Monthly Archives: May 2016

Africa: Council Says Africa’s Minerals Should Fuel Its Growth

29th May 2016

Africa should make proper use of its abundant mineral resources to fuel its socioeconomic development, advised the Governing Council of African Minerals and Geosciences Center (AMGC).

The Council says African countries should work in collaboration to benefit from their abundant mineral resources.

Chairperson of AMGC Tolasa Shagi said Africa’s largest mineral deposits can serve as key drivers in ending poverty and realizing economic growth. “Hence African mineral resources need to serve as key instruments for the attainment of sustainable socioeconomic development under the insurance of good governance, transparency and accountability,” Tolasa said.

Mentioning Ethiopia’s case, the AMGC Chairperson who is also Ethiopia’s Minister of Mines, Petroleum and Natural Gas said capacity limitations, lack of sufficient geo-science information and low level of local value addition, among others are the challenges in the mining industry in Ethiopia.

“These challenges I believe are also the challenges of the whole Africa that would be solved mainly through the coordinated effort,” Tolasa noted.


Will Canada Recognise Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Developing Countries Too?

By Aruna Dutt

UNITED NATIONS, May 19 2016 (IPS) – While Canada’s long-awaited support for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples brought hope and celebration last week, it’s not yet clear whether the rights of Indigenous people in developing countries harmed by Canadian mining companies will also be included.

The Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, told IPS that Canada’s support for the Declaration is a “breath of fresh air.”

For almost a decade, Ottawa had voted against the Declaration, a global set of collective human rights covering an array of indigenous issues. The Conservative government that was voted out last year claimed that the provision requiring government to consult indigenous groups before making any decision that might impact their way of life or their ability to exercise rights over traditional lands and territories would amount to a indigenous veto on major resource projects. Signing the Declaration would be ignoring the human rights of non-indigenous Canadians, it asserted.

Although in a significant turnaround for Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has accepted the declaration, Tauli-Corpuz cautioned that the government also has to be aware of how the numerous Canadian mining companies operating abroad are also putting a heavy toll on indigenous lives.

“Signing the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People as well as the demands of civil society are very likely to prompt action,” — Mercedes Garcia

It’s estimated that 75 percent of the world’s mining and exploration companies are based in Canada, and mining is one of Canada’s most economically powerful sectors.

Activists say as a global power-player in mining it is still a long way from protecting indigenous people elsewhere from the onslaught of mining interests.

“I do not think that the idea of free, prior and informed consent is being taken seriously by the Canadian government, whether concerning mining operations within Canada or abroad” Jennifer Moore, Mining Watch’s Latin America Project Coordinator, told IPS.

This central part of the declaration would not only entail consulting with Indigenous peoples but also respecting their right to consent – to say yes or no to policies and projects affecting them at every stage.

“The government carefully crafted its statements last week with regard to how it would interpret the UN declaration in Canada on the domestic front to try to preclude respect for the full extent of this right, ” said Moore. She says this is because the Liberal administration is still very committed to the same corporate-driven agenda of the prior government in many ways.

“Canada continues to view the problems with this industry as one of a few bad apples and a problem for Canada’s reputation rather than wanting to face up to the systematic harms taking place in Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities as the result of providing access to easy money while promoting and protecting the interests of a destructive development model around the world.”

‘“The Liberal government has so far been reaffirming past policies and practices of the former Conservative government concerning the globalized mining sector abroad.” she said.

This, Moore says, includes the dysfunctional complaints mechanisms in place that “(don’t) investigate complaints or determine whether or not companies actually abide by the standards the government supposedly promotes, let alone lead to any remedy or sanction.”

This lack of justice is a significant problem in Honduras, where the mining industry is mainly comprised of Canadian based companies, and the lives of those who dare to speak out about impacts on health, land, sacred spaces and their community fabric are threatened.

At least 109 people were killed in Honduras between 2010 and 2015, for taking a stand against destructive dam, mining, logging and agriculture projects according to Global Witness. Of the eight victims whose cases were publicly reported in 2015, six were from indigenous groups.

“Given the prominence of Canada in the mining sector in Honduras, it is fair to expect the Canadian government play a much more decisive role to contribute to put an end to such abuses,” Mercedes Garcia, Research Associate at Council of Hemispheric Affairs, told IPS.

Last month, Development and Peace and Mining Watch Canada called on Trudeau to give special attention to an open letter from close to 200 Latin American and international organizations urging sweeping change to Canada’s policy regarding the global mining sector.

Over 50 percent of Latin America’s mining investments come from Canada. Through a study of 22 mining projects carried out by Canadian companies in nine Latin American countries, a pattern of human rights violations related to large scale mining was discovered.

“Canada’s human rights performance has deteriorated considerably, not only in the eyes of the international community, but also from the perspective of the individuals, peoples, and communities that live with the negative impacts of Canadian extractive projects,” the letter says.

The letter demanded that the Canadian government ensure that their companies respect the decisions of numerous communities, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, who have said no to large-scale mining because of its severe damaging impacts on the environment and social well being. There has not been a response from the Trudeau administration about these concerns.

For Garcia, Canada’s support for the UN Declaration is a sign of hope.

“Signing the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People as well as the demands of civil society are very likely to prompt action,” said Garcia.

John McKay, a liberal MP said he expected Canada’s new government to try Bill C-300 again soon. Bill C-300, also known as the Responsible Mining Act, was a legislative initiative that intended to tighten regulations for Canadian corporations overseas in 2010 but that was not approved.

“Current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau voted in favor of the bill when he was in parliament, so it is likely that if brought to discussion, bill C-300 has a greater chance to be passed.” Garcia told IPS.

“Furthermore, several Guatemalan indigenous women seeking remedy for their abuses from workers of Canadian mining companies have been at times successful at bringing their cases to Canadian courts. Their cases are currently open, if ruled in their favor, this will represent a constructive new precedent and pathway for those victims seeking justice.”


Canada: PM urged to hold Canadian mining companies to account for abuses

By Deborah Gyapong, Canadian Catholic News

May 11, 2016

OTTAWA – The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace is urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to heed a letter from more than 160 Latin American organizations that has raised concerns about the operations of Canadian mining companies abroad.

Development and Peace and Mining Watch Canada released the open letter calling for mining justice. Sent in late April from a range of Caritas Internationalis partners, human rights, environmental, legal, indigenous and farmer organizations from the Global South, the signatories said they hoped the Liberal government would adopt “a legislative framework that would hold state agencies and companies to account for abuses related to Canadian mining companies’ overseas operations.”

“As activists, Latin American organizations and networks, along with international groups and organizations that have partners in Latin America, we are aware of and concerned about the human rights violations committed by Canadian mining companies operating in the region,” the letter said.

“Over the past few years, Hondurans have suffered negative impacts of Canadian mining, including pollution of our environment and of our water supplies by heavy metals, and communities’ rights to free, prior and informed consent have been ignored,” said Honduran Pedro Landa, whose Jesuit-run organization, Fundacion ERIC, is a signatory of the letter.

“A response to this letter is urgently needed from the Canadian government, given heightened repression of mining-affected communities in the region defending their land, water and well-being,” said Jen Moore, Latin America co-ordinator for MiningWatch. “Not only are Latin organizations insisting on accountability for harms, but that harms be prevented in the first place.”

Among the letter’s recommendations are: respect for the rights of indigenous communities to “free, prior and informed consent” for any mining activities on their territories; an end to Canadian government trade, diplomatic or aid pressure to modify regulations for mining and extractive projects; access to Canadian courts for those seeking justice or reparations for abuses; and “creation of objective and impartial means to effectively monitor and investigate complaints of abuses in connection with Canadian mining companies abroad.”

“This document was delivered to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and to the Canadian Mission to the Organization of American States, the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Canadian embassies in countries where the 22 mining projects examined in the report operate, namely: Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Colombia, Chile, Argentina and Peru,” said the April 25 letter to Trudeau. “This report recognizes the efforts of various Canadian parliamentarians, including members of the Liberal Party, towards the adoption of a legislative framework that would hold Canadian mining companies accountable for their acts carried out overseas.”

The letter praised Liberal MP John McKay’s Bill C-300 which called for a legislation to hold Canadian mining companies accountable for environmental and human rights abuses abroad, a bill the letter noted Trudeau supported. This bill failed to pass by only six votes in 2010.

The letter opens with an expression of “satisfaction at the change in the political landscape that has followed (Trudeau’s) election as leader of the Canadian government,” such as the creation of a diverse cabinet commitment to the rights of indigenous peoples and a constructive approach to climate change negotiations.

“Several of the signatory organizations are partner organizations of Development and Peace whose work in the field has been directly affected by Canadian mining,” said Development and Peace’s Latin American program officer Mary Durran in a news release. “We support their demands for improved oversight by Ottawa of Canadian companies in their overseas operations.”

Development and Peace called attention to the letter’s observation that “Canada’s human rights performance deteriorated considerably, not only in the eyes of the international community, but also from the perspective of the individuals, peoples and communities that live with the negative impacts of Canadian extractive projects” under previous governments.


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Latin America Programs Officer

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Canada: Liberals pushed mining accountability internationally in opposition, should lead on it now

The New York Times recently published a story on Canadian mining firms’ abroad and focused on the Guatemalan village of Lote Oche, where Margarita Caal Caal along with 10 other women have launched a negligence suit in Canada against Hudbay Minerals Inc. after she and 10 other women claimed that in 2007 “truckloads of soldiers, police officers and mining security officials and men, who said belonged to a Canadian mining company” came to their village to evict them from their land, took turns raping the women, and set their homes on fire. Hudbay, which was not the owner of the mine at the time, and does not own the mine anymore, denies any wrongdoing, saying no mining security officials were at the Lote Ocho evictions and that no rapes took place. It is also facing claims over the death of a local leader and the shooting and paralysis of a bystander during protests in the nearby town of El Estor in 2009, reported The New York Times. Hudbay says no negligence took place in 2009 when it owned the mine and that security guards were defending themselves from armed protesters.

According to Global Affairs Canada, more than 50 per cent of the world’s publicly-listed exploration and mining companies were headquartered in Canada in 2013, including 1,500 companies with an interest in 8,000 properties in more than 100 countries around the world.

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs, based in Washington, D.C., released a report in 2014 revealing that Canadian companies control approximately 50 to 70 per cent of Latin America mining industries, but the consequences of large-scale mining production by Canadian firms also involves “extensive collateral damage to the environment. Metal mining can lead to erosion and sedimentation, the formation of sinkholes, and the contamination of waters and rivers by chemicals such as arsenic, aluminum, magnesium, iron, and mercury.” As well,“Canadian mining corporations have demonstrated a disregard for registered nature reserves and protected zones.” The report also said,“each year, a number of protesters who raise concerns against mining activities are seriously injured, persecuted, or even killed.”

Here in Canada, the new federal Liberal government is not saying much about calling for stronger mechanisms for holding mining companies accountable. As The Hill Times reported recently, several cabinet ministers with related files either dodged or declined questions from reporter Peter Mazereeuw, or declined to say whether change to existing government mining accountability policy was needed.

The new federal Liberal government should establish a code of conduct in the mining and exploration industries abroad and it should move on Liberal MP John McKay’s former private member’s bill from the last Parliament to create an ombudsman to investigate complaints of violations of human rights, international criminal law, and environmental degradation. The Liberals pushed it in opposition and during the campaign, they should lead on it in government.