hit 300 employees in one day, and he suggested that some pathogen such as chlorine gas could have been the culprit.
De Leon said that as proof that the cause was some outside agent is the fact that not all of the people affected ate the same foods, and the fact that the workers who reported for duty on Monday were also affected strengthens his argument that something else besides the food was the cause. He said that the symptoms were very similar to those experienced by people exposed to toxic fumes: vomiting, diarrhea and loss of energy. He added that cyanide was not the cause, since it is not being used in this phase of the installation. Finally, he said that the theory of a gas leak was reinforced by the refusal of company authorities to allow reporters into the medical facilities or into the plant itself in order to check the situation.
A spokesperson from the Public Health Ministry said that so far the investigation into the foods has not revealed any bacteria.

source: DR1

Many voices are concerned over the operations of Barrick Gold in the Dominican Republic. Here is two related article from their violation of human rights in other mining areas, which last year made the Norwegian Pension Fund divested $230 million CAD from Barrick Gold for ethical concerns:

Hundreds of homes in the Porgera valley of Papua New Guinea are being set aflame. Local human rights organizations in Porgera claim that these fires are part of a strategy to clear people out of the way for the expansion of Barrick Gold's Porgera mine

Here is another article about Barriks Gold:

Tanzanian Police Shoot Dead villager Muhono Marwa at Barrick's North Mara Mine

Maybe it was not such a good idea to welcome Barrick to the Dominican Republic? If you have any stories about Barrick Gold Dominican operations pls forward them to Dominican Watchdog.


Go back | Date: 21 Mar 2010
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