05/31/2011 07:04 EDT | Updated 07/31/2011 05:12 EDT

Barrick Gold 'Deeply Distressed' By Sex Assault Allegations At Africa Mine

(The Canadian Press) - TORONTO - Barrick Gold Corp. says it is investigating allegations of sexual assaults against local women at one of its gold mines in Tanzania.

The company says the assaults are alleged to have taken place at the North Mara mine, which is owned and operated by Barrick's subsidiary, African Barrick Gold PLC (LSE:ABG).

The Toronto-based gold miner says that a preliminary investigation by ABG has found credible evidence of sexual assaults by members of the Tanzanian police and the company's security guards.

Barrick says local police are also probing the allegations and a senior level investigations unit will be deployed to the mine in the coming days.

The company says it is "deeply distressed" by the evidence that has emerged. Its own investigation is ongoing and the findings will be made public once the report is concluded.

Earlier this month, North Mara was the site of deadly clashes between police and a crowd of about 800 people trying to steal ore from the mine. Seven people were killed and a dozen more were injured.

Barrick says it has a zero tolerance approach to human rights violations and any employee implicated in human rights violations or other serious criminal acts will be terminated.

"These deplorable crimes, if confirmed, are neither acceptable nor excusable," the company said in a statement posted on their website Monday.

"They send a clear message to us that we have not met the promises we have made to the community, and to ourselves, to pursue responsible mining in every location where we and our affiliates operate. We can, and will, do more."

Barrick owns and operates gold mines in Canada, the U.S., Peru, Argentina, Chile, Australia and Papua New Guinea.

Its major development projects include Pueblo Viejo in the Dominican Republic, Cortez Hills in Nevada, and Pascua-Lama on the border between Argentina and Chile.