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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 12/15/18

Bush Sr. Made a Killing -- 50 Miners Buried Alive

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While pundits are falling all over themselves spewing about the "civility" of the patrician George H. W. Bush, l must honor the memory of those 50 men who were buried alive in a gold field in Africa so Bush Sr. could cash in.

To me, this is the most important story of my career -- and almost ended it when Bush's gold mining company (I bet you didn't know he had one) sued my paper, The Guardian, threatening it with bankruptcy for telling the truth.

But ultimately, the truth was also buried alive, as US papers refused to cover the story, fearing the gold company's wrath. (Salon.com was the exception.)

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I dedicate this story to those miners, buried without pomp, buried by bulldozers while still alive. And to Tundu Lissu the Tanzanian lawyer, father of twins, who risked his life to provide me the corroborating evidence.

Tundu has taken twelve bullets, but survives.


(Image by Photo provided by Tanzanian lawyer Tundu Lissu)   Details   DMCA
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Here is the story as originally published in the first U.S. edition of The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.

Poppy Strikes Gold

In the final days of the Bush (Senior) administration, the Interior Department made an extraordinary but little noticed change in procedures under the 1872 Mining Law, the gold rush-era act that permitted those whiskered small-time prospectors with their tin pans and mules to stake claims on their tiny plots. The department initiated an expedited procedure for mining companies that allowed Barrick to swiftly lay claim to the largest gold find in America. In the terminology of the law, Barrick could "perfect its patent" on the estimated $10 billion in ore -- for which Barrick paid the U.S. Treasury a little under $10,000. Eureka!

Barrick, of course, had to put up cash for the initial property rights and the cost of digging out the booty (and the cost of donations, in smaller amounts, to support Nevada's Democratic senator, Harry Reid). Still, the shift in rules paid off big time: According to experts at the Mineral Policy Center of Washington, DC, Barrick saved -- and the U.S. taxpayer lost -- a cool billion or so. Upon taking office, Bill Clinton's new interior secretary, Bruce Babbitt, called Barrick's claim the "biggest gold heist since the days of Butch Cassidy." Nevertheless, because the company followed the fast-track process laid out for them under Bush, this corporate Goldfinger had Babbitt by the legal nuggets. Clinton had no choice but to give them the gold mine while the public got the shaft.

Barrick says it had no contact whatsoever with the president at the time of the rules change.[1] There was always a place in Barrick's heart for the older Bush -- and a place on its payroll. In 1995, Barrick hired the former president as Honorary Senior Adviser to the Toronto company's International Advisory Board. Bush joined at the suggestion of former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney, who, like Bush, had been ignominiously booted from office. I was a bit surprised that the president had signed on. When Bush was voted out of the White House, he vowed never to lobby or join a corporate board. The chairman of Barrick openly boasts that granting the title "Senior Adviser" was a sly maneuver to help Bush tiptoe around this promise.

I was curious: What does one do with a used president? Barrick vehemently denies that it appointed Bush "in order to procure him to make contact with other world leaders whom he knows, or who could be of considerable assistance" to the company. Yet, in September 1996, Bush wrote a letter to help convince Indonesian dictator Suharto to give Barrick a new, hot gold-mining concession.

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Bush's letter seemed to do the trick. Suharto took away 68 percent of the world's largest goldfield from the finder of the ore and handed it to Barrick. However, Bush's lobbying magic isn't invincible. Jim Bob Moffett, a tough old Louisiana swamp dog who heads Freeport-McMoRan, Barrick's American rival, met privately with Suharto. When Suharto emerged from their meeting, the kleptocrat announced that Freeport would replace Bush's Canadians. (Barrick lucked out: The huge ore deposit turned out to be a hoax. When the con was uncovered, Jim Bob's associates invited geologist Mike de Guzman, who "discovered" the gold, to talk about the error of his ways. Unfortunately, on the way to the meeting, de Guzman fell out of a helicopter.)

Who is this "Barrick" to whom our former president would lease out the reflected prestige of the Oval Office? I could not find a Joe Barrick in the Canadian phone book. Rather, the company as it operates today was founded by one Peter Munk. The entrepreneur first came to public notice in Canada in the 1960s as a central figure in an insider trading scandal. Munk had dumped his stock in a stereo-making factory he controlled just before it went belly up, leaving other investors and government holding the bag. He was never charged, but, notes Canada's Maclean's magazine, the venture and stock sale "cost Munk his business and his reputation." Yet today, Munk's net worth is estimated at $350 million, including homes on two continents and his own island.

How did he go from busted stereo maker to demi-billionaire goldbug? The answer: Adnan Khashoggi, the Saudi arms dealer, the "bag man" in the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostage scandals. The man who sent guns to the ayatolla teamed up with Munk on hotel ventures and, ultimately, put up the cash to buy Barrick in 1983, then a tiny company with an "unperfected" claim on the Nevada mine. You may recall that Bush pardoned the co-conspirators who helped Khashoggi arm the Axis of Evil, making charges against the sheik all but impossible. (Bush pardoned the conspirators, not as a favor to Khashoggi, but to himself.)

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Greg Palast's investigative reports appear in Rolling Stone, the Guardian and on BBC Television. His latest film, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, on how Donald Trump stole the 2016 election, is available on Amazon. Palast is Patron of the Trinity (more...)
 
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