At least one person killed in protest near Barrick's Congo mine

KINSHASA (Reuters) - At least one person was killed during protests against evictions near Barrick Gold Corp's Kibali gold mine in northeast Democratic Republic of Congo last week, the local governor's office said on Monday.

Two villages near the mine, where residents had previously been resettled from, have been occupied by local people in recent months, "in violation of the rights of the company Kibali goldmines," the Haut Uele governor's office said in a statement.

"Shots were fired and at least one death and several wounded have been confirmed," the governor's office said, referring to Friday's confrontation between settlers and police.

Earlier in the week, authorities had started to demolish houses in the villages of Bandai and Mege, according to mining transparency group Congo Is Not For Sale (CNPAV). The governor suspended the evictions following the deadly protest, his office said, and launched an inquiry.

During the 2012-2013 construction of the mine, Kibali resettled and gave compensation to around 17,000 people from the area around its concession, which it refers to as an exclusion zone, according to company records.

Kibali, a joint venture operated by Barrick, said the demonstration did not occur on its concession, and was not connected to the company.

"The apparent cause of the demonstration that turned violent was the eviction by the provincial government of illegal settlers from a government-defined exclusion zone," a company spokesperson told Reuters by telephone.

The government said it had set up a commission to identify those owed compensation and those who should be evicted.

Kibali, which is 45%-owned by Barrick, 45% by AngloGold Ashanti Ltd and 10% by state-owned gold company SOKIMO, produced 364,000 ounces of gold in 2020, according to its website.

Barrick Chief Executive Mark Bristow told Reuters earlier this month that recent geological discoveries would extend the life of the mine to 2040.

(Reporting by Aaron Ross and Hereward Holland; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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