Sometimes the practical necessities of operating a mine can trigger life-changing improvements for people living nearby. In 2002, Barrick Gold constructed a 47-kilometer water pipeline from Lake Victoria to the Bulyanhulu mine in Tanzania.
Before the pipeline was built, some 30,000 people living in villages along the route lacked easy access to safe, clean water. Many used contaminated water sources and travelled distances of up to eight kilometers each day to collect enough safe water to drink. In 1999, almost 14,000 cases of waterborne diseases were reported in the area.
Making clean water available to these villages took a little ingenuity, but was a natural for miners with engineering expertise. A spigot was installed in the pipeline at each village and a total of 15 community water points were created, which communities continue to access to this day.
Barrick Gold maintains the piped water system, and engaged a local NGO to provide support for additional community water supplies.
“The impact of the Lake Victoria water pipeline has been dramatic in terms of health and quality of life,” said Samantha Chadwick, Barrick Gold’s Community Relations manager for Africa. “It marked the beginning of the company’s water supply projects in Tanzania, enabling the community and the company to work together to meet this basic need.”
According to Chadwick, the outcome was particularly positive for women in the area, reducing the drudgery of carrying buckets of water on their heads over great distances.
In total, Barrick Gold has invested nearly US$2.8 million in water infrastructure in this region, including the Lake Victoria pipeline project (US$2.2 million) and approximately US$600,000 in community water projects. An additional 23 new water wells were built to supply villages, schools, health centers and other facilities in the area. This year alone, the company plans to drill a total of 26 water boreholes serving a further 35,000 people living near Bulyanhulu. Each village will continue to play a role in the water projects by providing workers to construct the wells, ensuring cost effectiveness and community involvement.
More than 1.1 billion people, or about one-fifth of the world’s population, lack access to safe drinking water (Source: WHO/Unicef joint monitoring programme for water supply and sanitation, 2005).