DAR ES SALAAM, TANZANIA — The goal was to leave the image of a benevolent Canada investing in the health of poor Africans, but in the end it was another Canada, that of its globe-hopping mining companies, that stole the day.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper spent eight hours yesterday in this commercial centre on the Indian Ocean, visiting a school, lunching with Tanzania's President and announcing a $105-million contribution to a new health-care initiative in Africa and Asia.
Yet it was a 45-minute meeting with officials from a dozen Canadian investors, led by mining giant Barrick Gold Corp., that dominated Mr. Harper's news conference with President Jakaya Kikwete.
Thanks in large part to Barrick's three gold mines, Canada has emerged as Tanzania's largest foreign investor, prompting a resource boom that helped Tanzania record a 6.2-per-cent growth rate last year.
Yet the mining success has prompted allegations that royalties are too low and that Tanzania's people, still among the world's poorest, are not sharing adequately in the bonanza.
Adding to this is a nasty labour dispute at Barrick's Bulyanhulu gold mine, where 1,000 of the 1,900 workers have been on what the company calls an illegal strike for the past month.
A court hearing scheduled for yesterday, at which the union hoped to obtain an injunction to stop Barrick from hiring replacement workers, was postponed to today for reasons that were unclear.
Mr. Harper would not comment on the strike other than to say that he expects Canadian companies to "act responsibly within the laws of the land" when they are abroad. He praised Tanzania for creating a stable political and business environment that encourages Canadian companies to invest.
Mr. Kikwete was also diplomatic when the subject turned to Canada's investment in the mining industry and in particular the work of a committee created to advise the Tanzanian government on whether to change the royalty regime.
"We are not blaming the mining companies," the President said, noting that the companies are living within Tanzanian law.
He added that the goal of the review is to achieve a "win-win situation" for the companies and the government.
"We'd like to see more and more Canadian investment," Mr. Kikwete said.
It was the second time in recent months that Mr. Harper had met Barrick officials during an international trip. In July, he stopped off at Barrick's offices in Santiago, Chile, where the company is developing the massive Pascua Lama mining project in the Andes, despite protests from environmentalists.
Joan Kuyek, the national co-ordinator of MiningWatch, a group that critiques what it sees as irresponsible mining practices around the world, says Barrick's Tanzanian operation displaced thousands of small-scale miners and gives little back to Tanzania.
"If Mr. Harper met only with people chosen to have him meet with and didn't meet with the small-scale miners, didn't meet with the people who have to deal with the social and economic and environmental price that these mines are racking up in Tanzania, and didn't meet with their representatives, well I think that's pretty shocking," Ms. Kuyek said.
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