Tag Archives: Canada

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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New watchdog to investigate Canadian companies for human rights abuses

Hilary Beaumont | Vice News | January 18, 2018

The Canadian government is creating a new watchdog to investigate human rights abuses by Canadian companies operating overseas, fulfilling a Liberal campaign promise.

Canadian companies have long faced accusations of human rights abuses abroad, including gang rapes by security guards at a mine in Papua New Guinea operated by Toronto-based Barrick Gold, and the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh that killed more than 1,000 workers who were making clothes for Joe Fresh, a brand owned by Canadian company Loblaws.

Canadian companies employ workers in developing countries to make clothing and mine materials that end up in electronics, but these mines and factories are often subject to lax regulations. When human rights abuses arise, there can be little recourse for complainants due to police corruption and weak justice systems on the ground, and lack of access to remedies through Canada’s courts.

‘RIGHT THING TO DO’

The new ombudsperson’s office will independently investigate abuse allegations against businesses operating overseas, including in the mining, textile and oil and gas sectors. The ombudsperson will have the power to request documents from companies and the power to gather testimony from witnesses. Canada’s trade minister François-Philippe Champagne said the ombudsperson will have “all the tools and resources to ensure compliance.” The watchdog’s recommendations will be made public, and the ombudsperson’s office will have the ability to withdraw government funding from companies.

There will also be a multi-stakeholder body to advise the ombudsperson and the government. That advisory body will include representatives from the mining, oil and gas and apparel sectors, as well as human rights and labour advocacy organizations, and an Indigenous representative.

“I’m adamant that Canada is to be second to none when it comes to business and human rights,” Canada’s trade minister François-Philippe Champagne said Wednesday. “This is not just the right thing to do, but that’s what Canadians expect from us.”

Advocacy organizations have waited more than a decade for this announcement, calling it “long overdue.” But critics are pointing out that the ombudsperson’s mandate will not include investigating environmental violations, which are often wound up in human rights abuses.

ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTIONS

Liberal MP John McKay, who has pushed for mining industry oversight for years, stood next to the minister as he made the announcement. McKay’s private members bill to create a similar ombudsperson’s office was killed in 2010. It was only six votes short of passing.

Similar to the new ombudsperson’s office announced Wednesday, McKay’s bill called for the ability to withdraw government support and funding to companies found to be breaching human rights.

“The only significant difference is that they’re not going to do environmental investigations,” McKay told VICE News of the new ombudsperson. “Not quite sure why they arrived at that decision, but there’s a lot of interaction between environmental rights and human rights.”

Everlyn Guape, who was brutally sexually assaulted by security guards near the Barrick Gold mine in Porgera, Papua New Guinea, told VICE News she wanted to thank everyone who fought for the creation of the ombudsperson’s office.

Locals near the mine have also accused the company of contaminating their river. Guape added that “humanity depends on the environment,” so environmental abuses should also be investigated.

“This coexistence cannot be deliberately ignored by Canadian corporations and the government of Canada,” she warned.

‘INDEPENDENT AND EFFECTIVE’

Reacting to the government’s announcement, Barrick Gold said it supports the “additional accountability mechanism for Canadian businesses operating overseas, focused on dialogue and conflict resolution.”

“We look forward to engaging with the ombudsperson in a transparent and constructive manner, to assure Canadians that mining activities continue to generate economic and social benefits for host communities and governments, while respecting human rights.”

Advocacy organization Mining Watch Canada has been pushing for an effective ombudsperson since 2005, Catherine Coumans, the group’s research coordinator, said in a statement.

“We will continue to press the government to ensure that the ombuds office is independent and effective, and has adequate resources to do its job.”

Coumans added that additional measures still need to be taken, including allowing complainants access to Canadian courts to sue Canadian companies for rights violations overseas, and allowing communities free, prior and informed consent before new resource projects go ahead.

In a Canadian Network on Corporate Responsibility survey before the 2015 election, the Liberals stated they would “set up an independent ombudsman office to advise Canadian companies, consider complaints made against them, and investigate those complaints where it is deemed warranted.”

The Liberals also committed to act on the recommendations of a 2007 National Roundtable on Corporate Social Responsibility and the Canadian Extractive Industry in Developing Countries.

But they have not committed to making Canada’s courts open to legal action from complainants in other countries.

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Guatemalan women take on Canada’s mining giants over ‘horrific human rights abuses’

Irma Yolanda Choc Cac in her community of Lote Ocho. The women link the violence to the nearby Fenix mine, and the Guatemalan subsidiary controlled by Canda’s Skye Resources. Photograph: Alexandra Pedersen

A group of indigenous Maya Q’eqchi’ women has launched a precedent-setting legal challenge that could cast a chill over Canada’s vast mining interests

Ashifa Kassam | The Guardian | 13 December 2017 

On the 20th floor of an office tower in the heart of Toronto’s financial district, Irma Yolanda Choc Cac’s bright pink embroidered blouse and handwoven skirt contrasted with the suits of the lawyers around her as she detailed the hardest day of her life.

It was the first time Choc Cac had ever left Guatemala. But the story that she and 10 other Maya Q’eqchi’ women had come to tell is at the heart of a precedent-setting legal challenge pitting indigenous people against a transnational corporation – and which has cast a chill over Canada’s vast mining industry.

The case centres on allegations dating back to 2007, when the women say hundreds of police, military and and private security personnel linked to a Canadian mining company descended on the secluded village of Lote Ocho in eastern Guatemala.

A few days earlier, security personnel had set dozens of homes ablaze in a bid to force the villagers off their ancestral lands, according to court documents.

But on 17 January, the men were out in the fields, tending to crops of corn and cardamom, and the women were alone. The 11 women say they were raped repeatedly by the armed men. Choc Cac – three months pregnant at the time – was with her 10-year-old daughter when she was seized by the men, some of whom were in uniform. Twelve of the men raped her, she said. She later suffered a miscarriage.

The women link the violence to the nearby Fenix mine – one of the largest nickel mines in central America – and the Guatemalan subsidiary that was overseeing its operations. At the time, the subsidiary was controlled by Vancouver-based Skye Resources. In 2008, Skye was acquired by Toronto’s Hudbay Minerals, who sold the mine to a Russian company in 2011.

A team of Toronto lawyers seized on the Canada connection, filing civil lawsuits that argue that the Canadian parent company, later acquired by Hudbay, was negligent when it came to monitoring the actions of its Guatemalan subsidiary.

The lawsuits may offer a legal means of addressing a longstanding obstacle for human rights campaigners: the perceived legal disconnect between multinationals and the local subsidiaries who carry out their operations abroad.

“These are some of the first attempts in Canadian legal history to try and bring some accountability to a Canadian mining company for horrific human rights abuses in another country,” said Cory Wanless of Klippensteins Barristers and Solicitors, the Toronto law firm representing the women.

The novel approach scored its first victory in 2013, when a court in Ontario dismissed an application by Hudbay to throw out the case. The decision marked the first time in Canada that foreign claimants had been granted access to the courts in order to pursue Canadian companies for alleged human rights abuses abroad.

The Guatemalan women last month travelled to Toronto for the case’s discovery phase, fielding hours of questions from lawyers for the company.

“It’s difficult to sit down and face them,” said Choc Cac, speaking through a translator because she only speaks Qéqchi’. “To sit down in front of those who caused this pain to me and my community.”

The Qéqchi’ women at the lawyers’ office in Toronto. Photograph: Grahame Russell

At one point during the questioning, she fainted. “Because to remember it all is like living through it all over again,” she explained, tears rolling down her face.

The women’s lawsuit is one of three the community has filed against Hudbay in Ontario. The other two link the company to the 2009 death of a local activist, Adolfo Ich Chamán, as well as a shooting that left a 28-year-old man paralysed.

None of the allegations has been proved in court.

Hudbay has disputed the allegations, pointing out on its website that the evictions were carried out before their involvement with the mine. The court-ordered, state-sponsored evictions were carried out peacefully and security personnel representing the mine were not present, according to the company.

In a statement to the Guardian, Hudbay added:

“The lawsuits assert very serious allegations, which don’t reflect how we operate.”

The sensitive nature of the allegations may make it hard for some to reserve judgment, it said.

“However, we hope that people will accept the facts are in dispute, the matter is before the courts and we can trust our legal process to deliver a just decision based on the actual evidence and testimony.”

The case is being closely watched across Canada, home to more than 50% of the world’s publicly listed exploration and mining companies. In 2013, these 1,500 companies held interests in 8,000 properties in more than 100 countries around the world, according to the Canadian government.

“All the important corporate, investor and political decisions that resulted in these very serious harms and violations were taken in Canada. This is our problem. It’s a very Canadian problem,” said Grahame Russell of Rights Action.

A 2014 report by the Washington-based Council of Hemispheric Affairs estimated that Canadian mining corporations control 50 to 70 percent of the mining industry in Latin America, putting them at the forefront of a sector that has been linked to breaches of indigenous rights and a disregard for nature reserves.

The United Nations has also singled out Canadian mining companies and called on authorities to better regulate the sector.

The lawsuits against Hudbay are unlikely to reach court for years, said Wanless.

But they have already paved the way for similar cases, including a legal challengethat links a Vancouver-based company to allegations of modern slavery. “We’re really hopeful that this is the beginning of a trend,” said Wanless.

The strength and courage of the 11 women behind the lawsuit had given rise to a new precedent that could shift corporate behaviour around the world, he said.

“The good thing about that is that it sends a message to all other mining companies: if something like this happens on your watch, you can be sued. These Guatemalans came to Canada and changed our law for the better.”

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Canadian First Nations reject mining proposal after conducting their own intensive review

The proposed location at Pípsell is a sacred, culturally and historically important site to the First Nations. Photo: Wilderness Committee

Could this be a model for communities in Papua New Guinea? 

Rather than relying on mining company propaganda, lets do our own independent assessments of mining proposals…

KGHM Ajax Mining Inc. wants to build the Ajax open-pit copper and gold mine near the city of Kamloops, British Columbia in Canada

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The Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepemc Nation (SSN) representing the First Nation communities in the area conducted their own thorough 18-month review of the project and have said NO to the Ajax mine project.

The SSN reviewed 20,000 pages of information and over 300 reports. They held a public comment period and heard from over 80 experts at an oral panel hearing.

From what they learned the SSN determined that the project is too risky for the health and well-being of the Secwepemc and everyone else.

The federal government has committed to a fairer environmental assessment process and to respecting the rights and title of Indigenous Peoples. Will they honour that commitment and reject the Ajax mine for good?

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