Tag Archives: Canada

‘Bodies are still under the rubble’: Death toll rises to 43 at TSX-listed Katanga Mining’s ‘Word Class’ Congo mine

A copper and cobalt mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo. PHOTO: SIMON DAWSON/BLOOMBERG

Reuters | June 27, 2019

At least 43 artisanal miners were killed on Thursday when part of a copper and cobalt mine owned by Glencore collapsed in southeast Congo, the provincial governor said.

The accident occurred in the KOV open-pit mine at the Kamoto Copper Company (KCC) concession, in which Glencore subsidiary Katanga Mining owns a 75 per cent stake, said Richard Muyej, the governor of Democratic Republic of Congo’s Lualaba province.

“It was caused by the clandestine artisanal diggers who have infiltrated (the mine),” he told Reuters. “The old terraces gave way, causing significant amounts of material to fall.”

“KOV is a delicate site and presents many risks,” he added.

Glencore said in a statement that it had confirmed 19 fatalities so far and was assisting search and rescue operations by local authorities.

Artisanal mining on the edge of commercial mine sites is a big problem across Africa. The rudimentary, outdated and unregulated practices miners employ can often compromise safety: mine disasters in Congo alone cost the lives of dozens a year.

Thousands of illegal miners operate in southern Congo, which produces more than half of the world’s cobalt, a key component in electric car batteries.

Glencore said an average of 2,000 illegal miners sneak daily onto the KCC concession, which spans a vast flat expanse on the outskirts of the city of Kolwezi near the Zambian border and is one of the country’s largest copper deposits.

Delphin Monga, provincial secretary of the UCDT union which represents KCC employees, said a crack in part of the pit had been noticed on Wednesday. He said KCC had put up red warning signs, but the diggers had ignored them.

This is not the first accident at the mine. In 2016, a 250-metre wall inside the KOV pit collapsed, killing seven mine employees.

Muyej said that the authorities were meeting to decide on new measures to secure large mines.

At least nine illegal gold miners died in Zimbabwe when they were trapped in a mine last month.

Twenty-two died in a previous Zimbabwean gold-mine flood in February, and 14 tin miners were buried alive in Rwanda after heavy rains in January.

In February, about 20 people died when a truck carrying acid to Glencore’s Mutanda Mine in DRC collided with two other vehicles.

Congo’s military deployed hundreds of soldiers last week to protect a copper and cobalt mine owned by China Molybdenum Co Ltd from illegal miners.

Shares in Glencore closed down 4.9 per cent, their worst day of trading since December. The company said the incident has not affected output.

BMO Capital Markets analyst Edward Sterck said if the incident is related to illegal mining, any impact may be relatively short-term beyond an investigative period.

“However, preventative action will likely be needed and it could impact Glencore’s social license to operate,” he added.

KCC produced a total of 152,400 tonnes of copper and 11,100 tonnes of cobalt last year. Glencore’s nearby Mutanda project produced 199,000 tonnes of copper and 27,300 tonnes of cobalt.

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Canada falling behind on corporate accountability

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Penelope Simons* | The Guardian | 12 June 2019

Earlier this year, Canadians were given a behind-the-scenes view on attempts by the Liberal government to ensure that SNC-Lavalin would escape potential criminal liability under the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act. What may be less clear is that the government’s stance in this case is reflective of its broader approach to corporate accountability.

The Liberal government’s tendency to overlook corporate malfeasance threatens to sink an innovative initiative – the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) – with the potential to make real change.

Canadian companies are implicated in credible allegations of wrong-doing worldwide. In addition to charges of corruption, the Canadian private sector is linked to human rights abuses and environmental destruction.

The extractive sector is of particular concern. Canada hosts a majority of the world’s largest exploration and mining companies, and a significant number of medium and large-sized oil and gas companies, many of which operate overseas. These companies raise billions of dollars on Canadian stock exchanges. They have also been implicated in grave human rights abuses perpetrated by their security forces in many countries around the world, including Sudan, Papua New Guinea, Eritrea and Guatemala, among others.

A study by the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project at Osgoode Hall Law School found that between 2000 and 2015, 28 Canadian extractive companies had been associated with 100 incidences of violence in Spanish-speaking Latin America.

In 2017, the UN body charged with promoting respect for human rights by the private sector visited Canada to assess compliance with a set of guiding principles endorsed by the Canadian government. The UN experts expressed concern that Canada lacked a coherent policy framework to fulfil its legal duty to protect against business-related human rights abuses. They raised concern that the victims of human rights abuses struggle to obtain adequate and timely remedies against Canadian businesses.

It appeared that the Trudeau government would begin to address these serious shortcomings with its announcement in January 2018 of CORE, a ground-breaking complaint mechanism charged with investigating allegations of harm caused by Canadian extractive and garment corporations operating abroad. The government committed to equipping the independent office with robust powers – including the power to summon witnesses and compel the production of documents.

What’s happened since then?

The Order in Council (OIC) that formally established CORE, created its mandate, and appointed Sheri Meyerhoffer to the position, was released this past April. It shows that the government has not only backtracked significantly on its original promise, but it appears to have established instead a slightly modified version of the toothless and now defunct Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor. Notably, the government has so far failed to grant CORE the investigatory powers it needs. At the press conference, Minister Carr stated that he was “seeking external legal advice” on “the appropriateness” of giving the ombudsperson powers to compel witnesses and documents under the Inquiries Act and that the decision on this issue would be announced in June.

The government has also charged the office with investigating parties who allege corporate wrong-doing – in other words, investigating the victims of alleged human rights violations and/or those supporting victims in bringing a complaint.

This surprising inclusion will surely make it more difficult for victims to have legitimate complaints of corporate-related human rights abuses heard. It is also likely to place human rights defenders, whose physical integrity is often at risk, in even greater peril.

In April, two years following his mission to Canada, the chair of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, Surya Deva, returned to this country. He warned that Canada is falling behind other countries, such as France and Switzerland, that are passing laws to hold their companies to account when they cause harm overseas. Dr. Deva cautioned that Canada’s international reputation would be damaged if it failed to provide the ombudsperson with real investigatory powers.

While the Trudeau government may position itself as a champion of human rights and the rule of law, its new complaint mechanism speaks a different narrative. More important than the reputation of the government, however, is the fact that the lives and livelihoods of individuals and communities in other countries are at stake. This will remain the case until the Canadian government takes meaningful steps to incentivize Canadian companies to change the way they do business abroad.

* Penelope Simons is an associate professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa.

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Canadian mining companies pollute their own backyard too

 

Concerned Citizens of Quesnel Lake in British Columbia, Canada, have released a video unlike anything seen before. It was filmed by a remote underwater vehicle 50 metres below the surface of Quesnel Lake. And it has local people hot with anger.

What we see is a set of pipes from the Mount Polley mine leading straight into Quesnel Lake. A plume of untreated mine waste billows steadily into the water, hour after hour. These pipes pump up to 52 million litres of filth a day straight  into the water.

Locals say it’s disgusting and totally unacceptable. and want the company to get their pipes out of Quesnel Lake.

Would you drink this water?

Imperial Metals has never been held accountable for the tailings dam failure at the Mount Polley mine. The breach dumped 25 billion litres of contaminated sludge into the Fraser watershed. But the disaster didn’t stop. Five years later, the company is still polluting Quesnel Lake.

Quesnel Lake is home to nearly a quarter of B.C.’s sockeye salmon. Residents used to drink right out of the lake. Not anymore. Not with those pipes pumping out mine waste around the clock.

The Concerned Citizens of Quesnel Lake are a local grassroots group challenging Mount Polley’s discharge permit. But the company is fighting back with high-powered lawyers, trying to put the brakes on the appeal.

So now the citizens are calling on their government to step in and do what’s right as they say it is unconscionable to allow this company to continue polluting drinking water and freshwater salmon habitat.

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The ecological costs of Canadian mining

Julian Vigo | The Ecologist | 18th December 2018

Canadian mining companies are destroying the earth and disregarding human rights.

The commercial space company, Moon Express, has announced that it was setting up Moon Express Canada in order “to leverage Canadian space science and technology in the exploration of the Moon and its resources”.

What surprised me about this revelation was that Moon Express Canada is apparently planning to mine the moon with its partner companies on board.

Micro and nano space technology company Canadensys Aerospace Corporation, geological imaging company Gedex, LiDar systems developer Teledyne Optech, and mining technologies and robotics company Deltion Innovations, which has been outspoken about making Canada a leader in space mining.

Rights violation 

As I read the reports, I shook my head wondering how Canadian mining companies have been permitted to amass so much damage to the earth and human rights, much less now being enlisted to destroy the moon.

Canada is no stranger to ecological destruction in its mining practices, within the country and also in Latin America. The Mexican Network of Mining Affected People (REMA in Spanish) has been outspoken in recent years over the problems of Canadian mining on indigenous lands.

It has also criticised the use of the Canadian diplomatic corps to negotiate deals between Canadian mining companies and local leaders who violate the rights of the people to property, safe environment, open consultations with public consent, lawfulness and legal security.

One company which has effected enormous damage on Mexican land is Goldcorp, which has broken national laws in purchasing collectively owned property in Carrizalillo, Guerrero and in Mazapil, Zacatecas.

The encroachment of Canadian mining companies in Mexico today shows them operating 65 percent of the mining projects around the country, amounting to 850 mining projects at various stages of development from exploration through to construction and extraction.

Manipulate and abuse

These mining projects have resulted in serious health issues, environmental contamination and destruction, the criminalisation of social protest, as well as the use of threats, harassment, smear campaigns, surveillance, arbitrary detentions and the assassination of political leaders and activists who speak out against these mines.

Mariano Abarca was murdered after he opposed a Canadian mine in Chiapas where he was detained in 2009. In 2014 in Guerrero, Mexico, 43 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teacher Training College in Ayotzinapa, disappeared with no trace of their whereabouts, except for the remains of 19-year-old Alexander Mora Venancio.

Many believe that the recent and nearby inauguration of Torex Gold’s El Limón-Guajes gold mine in Cocula, Guerrero is related to these students’ disappearance and murder, given that a mine manager had already been murdered, workers kidnapped, and communities protesting over broken promises, contaminated water, and health problems.

Similarly the Honduran leader, Beta Cáceres, was murdered in her home on 3 March 2016 after recent protests against the construction of the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam in Río Blanco and various schemes to grab land from the people against which Cáceres was fully mobilised.

It is common to find these companies levelling criminal charges at the protestors – including sabotage, terrorism, rebellion, conspiracy, and incitement to commit crime.

Open-pit mine

Because of the money these companies attract to the local economy, their power within the community is tremendous – and this includes their ability to manipulate and abuse the local laws and collaborate with organised criminals.

In addition to human rights violation, there is grave ecological and biological damage produced by these Canadian mining  companies.

For instance, there is strong evidence of serious health impacts in Carrizallillo, Guerrero which was presented at the International People’s Health Tribunal in 2012 in connection with Goldcorp’s Los Filos mine, one of the largest gold mines in the world.

These impacts  included, but were not limited to, a high incidence of eye, skin, respiratory, and gastrointestinal problems, as well as a significant increase in premature births and malformations in newborns – and that’s just the shortlist.

Mining within Canada is no less controversial. It was recently announced that Gahcho Kué, an open-pit mine, is expected to produce between 6.6 million and 6.9 million carats of diamonds in 2019, and each year thereafter through the end of 2021. 

Disastrous effects

Gahcho Kué is one of the world’s largest new diamond mines which opened in September 2016 on a remote mine site on the Canadian tundra just on the edge of the Arctic Circle, and is jointly operated by De Beers and Mountain Province Diamonds.

While diamond mining is not Canada’s primary industry, Canada is the fifth largest diamond producer in the world and the ecological damage produced by diamond mining are well known.

Uranium levels in nearby Kennady Lake are expected to increase by a factor of 11,000 during the mine’s operation due to acid mine drainage which causes damage to the ecosystem.

Other common problems associated with diamond mining include erosion, formation of sinkholes, loss of biodiversity, and the contamination of soil, groundwater, and surface water by chemicals from mining processes.

Badly executed diamond mining has caused serious problems ranging from soil erosion, deforestation, and the forced migration of local populations. There are also many cases of diamond miners having re-routed rivers and constructed dams to expose riverbeds for mining, all with disastrous effects on fish and wildlife.

Consuming less

Just over the last few weeks, we have seen Canadian mining companies continue their expansion into Western Australia,  IndiaPapua New Guinea, the Republic of Guinea, and into Yukon and Nunavut.

While there seems to be little that individuals can do to stop these powerful companies, we need to address that the common denominator between mining and humans is our consumption.

With this knowledge in mind, it is imperative that we push back against mining, conduct a mental inventory of what we purchase and consume, and that we ask ourselves which objects which do we absolutely need to live and which items can we live without.

In the absence of an ecological revolution, the future of our planet depends on our ability to consume less. 

This Author 

Julian Vigo is an independent scholar, filmmaker and activist who specialises in anthropology, technology, and political philosophy. Her latest book is Earthquake in Haiti: The Pornography of Poverty and the Politics of Development (2015). You can follow her on Twitter at @lubelluledotcom

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Nautilus and Barrick Gold guilty of double standards

International Mining Companies have Colonial and Racist Double Standards

A case study comparing the performance of Canadian mining companies in their home country to their performance overseas has found dramatic double standards.

The the study has been published by the prestigious Peter Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia.

The report finds Canadian mining companies have been involved in major human rights violations in developing nations including slavery and forced labour, violence against unarmed protestors, sexual violence against women and gang rapes.

Despite the international condemnation of these actions, Canada has failed regulate the behaviour of its companies in their overseas operations.

The study provides a comparison of the regulatory regime for extractive companies operating in Canada versus that in Papua New Guinea.

The study shows how Canadian companies operating in Papua New Guinea, Nautilus Minerals and Barrick Gold, fail to maintain the same standards that apply in their home country.

The double standards apply across the whole spectrum of their operations including environmental assessment and consultation, forced evictions and other human rights abuses, violence and access to the courts, access to information and respect for free prior informed consent.

The report calls for mining companies to apply the same practices and standards across all countries where they operate and for accountability to be enforceable in their home nations.

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Nautilus Minerals Dives to New 12-Month Low at $0.11

Michael Baxter | X News Press | August 26, 2018

Nautilus Minerals Inc. share price hit a new 52-week low during trading on Friday . The stock traded as low as C$0.11 and last traded at C$0.11, with a volume of 14100 shares changing hands. The stock had previously closed at C$0.12.

See also:
Nautilus’ stock plummets as deep sea mining litigation proceeds
Nautilus Minerals tanks on shipbuilding contract cancellation
Anglo American divests from Nautilus over risks of deep sea mining

Nautilus Minerals Inc, a seafloor resource exploration company, explores and develops the ocean floor for copper, gold, silver, and zinc seafloor massive sulphide deposits. It also explores for manganese, nickel, and cobalt nodule deposits. The company’s principal project is the Solwara 1 project located in the Bismarck Sea, Papua New Guinea.

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Tiny Canada town defeats oil firm in court fight over drinking water

‘We are relieved that our right to protect our drinking water is finally recognised,’ said the mayor of Ristigouche Sud-Est. Photograph: Alex Ortega/Getty Images/EyeEm

Company sued Quebec township of 157 people after it created a no-drill zone, fearing for its water supply

Ashifa Kassam | The Guardian | 3 March 2018 

A small municipality in the Canadian province of Quebec that was facing a million-dollar lawsuit from an oil and gas exploration company has won its court battle, bringing an end to a four-year ordeal that began when residents took steps to protect their water supply.

“Reason and law prevailed today,” François Boulay, the mayor of Ristigouche Sud-Est, a township of 157 people on Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula, said in a statement. “We are relieved that our right to protect our drinking water is finally recognised.”

The clash traces its roots to 2011, when the province granted a Montreal-based company, Gastem, drilling permits to search for oil and gas in the eastern part of the province. Construction began on a drilling platform in the township’s territory.

Amid concerns from Ristigouche Sud-Est residents over how the drilling would affect municipal water sources, the town passed a bylaw in 2013 that set out a 2km (1.2-mile) no-drill zone around its water supply.

Gastem shot back with a lawsuit that claimed residents had created an illegal bylaw to prevent the project from moving forward. The company’s initial C$1.5m ($1.2m) claim for damages was later reduced to C$984,676 – a figure that was more than three times the township’s annual budget.

After years of mounting anxiety among residents, a judge at the superior court of Quebec ruled this week that Ristigouche Sud-Est was within its rights to protect its water supply.

“Far from being adopted in an untimely and hasty manner, the bylaw was the result of a serious effort to address the concerns and demands of Ristigouche’s citizens,” Judge Nicole Tremblay wrote in her decision. “Public interest, the collective well-being of the community and the safety of residents must be weighed for all projects introduced into a municipality.”

In the absence of any existing provincial laws to protect water sources, the municipality had the right to create its own, the judge added. She ordered the company to cover half of the municipality’s legal fees as well as provide an additional C$10,000 to cover other costs incurred as a result of the lawsuit.

Gastem, which has 30 days to appeal the ruling, did not respond to a request for comment.

As Ristigouche Sud-Est waged the years-long legal battle, support poured in from across Canada. A crowdfunding campaign, launched in 2014 as the township grappled with the idea of legal fees that could reach hundreds of thousands of dollars, has raised more than C$342,000 to date.

Municipal officials estimated that the court battle cost about C$370,000 in legal fees and said any funds remaining would be donated to similar causes.

“Today, we raise our glass of potable water to the health of Quebec’s water and to all of those who supported us,” said Boulay, the mayor. “Thanks to all of you, we were able to defend ourselves – and win.”

He cautioned that the battle was far from over. The township has joined forces with more than 350 other municipalities in the province to take aim at a 2014 law that set out a protected perimeter of 500 metres around potable water sources. The municipalities are calling on provincial authorities to expand this protected, no-drill zone to two kilometres.

Jean-François Girard, the lawyer representing the township, described this week’s ruling as a victory, given that the lawsuit was seemingly solely aimed at punishing the municipality for taking a stand. “You have to think about it, the tax base in Ristigouche consists of 84 people,” he told Radio-Canada.

The ruling that emerged could set an important precedent for municipalities as they seek to secure a healthy environment for their residents, he said. “This will force companies that want to sue municipalities to think twice if they don’t have legal grounds.”

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