Tag Archives: Canada

PNG group says mining ombudsman ‘last hope’

Porgera mine. Photo: wikicommons / Richard Farbellini

Radio New Zealand | 13 March, 2017

A human rights group in Papua New Guinea says it would be a great relief if Canada agrees to appoint an ombudsman to monitor PNG’s mining sector.

The Akali Tange Association has written to Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, as part of a wider global campaign calling for the appointment.

The group said Canadian-owned Barrick Gold had employed security guards at Porgera who had committed killings, assault, and rape.

Its executive officer, McDiyan Robert Yapari, said an ombudsman would finally provide some justice for victims as well as holding mining companies to account.

“Now we don’t have any choice but only our prayers – our only hope now lies with the Canadian Prime Minister, if he sets up this Canadian extractive human rights ombudsman – that would be a great relief for us,” said McDiyan Robert Yapari.

Mr Yapari said the situation at Porgera Mine was getting worse and an ombudsman was the community’s last hope.

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PNG campaigners lobby Canadian PM over Porgera abuses

Porgera mine. Photo: wikicommons / Richard Farbellini

Radio New Zealand | 9 March, 2017

Campaigners at the Porgera Gold Mine in Papua New Guinea are among those calling for an ombudsman for Canada’s mining sector.

In a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau the Akali Tange Association said an ombudsman would hold Canadian companies to account for abuses.

It said Canadian-owned Barrick Gold had employed security guards at the Porgera Mine who have committed killings, assault, and rape.

MiningWatch Canada spokesperson Catherine Coumans said letters from the Porgera campaigners and others affected by Canadian mining companies were already having an impact.

“It’s certainly really significant when people around the world write directly to our Prime Minister and to directly indicate what the harm is that they’re experiencing from Canadian mining companies and how they have a hard time getting access to justice in their own countries and therefore really need Canada to step up to the plate.”

She said they were still getting reports of rapes at the Porgera Mine.

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New law would create Human Rights Ombudsperson to investigate violations associated with Canadian mining, oil and gas operations overseas

Canadian company Barrick Gold has been accused of multiple human rights abuses at its Porgera mine in Papua New Guinea

Canadian company Barrick Gold has been accused of multiple human rights abuses at its Porgera mine in Papua New Guinea

Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability | 2 November 2016

The Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability released today detailed model legislation, providing the Canadian government with a blueprint for how to create an effective human rights ombudsperson in the extractive sector.

Human rights abuses at Canadian mining and oil and gas sites around the world are widespread and well documented. Victims of such abuse in local communities have nowhere to turn to seek justice, including in Canada. A new model law being launched today will help the Canadian government fulfill its promise to remedy human rights abuses and prevent future harm, as well as help create a more predictable and stable operating environment where the responsible business practices of Canadian companies are recognized and rewarded.

Examples of widespread human rights violations involving Canadian mining companies in Latin America are detailed in a report launched last Monday, The “Canada Brand.” This report identifies violence associated with 28 Canadian mining companies’ projects in Latin America, including 40 deaths.

“In our globalized world we can’t hide behind the idea that the harm is happening somewhere else and is someone else’s problem,” says Alex Neve, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada.

“Canadian companies need to respect human rights. Canada needs mechanisms to allow those who feel they have suffered harm to seek redress – – our international human rights commitments require it. This model legislation couldn’t come at a better time to help the government show concrete leadership in protecting human rights on the international stage.”

Recent reports on widespread violence at Canadian mines in Latin America and targeted attacks on environmental and human rights defenders near mining developments demonstrate the urgency to act now.

“People in the global South are demanding respect for their rights by transnational mining companies,” said Emily Dwyer, Coordinator of the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (CNCA).

“The urgency is not lost on Canadians. Over 100,000 Canadians and more than 50 Canadian organizations are calling for the creation of an extractive sector ombudsperson.”

There are currently two mechanisms in Canada that can receive complaints of local communities relating to overseas operations of Canadian extractive companies (the Office of the Extractive Sector CSR Counsellor and the National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines). However, these mechanisms lack investigatory powers and independence, are not mandated to recommend remedy or to engage in follow-up and monitoring activities and neither of them has proven effective in resolving cases. They lack the confidence of stakeholders.

“When worker and community complaints are not addressed, Canadian mining companies can face long delays in project approvals or operational interruptions with serious financial repercussions.” said Barb Byers, Secretary Treasurer, Canadian Labour Congress. 

“A human rights ombudsperson that effectively addresses complaints can help repair Canada’s international reputation, and will contribute to a more stable and predictable operating environment and level playing field for Canadian companies that implement responsible business practices”. 

Most Canadian political parties, including all opposition parties in the last Parliament, have committed to create an independent human rights ombudsperson for the extractive sector. Today’s model legislation provides the roadmap to do so swiftly and effectively because when it comes to human rights abuse, unlawful and unethical practices, and destruction of livelihoods and environmental degradation, talk is not enough.

“A Canadian company facing credible allegations of overseas human rights abuses should be subject to investigation by an independent and impartial mechanism,” said Emily Dwyer.

“Right now all you can get is the chance to talk to the company, and at least half of complaints don’t even get that far.”

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Canada Accused of Complicity in Mining Companies’ Abuse of Women and Girls

women_abuse

Abuses were documented in Papua New Guinea, Tanzania, Colombia, and Guatemala. (Image: Humphrey King/flickr/cc)

New report calls on Canada to stop financing and supporting companies that abuse and discriminate against Indigenous women living near mines abroad

Nadia Prupis | Common Dreams

The Canadian government is failing to protect women against human rights abuses by supporting and financing mining companies that are involved in discrimination, rape, and violence abroad, according to a new report submitted to the United Nations on Monday.

The report (pdf), written by EarthRights International (ERI), MiningWatch Canada, and the Human Rights Research and Education Center Human Rights Clinic at the University of Ottawa, states that the Canadian government continues to support these corporations instead of holding them to account, despite its obligations to do so as a member of the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Canada’s complicity in the abuse is especially noteworthy because it is home to a majority of the world’s mining company headquarters, which operate at more than 8,000 sites in over 100 countries.

In one case outlined in the report, Indigenous women and girls living near Papua New Guinea’s Porgera Joint Venture (PJV) gold mine accused security personnel at the site of engaging in a decades-long campaign of sexual violence, including gang rape. The companies that run PJV—Barrick Gold and Placer Dome—also reportedly allowed environmental devastation and other forms of violence against men and women, as well as forced displacement, extrajudicial killings, and arbitrary detention, the report states.

The community has been fighting for redress since 2005. Although Barrick Gold established a so-called “Remedy Framework” in 2010 to compensate victims, less than half of the women who filed claims received remuneration, and those that did say it was not enough to “reflect the gravity of the harm suffered,” the report states.

Similar abuses, and lack of accountability, occurred in Tanzania, Colombia, and Guatemala, the groups continue. At the Fenix nickel mine near El Estor, Guatemala, women were reportedly gang raped by police, military, and security personnel during a forced eviction. Despite these and other abuses, the Canadian government continued to provide support to the owners of the mine. In a leaked email between the Canadian embassy and the mine’s then-owner, Skye Resources, the native community is referred to as “invaders” and a property conflict is described as “an anarchic free-for-all land grab.”

“The allegations against Canadian corporations are not isolated incidents,” said Marco Simons, general counsel at ERI. “There is a systemic pattern of reported abuses associated with Canadian extractive sector companies operating outside Canada.”

Under CEDAW, Canada is required to do all it can to eliminate discrimination against women by any corporations that work in foreign countries, including through prevention and punishment measures. It is also obligated to compensate victims.

As Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada summed up,

“Despite calls from civil society, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, individual members of parliament, and numerous U.N. treaty bodies to take proper legislative action to regulate its corporations, ensure accountability for involvement in harm and access to a remedy for victims of corporate related abuse, Canada has failed to do so.”

Salvador Herencia-Carrasco, director of the Human Rights Clinic, said,

“With this submission, our organizations hope that Canada and other home states implement mechanisms to assure that private extractive companies respect environmental standards and the human rights of women.”

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Q and A: Sakura Saunders of Protest Barrick

Co-founder of movement targeting Toronto-based Barrick Gold reflects on 10 years of taking on the world’s most powerful gold mining company

Sakura Saunders, left, with Jethro Tulin and Mark Ekepa from Porgera, Papua New Guinea at UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York in 2010

Sakura Saunders, left, with Jethro Tulin and Mark Ekepa from Porgera, Papua New Guinea at UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York in 2010

David-Gray Donald* | Now Toronto

The annual shareholders meeting of Barrick Gold has been a rite of spring for Protest Barrick. On Tuesday, April 26, the group marks a decade of protest against the firm outside the company’s AGM at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. There protestors will be calling for, among other things, adequate compensation for 120 women sexually assaulted – and some allegedly raped – by Barrick security guards at its mine in Papua New Guinea. The group’s co-founder, Sakura Saunders, says it’s time for the federal government to start holding Canadian companies more accountable for human rights violations and environmental destruction abroad.  

You’ve been organizing protests against Barrick Gold at its annual shareholders meeting for 10 years. What is it about the company that first caught your attention? 

I used to work for CorpWatch and one of my roles was to scour the mainstream and independent media for articles about corporations doing bad things. I was always attracted to mining stories, because such a clear critique emerged from them: it was always a big corporation, often negotiating with high levels of government, to screw over a rural, mostly Indigenous and politically marginalized population.

I also traveled a lot for my job and met three representatives of communities that were impacted by Barrick all in one year. By the time I met the third, I had decided that it was my calling to start a campaign.

Would you explain the rationale when you say that we don’t need to mine gold?

We currently get 34 per cent of our gold from recycled sources. And we only use 11 per cent of gold for anything other than jewelry or investment. So, from my perspective, we get more than three times our practical use of the metal from recycled sources. At the same time, gold mining is ridiculously destructive. So, not only do we not need gold, but we are much worse off if we allow it to be mined.

Why protest Barrick and not the industry as a whole?

I take Barrick to be indicative of systemic abuse. If we just cherry-pick the worst cases, there is this illusion that some small percentage of the industry is really bad. I took one company and looked at about half of their operations in detail to dispels the “bad apple” argument.

Why do you target the AGM each year?

It’s a time that people from Barrick-impacted communities can speak to the shareholders directly, so we have a rally outside to support them. We don’t really expect to successfully shame shareholders into turning on the company, but we feel it is important to access this platform so that at least their grievances get on some sort of public record. 

We have used this time to lobby MPs, organize grassroots tours of Canada, and take concerns to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, so the shareholders are just one of the many audiences we pursue. 

I have been pretty disappointed in the mainstream media’s response to this presence though. Every year, impacted communities get the mic at the shareholder’s meeting, but only occasionally do the reporters covering the meeting pick up on what they say. 

Throughout the years, what has changed about Barrick, and how has your campaign changed?

Barrick is constantly adapting to our pressure. They set up corporate social responsibility (CSR) advisory committees, redress programs for rape survivors, human rights trainings for their security guards and incentive programs tying manager bonuses to CSR reporting. This is where working with the impacted communities is so important, because at a distance these programs look like positive changes. But Barrick were repeatedly fined for turning in false reports

Meanwhile, Mining Watch has done great work exposing how their redress programs for survivors forced people to sign away their right to sue the company in exchange for very little money. 

Barrick admitted that their security guards gang raped women in Papua New Guinea. After an intense screening process, they compensated 120 of them with about $10,000 each. So, Barrick got out of that scandal for $1.2 total. Does that seem like justice to anyone? 

You’ve had some interaction with Barrick founder Peter Munk. What do you think of each other?

He seems to divide NGOs into two categories, those he can work with, and those he can’t. The ones he can work with will take Barrick’s money to do some good work near Barrick’s mine sites, but never tell of the abuses. The ones that he can’t work with would never take his money to begin with. You can guess which category I fall into. 

I think of him as someone who justifies the harm that his company does by imagining that the communities would be in even worse squalor without him. He has been quoted saying things like human rights are idealistic and gang rape is just a cultural habit of some places. 

What do you see next for Protest Barrick?

The documentation, protests and support for the communities I’m in touch with will continue, but now that a new government is in power in Canada, I would like to work in coalition with a range of folks working on mining issues and international issues to push for some major reforms. The Liberals definitely will not do anything on their own, but with a lot of pushing, change is at least possible, which is more than I can say for government under Harper.

Any advice for young people wanting to launch a global campaign against a massive multinational corporation?

Don’t start any campaign unless you are in touch with and accountable to the people most impacted, don’t promise more than you can deliver and stick to your word even when it may not make the most sense. Building trust is the most important pillar of your campaign. Also, be aware of who you are empowering and how that is affecting community dynamics. 

While that may all seem like a lot to be accountable for, right now there are so many networks to tap into that it is easier than you might think. If you are the type of person who works well with others, is a good communicator and can make good on long-term commitments, there is likely a network of impacted communities and advocates already formed out there that could use help organizing. 

*David Gray-Donald is a freelance journalist and community organizer.

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Indigenous people ‘sing’ for the earth

Above: Mine waste and debris enter Quesnel Lake five miles downstream of the failed impoundment at Imperial Metal's Mt. Polley gold/copper mine. Image Credit: Jonathan Hayward, The Canadian Press 

Mine waste and debris enter Quesnel Lake downstream of the Imperial Metal’s Mt. Polley gold/copper mine. Credit: Jonathan Hayward, The Canadian Press

Frederick Olsen , Jr. and Jacinda Mack | Times Colonist

Have you heard of mine birds singing? Long ago, miners took canaries into coal mines to warn about the presence of poisonous gases. As long as the birds lived, people lived. Indigenous people are like coal-mine canaries, except that we are not brought into the mines — the mines are brought to us.

Our ancient indigenous homelands are located in present-day British Columbia and Alaska, considered part of the Arctic Nations. We are connected through water, culture, salmon, oral history and complex family bloodlines. As indigenous peoples, we now unite to address the urgent and far-reaching impacts of unbridled mining activities in B.C. We now “sing” of threats to our existence.

We have already felt the sting and suffering of a major mining disaster in B.C. in 2014 at Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley Mine, that left us reeling in fear for our future, clean water and wild salmon. The preventable disaster released 6.6 billion gallons of mining waste into Quesnel Lake and the Fraser River watershed, home to one of the world’s largest salmon runs. For the first time in history, indigenous families along the Fraser River did not harvest salmon, out of fear of mining contamination.

Despite it being the worst environmental disaster in Canadian mining history, no charges or fines have been laid against the company. Instead, B.C. granted the company a temporary re-opening permit that created new potential for another breach during spring snow melt. Their solution? Authorize ongoing discharge into Quesnel Lake. This “business as usual” approach to mining must end.

We maintain a long-term approach to our way of life, considering beyond our own lives, ahead to seven generations of grandchildren. We acknowledge our stewardship responsibilities and have already mobilized to work together, across political borders, to protect clean water, healthy salmon and flourishing wildlife by addressing mining threats in a proactive and collaborative way, to ensure our collective future well-being. Do you hear the mine birds singing?

U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau committed to “collaborating with indigenous and Arctic governments, leaders and communities to more broadly and respectfully include indigenous science and traditional knowledge into decision-making, including in environmental assessments, resource management, and advancing our understanding of climate change and how best to manage its effects.”

We share a vision of the future: fresh, clean water, wild salmon, healthy and vibrant communities thriving for millennia. Let us put safety before profits and implement the independent Mount Polley Report recommendations. Let us reinstate critical fisheries habitat protections under Canada’s Fisheries Act. International solutions and higher standards will benefit everyone.

We advocate for world-class stewardship and mining policies based on best practices and best technologies, such as that of the Northern Secwepemc, which has taken the industry by storm. In Alaska, the United Tribal Transboundary Mining Work Group calls for the U.S. government to uphold its fiduciary trust responsibility to tribes. We seek a binding agreement between indigenous and federal governments with seats as equals at the decision table.

Indigenous peoples from Alaska and British Columbia are rekindling ancient ties to bring together First Nations and tribes. At the end of April, we will meet on Prince of Wales Island in southeast Alaska, where we will collaborate to unify our strategies and actions to protect the vital resources we share with each other and the world. We welcome Trudeau and Obama to attend.

Please hear us. We sing for our changing Earth. We sing for our way of life. We sing for all of us. Join our chorus. Together, stronger and louder, we will inspire the world to keep the forest mine birds singing.

* K’yuuhlgáansii Frederick Olsen, Jr., Haida, is chairman of the United Tribal Transboundary Mining Work Group (a consortium of 14 Southeast Alaska Tribes). Nuskmata Jacinda Mack, Secwepemc and Nuxalk, is the co-ordinator of First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining, a coalition of indigenous women addressing mining impacts in British Columbia.

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Romanian civil society wins key victory against proposed gold mine

Romanians protest the Rosia Montana mining project in 2013

Romanians protest the Rosia Montana mining project in 2013

Romanian civil society is celebrating its success after a decade-long fight against a gold mining project in Rosia Montana. The site was recently included in the country’s tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage.

Deutsche Welle | 17.02.2016

Streets were full of people protesting. There were no “typical” protesters: They were students, retirees, leftist intellectuals, liberals, nationalists. That was Romania in 2013, opposing the Rosia Montana mining project. Protests were billed as the largest since the revolution in 1989, when Romania gained independence from the Soviet Union.

Recently, the movement has taken an important step forward. The village of Rosia Montana and the region surrounding it in Transylvania have been included as candidates for the UNESCO World Heritage List, fulfilling one of protesters’ key demands. The Ministry of Culture declared the village site one of historical interest, and has prohibited all mining activity there.

However, the status of the mining project remains unclear. The Canadian mining company Gabriel Resources – which owns almost 81 percent of the Rosia Montana Gold Corporation – still presents the project as “fully scoped and currently in the permitting phase” on its website.

So, how did a whole country mobilize to defend the cause of a village of 4,000 inhabitants? And, what is likely to happen with the mining project, which would have been Europe’s largest gold mine?

Power to the people

Gabriel Resources had been trying for more than a decade to implement its gold mining project in the Romanian mountains. Back in August 2013, draft legislation was poised to give the company the green-light to start work on the mine.

The Rosia Montana campaign, initially organized by locals who would have been affected by mining pollution and mountaintop removal, spread through social media. A mass of protesters – the likes of which had not been seen since 1989 – took to the streets to oppose the foreign company’s development.

Gold mining disasters like this one in Colorado, in the United States, devastate the landscape and ecosystem

Gold mining disasters like this one in Colorado, in the United States, devastate the landscape and ecosystem

The thousands of protesters were enraged over potential environmental damage, including cutting the tops off of several mountain peaks and the use of cyanide, as well as over destruction of historical sites.

In addition, 2,000 people would have lost their homes, and the private company would have been granted property expropriation rights.

World heritage victory

After years of persistence on the part of civil society actors, Romania’s ministries of environment and culture on February 5, 2016, announced the inclusion of Rosia Montana in the country’s tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage.

This would provide international protection and support to the area. The decision came after 10 consecutive ministries rejected seeking such a declaration.

The Alburnus Maior Association, main representative of the movement to save Rosia Montana, celebrated the governmental decision: “This is not just a huge gain for our cultural heritage; it’s a great victory for civil society – for the thousands of people here and abroad who demanded for Rosia Montana to be saved,” stated its president, Eugen David, in a press release.

Romanian society came together against the mining project

Romanian society came together against the mining project

Environmental damage to a cultural treasure

Environmental impacts from the mine would have reshaped the region by removing the tops of four mountains. Moreover, processing mined gold ore requires the use of cyanide, a highly toxic substance that can harm ecosystems.

Disasters related to gold mining are not isolated cases. Since the 1970s, at least 11 gold mines have caused irreparable environmental damages around the world.

Romania has already twice suffered such impacts. International media named the most recent occasion, the Baia Mare cyanide spill of 2000, the worst environmental disaster since the Chernobyl nuclear accident.

Archaeologically, Rosia Montana is considered a world treasure. “Rosia Montana’s mine is the most important Roman mining complex still existing,” said Florian Matei, a consultant for the Romanian Ministry of Culture. “It guides us through our history, from Roman times to communism,” Matei told DW.

Based on an independent report from British experts, the ministry advisor emphasized that the ancient site must be preserved as a whole, and not only in pieces – as the mining company had proposed.

All that glitters is not gold

Although Rosia Montana has been included on the country’s tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage sites, the fight has not come to an end. The selection process can last for more than two years, and the proposal may be rejected.

On the other hand, a lack of political stability in the field may sabotage conservation efforts. “A new change on the government could favor the mine again,” Claudia Apostol, a key leader of the campaign to protect Rosia Montana, told DW. “But we are also very optimistic, the [conservation] situation is improving every day,” Apostol said.

The Romanian Ministry of Culture, together with its Ministry of Environment, are working on a sustainable development plan to protect and revitalize the area, Matei added.

Meanwhile, Gabriel Resources continues to seek approval. The mining company refused to make further comment, but provided a document presenting a promise to protect the cultural heritage and work within a sustainable environmental framework.

Apostol does not trust these statements, and is convinced that Romanian people will not leave the future of Rosia Montana in the hands of a mining company. “We’ve come a long way thanks to the Romanian civil society. You can bet people will stay mobilized!”

“Now, more than ever,” Apostol concluded.

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