Monthly Archives: February 2017

Zimbabwe: Turning Our Mining Resources Into Blessings

Financial Gazette (Harare)
16 FEBRUARY 2017

OPINION

PARADOXICALLY, despite the prospect of wealth that accompany the discovery of natural resources in Africa, such endowments all too often impede than rather than accelerate development. Zimbabwe is no exception.

Natural resources have been shown to play a key role in the conflicts that have plagued a number of African countries over the last decade, both motivating and fuelling armed conflicts. Revenues from the exploitation of natural resources are not only used for sustaining armies, but also for personal enrichment and building political support. As a result, they can become obsta.cles where predatory coalitions involved in exploitation of mineral resources are unwilling to give up control over these resources.

As long as the majority of African communities face poverty with increasing unequal distribution of income that is fuelled by skewed ownership of mining resources, Africa will continue to be underdeveloped.

In the case of Zimbabwe, although the country is at “peace”, the exploitation of mineral resources continues to be used by the ruling ZANU-PF party’s predatory cabal as a source for self-enrichment and patronage at the expense of development.

The African Development Bank estimated in the last decade, Zimbabwe has lost close to US$12 billion worth of mining revenue that have found their way out of the country through illicit financial flows ranging from secret financial deals, tax avoidance and illegal commercial activities. It is also estimated that Zimbabwe loses close to US$50 million a month in smuggled gold.

The Zimbabwean mining sector is technically classified into three classes: Large-scale, small-scale and artisanal mining. Zimbabwean legislation recognises large-scale and small-scale mining but does not differentiate between the two. Of the three classes of mining, artisanal mining employs by far the most people: 500 000 (or 10 times the number of people employed by large-scale mines). Small-scale and artisanal miners produce a third of Zimbabwe’s total gold output. Most of this gold is smuggled out of Zimbabwe resulting in massive illicit financial flows (IFFs).

According to the World Bank (WB), small-scale diamond mining “is often a poverty driven activity, typically practiced in poor and remote rural areas of a country by a largely itinerant and poorly-educated population with few other employment alternatives. More often than not, in the absence of functioning state regulatory frameworks and enforcement capabilities, it is conducted illegally”.

Despite this, WB projects Zimbabwe’s value of minerals to increase from about US$2,1 billion in 2012 to around US$8 billion, if not more, by 2018. The mining sector remains the leading economic sector in Zimbabwe and is expected to contribute in excess of 20 percent to gross domestic product in 2017. In 2012 alone, the sector contributed US$2,3 billion to national exports, representing far above 50 percent of the country’s total merchandise exports and the country’s total foreign exchange earnings.

Zimbabwe is well endowed with numerous mineral resources with 40 different minerals and 800 operating mines, but even this government has admitted that it is failing to unlock the full potential of this country. Without strong institutions and good macro policies, even the very best mining policies will not deliver the investment output, jobs and exports that we need.

The key success factors for the effective management and allocation of mining resources lie in;

1. Policy consistency and accountability

2. Crackdown on corruption and IFFs

3. Effective and fair tax laws

4. Capital mobilisation

5. Infrastructure development

6. Beneficiation where it makes economic sense

The lack of political will to decisively deal with issues of government policy and institutions is a recurring problem in all sectors of the economy. In addition, Zimbabwe’s resources predator coalition remains intact backed by the army and intelligence services and it will be difficult to dismantle it. But as long as it is in place, I doubt that we will be able to have full accountability of the country’s mining assets and the revenues there from.

We have to deal with patronage in State enterprises such as the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation and the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe, which have been mired in corruption, lack of transparency and lack of accountability. These companies have been hijacked by a predator cabal and continue to serve political interests and not national interest. As a result shady deals and revenue leaks are rife costing the tax base significant resources that could have been utilised for economic and social development.

The issue of the taxation of mining companies continues to discourage foreign direct investments. Mining companies in Zimbabwe are required to pay a plethora of taxes which include, royalties, corporate tax, resource depletion fee, marketing fees and withholding tax on dividends. This excludes any “deal introduction fees” negotiated under the radar by politicians and politically connected compradors in order to issue permits and licences. Such practices are not only un-attractive to foreign investors, but can result in opaque high start or establishment costs.

With regards to corruption, we must never forget that there is an international cabal that is predatory which normally partners with locals predatory coalitions to exploit minerals in developing countries. The international “looting machine” is highly organised and normally has support from the highest offices in Africa. This predatory cabal continues to bleed Africa of its heritage and Zimbabwe is no exception.

With regard to beneficiation, this is a good policy, but we must be careful that any beneficiation proposals actually create viable enterprises that are sustainable. We must stop exporting our raw minerals and re-industrialise to create sustainable incomes and manufacturing enterprises.

Zimbabwe has historically added value to its chromite to produce ferrochrome, the use of coal in power stations, gold refining, iron ore to steel, smelting of nickel, the production of platinum concentrate and matte. The issue has been the creation of linkages with the industrial sector to manufacture finished products and that requires a paradigm shift and new technologies.

However, underlying all this must be the rehabilitation of energy sector, transport network especially railways and water resources. This includes a cost reduction of these mining inputs which remain unsustainably high.

The establishment of a Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) is a good idea, however without the necessary ethics; it could turn out to be another slush fund for a government that is not accountable. The SWF can indeed be viable where there is disciplined fiscal management and there is no temptation to use that money for recurrent expenditure. That is the greatest risk we shall face. The SWF, can shift resources from consumption, which is far too high in Zimbabwe (90 percent of gross domestic product), to savings and – if properly managed — efficient investment.

Above everything else a long term vision to develop and broaden our mining base, attraction of foreign direct investment and transparency with regard to transaction and revenues, will be the critical success factors for a viable mining sector that benefits all Zimbabweans.

Vince Musewe is an author and independent economist.

SOURCE: http://allafrica.com/stories/201702160291.html

Guatemala: More attempts made to suspend Las Lajitas license

Feb 10, 2017

By Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA)

On January 24, residents from the municipalities of Casillas and San Rafael las Flores filled the courtroom to hear arguments in a civil suit against the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) that seeks the cancellation of a mining concession in their communities. Casillas resident Bernabé Rivas appealed to the court, expressing concern and frustration that community opposition to mining has been ignored.

The communities have filed a complaint against the Ministry for having granted the concession despite the results of the 2011 municipal referenda in Casillas in which 98.6% of voters rejected metal mining in their municipality. They have filed an additional complaint for the violation of their human right to water and a healthy environment.

The exploration license known as Las Lajitas was granted by MEM in 2015 and is located approximately five miles southwest of Tahoe Resources’ controversial Escobal mine. In his remarks, Rivas told the judges that their municipality has seen firsthand the impacts the Escobal mine has had in polluting and drying out community water supplies. He explained that their farming communities rely on coffee, corn, and bean cultivation and the negative impacts to water as a result of the mining project would seriously impact their way of life.

This complaint forms part of a broader regional strategy that seeks to stop Las Lajitas in its early phases. Similar complaints against MEM have been filed by the municipality of Casillas, represented by the Guatemalan Center for Environmental and Social Legal Action (CALAS), for having violated the municipality’s right to consultation. While that complaint was initially blocked by a lower court from proceeding, the Constitutional Court overturned the decision and, on December 21, 2016, ordered the temporary suspension of the license. It remains unclear if MEM has acted on the orders of the court and temporarily suspended the license.

Juan Rodríguez Cano, the President of the Guardians of Nature of Casillas, made the following statement outside the court on January 24:

“It is deplorable that this is happening in Guatemala, even after we are seeing the problems in the municipality of San Rafael las Flores as a result of the Escobal mine. We have seen water shortages. The houses in the community of La Cuchilla are now uninhabitable. We see the polluted rivers and the conflict in communities [that has arisen as a result of mining projects]. We see that the Public Prosecutor’s office is more aligned with corporate interests than the people.

We hope that the municipality of Casillas will be free to uphold the results of the referendum in which the municipality said ‘no’ to mining activities and to the pollution of our water and earth.”

The judges did not announce a date in which they would issue a decision.

Like in many cases in Guatemala and around the world, communities were not informed nor gave their consent before the license was granted. While the Las Lajitas concession was awarded to an individual – Esperanza Elizabeth Castro Picón – communities have discovered that it may, in fact, be tied to Canadian mining company Gunpoint Exploration. No record of the Escorpión license can be found at MEM; information on the company’s website shows that it is located in the same area as Las Lajitas license and was granted on the same day, leading communities to believe if may be the same license.

Residents from Casillas and San Rafael las Flores wrote to the President of Gunpoint Exploration last July to demand more answers and ask why his company had chosen to go forward with a project despite the firm decision by communities in the area against mining. To date, there has been no response. Read the full letter sent to Randy Reifel, CEO of Gunpoint Exploration.

NISGUA has provided international accompaniment and advocacy support to communities resisting Tahoe Resources since 2011, amplifying their voices as they fight for community self-determination.

More attempts made to suspend Las Lajitas license

__

Jennifer Moore
Latin America Program Coordinator
MiningWatch Canada
tel: 613.569.3439 / fax: 613.569.5138

www.miningwatch.ca
https://www.facebook.com/MiningWatch
twitter: @MiningWatch

SOURCE: http://nisgua.org/more-attempts-made-to-suspend-las-lajitas-license/

Tanzania: Acacia Mining CEO Finally Admits in Public – “…Critics May Have a Valid Point”

10 FEBRUARY 2017
Tanzania Business Ethics (Dar es Salaam)

By Samantha Cole

This week at the Indaba 2017 Convention in Cape Town, Brad Gordon, the CEO of Acacia Mining, gave his speech and presentation. We found a copy of the presentation on the Acacia Mining website.

Is Mr. Gordon finally waking up to the reality that Tanzanian’s are not as sleepy as he and Kelvin Dushnisky thought? And all the Barrick Gold Board of Directors? And all the Acacia Mining Board of Directors? They all sit overseas in their posh offices earning hundreds of millions of US Dollars a year and they use all sorts of schemes not to pay their fair and legal taxes in Tanzania?

We are proud of our President, Dr. Magufuli, for standing up in public this past year and fighting the war on behalf of his Nation against corruption and fraud and tax evasion. And make no mistake, President Magufuli has made his point publically and blatantly about Acacia Mining. Is that the reason that Acacia Mining is starting a process to run away from Tanzania and start mining in other African countries?

After all, according to the website of Tanzania’s Ministry of Mines, Acacia Mining have many dozens of mining licenses for new concessions. Can it be that the concessions are all bad and useless and have no value? Are all of the concessions so poor that Acacia must go buying into mining in Kenya, and Mali and Burkino Fasso?

Kelvin Dushnisky, the Chairman of Acacia Mining and the President of Barrick Gold, and all his colleagues, have all learned the hard way that the days of manipulating “the little Black man” are gone. They are all shocked by President Magufuli’s courage and wisdom to protect his Nation by stopping the corruption, fraud and tax evasion.

Can you blame our President if he thinks the old fashion saying;

“I don’t know what’s worse: People who lie, or people who think I am stupid enough to believe their lies.”

Brad Gordon said in an interview in Cape Town that “… we need to look at the distribution of that wealth and how taxes are paid”. What are we missing here? Since when does our Government and the TRA (Revenue Authorities) need Acacia Mining to look at how taxes are paid? And if Mr. Gordon intended that Acacia needs to look internally at how to pay their taxes, that is even worse because for better or worse, Acacia must pay taxes according to TRA demands. Whatever way you choose to understand Mr. Gordon’s statement, it is a disgrace and a slap in our Governments face.

We see here what hypocrites these Barrick Gold and Acacia Mining people really are. Look at these double standards using the Acacia presentation on their website:

(The cherry on the top comes at the end… )

On page 4, Acacia writes about “Our Strategy” and they claim that they work towards zero harm; additional focus on Government dialogue; delivery on community commitments; enhanced public relations profile.

How deceitful can Mr. Gordon be? Is this the same company who has been reported for murder, rape, environment destruction, corruption, tax evasion, fraud and the list goes on? How can Acacia claim all the above when the reality is out in the public domain and the truth is quite the opposite of their claims?

On page 5, Acacia writes about “Our Operating Philosophy” and they claim that they create a sustainable competitive advantage based on core competencies and that they will never outsource Government and community relationships.

It is clear to us Tanzanians that Acacia Mining and Barrick Gold will do whatever it takes to create your competitive edge – at any cost, regardless if legal or if you need some corrupt assistance like the media reported about the corruption investigation ongoing with Acacia and one or more officials in the Ministry of Mines who allegedly acted for Acacia against a local company called Bismark Mining & Hotel.

Now let’s look at what Acacia writes on this page that they “will never outsource Government and community relationships”.

Is this a joke? Or sarcasm? Or an insult to our President?

The two things Acacia desperately needs in Tanzania are relationships with our Government and with our communities (around Acacia operations).

So, Mr. Gordon, you clearly need to replace all your senior staff at your Dar offices since they are obviously making a total mess. And your top “Mr. Fix-it” (as people in your Dar office call him) urgently needs to be replaced as he is causing more trouble in Tanzania than you realize (whilst you and Mr. Kelvin Dushnisky sit overseas in your offices).

Therefore, your statement about “never outsource… .” needs to be reversed and you should immediately appoint a local Tanzanian specialist company to provide “relationship” services to Acacia Mining and Barrick Gold.

Oh, we almost forgot about your announcement this week that you plan to spend about US$ 2 million on a campaign in Tanzania, in print, radio and television, to boost and improve the Acacia Mining name and image and reputation.

Needless to say that in the near future, you will add this US$ 2 million to your total that you “invested in Tanzania” and then you will brag to the world how much money Acacia contributes to the economy here.

But in fact, you are wasting your US$ 2 million. The People don’t need to hear more blah-blah words and see propaganda pictures.

We want to watch you pay your taxes and export royalties legally and morally without any “changes” to the mixture of copper and gold in the mining sand.

We want to see that you stop destroying our environment.

We want to know that you are fighting corruption and not feeding it.

Stop with the problems and fix your relationship with our Government.

What is so difficult about that? You can cancel your US$ 2 million campaign – it is unnecessary. Your actions speaks louder than your words.

Barrick Gold messed up in Tanzania. Acacia Mining inherited the Barrick mess and added to the mess. Start a fresh page and fix all the mess and move onwards with a new start which will surely rally the support of the Government and the People behind you. So what if it costs you money and your profits are less for a year or two but then after that, you will fly in Tanzania!

MORE ON THIS
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On page 7, Acacia writes more about “Relationships – Mining & Governments” and that Acacia needs to address misconceptions about the mining industry and Acacia continues with the following that can only be defined as fantasy fanfare:

>>…a lack of trust between mining companies and Governments

>>…lack of communication led to an ‘imagination gap’ between the realities faced by mining operations and the perceptions of Government

>> … . need a fresh approach to re-boot these relationships

>> … . need to address misconceptions about the mining industry and the cycle of mistrust needs to be broken and a shared narrative developed

What misconceptions is Acacia Mining referring to?

Is murder not murder?

Is rape not rape?

How terrible must environment damage be before it is called what it really is?

Is there a legal kind of corruption and fraud?

Are Tanzanian’s all so dense and dimwitted that all the crimes and deceit that we are exposed to on Barrick Gold and Acacia Mining’s part, are ALL MISCONCEPTIONS? Is this yet another insult and slap in our President’s face and indeed in the faces of all Tanzanians? In fact, is it not true that Acacia holds the “cycle of trust” in their hands to fix?

The Tanzania Nation will agree you need to re-boot your relationship and you need to do it urgently. Start with our President first. But pay all your taxes before you ask for a meeting.

On page 9, Acacia writes more about “Highlighting our contribution” and they are quick to state that over US$3 billion of capital invested into Tanzania in the last 15 years and they built three mines and expanded a fourth.

Sadly, Acacia are not quick to include how badly their mother company, Barrick Gold manipulated and abused the Tanazania mining system in 2013 by closing down the Tulawaka Mine and transferring it to Stamico (Tanzania’s State Mining Corporation).

In doing so, Barrick Gold weaseled and slithered (in the lowest sense possible) themselves away from the complete responsibility of the full rehabilitation of the mine and the surrounding area of land. It was public knowledge how terribly Barrick Gold exploited the weaknesses and flaws in the system (should we go down the road of corruption here as well?)

The bottom line was that Barrick Gold walked away from the Tulawaka Mine, laughing all the way to the bank. Is this not an insult of the highest degree that this disgusting Tulawaka scandal by Barrick Gold is included in this “highlighting our contribution”? Talk about laughing in our faces!?

On page 10, Acacia writes about “Aligning with Government aims” and they have the audacity to include the words: Free from corruption. Really? Seriously?

Any Google research of tax evasion shows that corruption and tax evasion are coupled together. There are multiple millions of links in Google that highlight this point.

Barrick Gold and Acacia Mining – “Free from corruption”? Astounding that they can even write these words! Twice, within 6 months last year, Barrick – Acacia were found guilty of tax evasion.

On page 11, Acacia writes about “Creating high-tech hubs” and they are proud to state that every year they move over 40 million tonnes of earth and they utilise the best global technology to make this happen. In addition, they claim their mines are as advanced as any mine in the world.

Frankly, who could possibly doubt this? After all, they list above over US$3 billion of capital invested into Tanzania in the last 15 years. Probably close to all that money has been for Barrick Gold (Acacia Mining) and they have to impress their shareholders who demand dividends, so?

Is Acacia Mining to be complimented for achieving this? Should less be expected?

Finally, on page 13, they write “Aiming to create Sustainable Communities” and they continue declaring that their goal is to create communities that enjoys good access to strategic social infrastructure such as health services, water and sanitation and education. Does Acacia Mining have no shame to write about water (amongst other factors) where they know that the North Mara mine is a huge problem for water in the region but they successfully swept this under the carpet. (Is this more “free from corruption”?)

Anyone researching North Mara water will see water problems going back many, many years! But let’s try be objective and look only at the past 12 months.

In January and February 2016, the media reported that due to complaints from communities around North Mara mine, the Government were investigating the water and they wanted proof via testing that the water was safe. Even Deputy Environment Minister Luhaga Mpina personally took a leading part in the investigation. What results from water testing?

Nothing! All swept under the carpet.

One of our group contacted Dep. Minister Mpina directly to ask for the progress of the testing.

Nothing! All swept under the carpet. (Is this more “free from corruption”?)

However, on 3 May 2016, a laboratory testing report was published on behalf of the National Ground Water Association regarding the North Mara water. Very briefly, as a summary, the report stated:

>> Eleven trace elements (Al, As, Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Fe, Mn, Ni, Pb, and Zn) were determined, and averages of Fe and Al concentrations were higher than levels accepted by the Tanzanian drinking water guideline.

>> Levels of Pb in three samples were higher than the World Health Organization (WHO) and United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) drinking water guidelines of 10 and 15 µg/L, respectively.

>> One sample contained a higher As level than the WHO and USEPA guideline of 10 µg/L.

>> Analysis confirmed a relationship between element concentration and distance of a sampling site from the mine tailings dam. This relationship raises concerns about the increased risks of trace elements to people and ecosystem health.

>> A metal pollution index also suggested a relationship between elemental concentrations in the groundwater and the sampling sites’ proximity from the mine tailings dam.

On 20 June 2016, this writer contacted Dep. Minister Mpina again. This time, the question was regarding the TSh 40 million fines that Dep Minister Mpina was involved in issuing in January 2016 for companies breaching environment management laws and regulations. Dep Minister shrugged off the question and simply answered “Thanx Samantha NEMC will respond accordingly”.

Nothing! All swept under the carpet.

On 18 July 2016, the media reported that residents in communities around the region near the Acacia North Mara Gold Mine still insisted that the water was not safe for human consumption.

After that…Nothing! All swept under the carpet.

We are now one year past Dep Minister Mpina’s on site investigation where he took water samples. And no solution to this ever surfaced. And the risk and danger still remains for the women, men, elderly, children and their animals and cattle in communities around the region near the Acacia North Mara Gold Mine – and we did not even raise the danger factors for the fish and water fauna and flora in the rivers and streams in that region.

As much as our President Magufuli is busy and under pressure with managing our country’s affairs, we hope the President will agree that this is a matter of possible fraud and corruption for the PCCB to investigate.

More important, our People around North Mara mine need genuine clean water.

So it is not hard to understand the extent of deceit and double standards on the part of Barrick Gold and Acacia Mining when they declare publically “aiming to create Sustainable Communities that enjoys good access to water and sanitation!

If all of the above is not enough to raise the hairs at the back of your necks, then the following may well make you fall off your chairs!

The following must be the height of disingenuousness, hypocrisy and deception in what they write in this same presentation to the Indaba earlier this week:

On page 2 of the presentation, the following extracts appear regarding the contents of the presentation (that we analyzed above) and which was presented publicly by Brad Gordon in Cape Town:

>> Neither Acacia Mining nor any of its directors, officers, partners, employees, affiliates, agents, consultants, advisors or representatives has verified, or will verify, any part of this presentation…

>> Acacia Mining nor any of its Associates makes any warranty, express or implied, as to the fairness, adequacy, accuracy or completeness of the information in this presentation…

>> The information or opinions contained in this presentation or any written or oral information made available to any person does not purport to be comprehensive and has not been independently verified.

And they go on…Telling us that whatever their presentation states is not verified by anyone and it might not be true. What can we comment about the double standards of such people? Are there words for people who publically make statements and then in the same breath say that these statements may not be true?

Does it get any worse than this? Maybe the worse to still to come?

Acacia Mining and Endeavour Mining both confirmed they are in merger talks. We already wrote a blog about “Ni bora shetani unaemjua kuliko shetani usiemjua – Better the devil you know, than the devil you don’t know!”

We wonder if the US$2 million campaign that Acacia Mining are planning to boost their image and reputation, will they include the fact that the USA Government has recently instructed the FBI to investigate the UraMin scandal involving alleged fraud of well over US$ 1 billion – and surprise surprise – the CEO of Endeavour Mining today, Mr. Sébastien de Montessus, was the past CEO and President of this same UraMin mining company! Is this the quality of “leader” that Acacia Mining chooses to bring to our gold-rich country?

We asked this question in our blog last week and it still bothers us: Can it be that the God-given gold in our country is a magnet for these “types” of people?

Mr. President, our thanks for your hard work and God bless you and God bless Tanzania and God bless our Nation.

SOURCE: http://allafrica.com/stories/201702100383.html

Colombia’s resistance to Canadian mining interests is multi-faceted and fearless

BY FERNANDA SÁNCHEZ JARAMILLO | FEBRUARY 7, 2017

Edith Taborda is an Indigenous mother of two girls who belongs to the Embera Karamba community in Quinchia (Risaralda). She is also an activist against mining projects.

Since 2011 her community has observed the actions of Canadian company corporations such as Batero Gold Corp through its Colombian subsidiary Minera Quinchia SAS and Seafield Resources Ltd. in their territory.

Early on, some people thought their presence was good but local opinion quickly turned against the mining companies.

Seafield Resources’ Miraflores mining project in Quinchia aims to extract “a total of nearly 709,000 ounces of gold over 14 years,” according to an assessment published by Mining Markets.

In 2011, the community sent a letter to Seafield asking to remove their machinery from Santa Sofia, which they did. At the time, it seemed like a victory; however, the company continued with their plans for the Miraflores project because they have permission from the government.

According to the Colombian National Agency of Mining there are 27 Canadian companies operating in the country with 42 mining titles for copper, silver and gold. The list provided for this article, however, doesn’t include Seafield Resources.

“The governor of Miraflores told me about this. We recommended that he should tell Seafield that we must have a prior consultation process over this project. The governor followed through, but the company responded arguing that there were no Indigenous people in Quinchia,” says Taborda.

Despite this apparent failure, Taborda didn’t give up. She and her community challenged the corporation at the Superior Tribunal of Pereira, in the capital of Risaralda. In 2013, the tribunal ordered Seafield Resources Ltd. to stop activities until the Interior Ministry certified the presence of Indigenous people. In 2014, the tribunal also ruled that a prior and informed consultation process for the Miraflores project should be undertaken. Seafield and the community started the process and had eight meetings. “But we didn´t get past the pre-consultation process,” Taborda indicates.

Taborda became the Indigenous governor of her community in 2012 and received complaints about this company. Residents’ main concern was the possibility of being forcibly displaced from their ancestral land.

The key to challenging the mining corporations was engaging community members. Toward this end, Elmer Agudelo played an important role. Elmer, another leader of the Indigenous community, helped to promote critical thinking about mining. Youth, kids, adults and elders have been participating in rallies, protests, and meetings to respond to the presence of the mining companies.

“Now that we have the peace agreement between the government and the FARC guerrilla we know that the pressure will increase. It is now when we will use all means possible to close the door to these extractives’ projects. We ask people if they want mega-mining in their area,” comments Agudelo.

Civil mobilization

In the province of Antioquia, Conalminercol, the national confederation of Colombian miners supported a strike organized by miners from the communities of Remedios and Segovia this past September. As a result, on Sept. 28, 2016 the Colombian government set up the Resolutions Negotiation Table for Segovia and Remedios.

Ruben Dario Gomez is General Secretary of Conalminercol, which protects miners’ right to work and is fighting companies such as Continental Gold Inc., which has two mining projects in Antioquia: Buritica and Berlin. In the past, Conaminercol achieved a small victory with this company: eight subcontracts for short periods of time.

Ruben also participated in national mobilizations organized by Conaminercol in 2015 against the breach of four government agreements with the company, which included the recognition of small-scale miners’ traditional mining practices.

Ruben admits that traditional mining has environmental impacts on the land, but indicates that is not all their responsibility. “We are depicted as the enemy because we disputing territory and resources with big capital. We are against the extractive model that is disadvantageous for our economy, agriculture, environment and cultural traditions.”

Further, the grassroots organization Western Environmental Belt (COA by its initials in Spanish), has stood up to the Caramanta Conde Mine in Antioquia that was fined several times due to environmental problems.

“Solvista Gold Corp., IAMGOLD, Angel Gold Corporation and Caramanta Conde Mine SAS are Canadian mining companies that have had projects in Antioquia. Solvista has been there for five years, but changed its name, making it difficult to follow their projects closely,” reflects a member of COA. (Solvista Gold is now called Rockcliff Copper Corporation)

COA engages citizens through vigils, festivals and the walk around the mountain, translated directly from Spanish as “Giving the Mountain a Hug.” During this walk, which took place from August 8 to 14, 2016, myths, arts and culture were used to spread the message of environmental justice.

People interviewed for this article identified the most organized resistance in Colombia as being in the province of Santander.

Activists in the city of Bucaramanga, Santander are proud of their major victory against Canadian Greystar Resources Ltd, which changed its name to Eco Oro Minerals Corp in 2011. The environmental license for its Angostura project was denied because it would affect the Santurban moorlands or páramo, high altitude wetlands that supply water for Bucaramanga city and other towns downstream.

The message against this project was simple, but powerful, and easy to communicate: the impact of big mining on water sources.

“The experience of Santurban awoke civic consciousness about the importance of páramo. This provided a positive context for the final decision of the Constitutional Court, which ruled against mining in the páramo,” indicates Carlos Lozano, a senior lawyer for theInter-Americann Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA).

Challenging extractive industry

Carlos Lozano says that the struggle against Eco Oro Minerals Corp., is a citizens’ resistance, which has joined forces among unions, schools, the trades and professional associations: “It has captured the attention of politicians and the media regarding this project. Even recently, the World Bank,one of the investors in this project, presented a report admitting that the environmental impacts of this project weren’t taken into account,” Lozano adds.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) World Bank Group has since divested its investments from Eco Oro Minerals. “The IFC constantly evaluates its portfolio of investments based on its development role and consideration of market conditions. Given Eco Oro’s decision to suspend indefinitely the Angostura project, on November 25, 2016, IFC divested its investment in the Company,” indicates a statement from the IFC.

Oscar Sampayo, a member of the Magdalena Medio Research Group on Extractives Industry, the Environment and Society (GEAM), explains that resistance in Santander and the Magdalena Medio has had some success due to public education.

This allowed communities to better understand the impacts of extractive projects. “We contribute with capacity building and strategies to defend human rights; also making visible Colombian leniency with Canadian companies such as Eco Oro Minerals Corp., in Santurban and Parex Resources Inc., in Simacota. We also tried to expose the ties between politicians and transnational corporations,” comments Sampan.

Union activists also challenge the extractivist model. A few years ago, Francisco Ramirez denounced the negative impact of Canadian corporations in Colombia.

Nowadays, Ramirez is a member of Funtramiesco, a Workers Federation of the mining and energy sector in Colombia. He is responsible for legal international actions against corporations, and belongs to the National Movement of Victims of Multinational and Transnational Corporations (MNVC).

Ramirez says that the goals of union activists include the nationalization of resources, sustainable development and meeting community needs. “Even as a union, we propose to close some mines and move the workers into infrastructure work,” he says.

While Ramirez continues fighting corporations after 20 years, Edith Taborda the Indigenous governor continues to do the same in her beloved community in Risaralda.

Alejandro Pulido, a social researcher from Bogota, reflects on the narratives of resistance: “The first is an environmental discourse. However, there is no discussion about access and dispute of these resources. A second discourse is about Indigenous, afro-Colombians and farmers communities fighting for their right to stay on their land; a third narrative comes from unions about labor conditions; and a fourth, from academics, questioning the economic model, the low profit from mining with some encouraging the nationalization of mining. It is interesting that many times these narratives don’t dialogue,” Pulido concludes.

“Finally, the extractive model is creating a new war for water, a new war is building up.”

This article was first published in Spanish at ladobe.com.mx

SOURCE:
http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/miningwatch/2017/02/colombias-resistance-to-canadian-mining-interests-multi-faceted-a

Africa: Alt-Mining Indaba – Extraction’s Dark Side On Display

DAILY MAVERICK

Rebecca Davis
07 Feb 2017
11:50 (South Africa)

It’s Mining Indaba week in Cape Town, where delegates can pay upwards of R20,000 per ticket for the chance to hear mining’s power players give the state of play for the industry. On the other side of town there’s a very different sort of event happening: the annual Alternative Mining Indaba, where people affected by mining in less positive ways discuss how best to mount a resistance. By REBECCA DAVIS.

“Mining means turning living things into dead objects to sell for profit.” That’s one of the many lines you won’t be hearing at Mining Indaba this year. At the Alternative Mining Indaba, however, it’s a run-of-the-mill sentiment – in this case expressed by the BenchMarks Foundation’s David van Wyk. Indeed, it’s one of the milder opinions about extractive industries expressed.

“Our government is always on the side of the mining companies and not on the side of the people,” Pondoland activist Nonhle Mbuthuma-Forslund had earlier told the audience. “That’s why we are facing a lot of violence and death. All these struggles, it doesn’t frighten us. We are ready to die for that land.”

At Mining Indaba you’re also unlikely to hear an “eco-feminist critique” of the Africa Mining Vision, or the idea that a “decolonised civil society must protect its resources”. Neither are you likely to be shown poignant photo essays of Tanzanians ordered to leave their villages at gunpoint to make room for a gold mine expansion.

A delegate from a Free State mining town put it succinctly during a group discussion: “Mining is hell.”

Mining may be hell, but it’s also not about to stop – as long as the commodities market holds out. There’s generally a sense of resignation about that. Year after year, the Alternative Mining Indaba sees dialogue take place about how best to deal with mining, rather than how to halt it. Nonetheless, there have been indications from this year’s event that mining is in urgent need of better PR.

“There is no way that mining can be eco-friendly,” a Latin-American activist said dismissively during one discussion about mitigating mining’s environmental damage. “It’s a lie.”

This year’s Alternative Mining Indaba’s theme is “Making natural resources work for the people: Domestication of the Africa Mining Vision from vision to reality”. The Africa Mining Vision (AMV) was the feelgood resolution adopted by African heads of state at the African Union summit in 2009. It is aimed at integrating mining with the imperatives of local development, “making sure workers and communities see real benefits from large-scale industrial mining and that their environment is protected”. It’s also not working.

On Tuesday, the Bench Mark Foundation’s David van Wyk rattled off a rapid list of ways in which the Africa Mining Vision is failing: because it is not legally enforceable; because it does not challenge foreign mine ownership or private ownership, and because it is not attempting to control the speed at which mining in Africa takes place. “If we slow down mining, then we make the horizon for mining much longer,” Van Wyk said.

But by definition, the Africa Mining Vision also “offers no way out of the extractive trap that Africa finds itself in”, to quote Van Wyk. Community members from mining-affected villages in South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Malawi, DRC and beyond took the microphone in turn to sketch out the nature of that “trap”. They spoke of water shortages, of blasting affecting children’s hearing, of a failure to obtain community consent, of vegetation and lifestock destroyed.

A major factor contributing to the toothlessness of the Africa Mining Vision seems to be widespread lack of knowledge about its contents or even existence. “The AMV has a level of technicality which most will not understand,” suggested Dr Claude Kabemba of Southern African Resource Watch. Nonetheless, there was reasonable consensus that as flawed as the Africa Mining Vision might be, its implementation would represent a step forward towards protecting the interests of mining-affected African communities.

The Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association’s Mutuso Dhliwayo suggested that the AMV did well to speak to concerns about the environment, health and illicit financial flows. The “development trajectory offered by the AMV”, Dhliwayo has previously written, takes the continent closer to “[reversing] the curse of mineral wealth in Africa”.

There was one point delegates repeatedly returned to: if mining is supposed to make our lives better, why is it making things worse?

“Has mining benefitted the community?” asked Malawian activist Paul Mvula. “To answer this question, you just have to go into the community.” Mvula flicked through a slideshow of photos: dysfunctional boreholes, corrupted water sources, abandoned toxic waste sites – and shiny 4x4s driven by the chiefs in mining areas.

Many delegates complained about being unheard or ignored by the shiny folks across town at the Mining Indaba. “We don’t have a seat at the table,” said Dhliwayo. Anglican bishop of Pretoria Reverend Jo Seoka told the audience that he had attempted in vain to meet with government to share his concerns about mining.

In a context where governments and mining companies often seem untouchable or unreachable, practical solutions to empower civilians are in high demand. Environmental journalism group Oxpeckers introduced a handy tool called #MineAlert, which they launched last year to help ordinary citizens find out more about mining projects in their area. In Ghana, for instance, all mining companies are supposed to pay 3% of revenues generated to local residents. On the #MineAlert site, Ghanaians can check whether their village has received the funds due to it, by plugging in their location.

On Wednesday, the worlds of Mining Indaba and its alternative incarnation will meet, when activists and faith leaders march to the Cape Town International Convention Centre. If previous years are anything to go by, Mining Indaba delegates within the venue will remain largely oblivious to the commotion outside.

In the meantime, the conversations of those affected by mining, but rarely consulted about it, will continue. The fundamental question, suggested Dr Kabemba, is: “What do we want from our minerals? What type of things do we want our minerals to give us?”

And perhaps just as pertinently: What price are we willing to pay in exchange? DM

Read more:

TRAINSPOTTER: Waiting for Charter at Mining Indaba

SOURCE: https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2017-02-07-alt-mining-indaba-extractions-dark-side-on-display/#.WKG2_DjdVdl

Groundbreaking win for indigenous people in Colombia

**PRESS RELEASE**

For Immediate Release

February 9: The Colombian Constitutional Court has found in favour of an indigenous peoples’ centuries-old fight for their territory, granting the petition for the protection of constitutional rights requested by the Embera Chamí people of the Indigenous Resguardo Cañamomo Lomaprieta, in western Colombia.

The Resguardo’s claim was accepted by the Colombian Constitutional Court, the final court of appeal for constitutional matters in Colombia. The court ordered that the Resguardo’s lands must be delimited and titled within one year, during which time all further permits or formalisation of mining activities must be suspended. Any subsequent mining activities proposed on the delimited territories may only proceed on the basis of the effective participation of the Resguardo.

The court also ordered that the map produced by the Resguardo of their land be registered provisionally until it is officially demarcated. This ruling is also relevant for other indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities whose lands are awaiting delimitation.

In what appears to be a legal first internationally, the court also gave explicit protection to ancestral mining activities carried out by some of the 32 communities within the Resguardo, stating that, although not currently recognised under State laws, this mining conformed to Resguardo laws and could therefore not be considered illegal. Importantly, the court also recognised that the State had an obligation “not to criminalise this type of ancestral activity”.

Responding to the court judgment, Héctor Jaime Vinasco, ex-Governor of the Resguardo, and the principal coordinator of mining issues for the Cabildo, said: “This is an historic judgment for the indigenous Resguardo of Cañamomo Lomaprieta. For centuries, the different leaders of the Resguardo have been defending our collective land rights and seeking to resolve the problem of land titling with the authorities; this judgment orders that the delimitation and titling of the Resguardo is resolved without further delay.

“This judgment is a great opportunity to resolve issues caused by the lack of land titling, including exercising authority over our lands, applying our laws, thinking about economic development, and opposing projects that affect our survival as indigenous people. It supports the rightful claims of the Resguardo and suspends the existing deals that are going on behind the communities’ backs through mining titles, concessions, processes of legislation and licences and makes clear that no mining activity can be carried out in the territory without our consent.”

These requests are in keeping with international human rights instruments that recognise indigenous autonomy and self-government over ancestral territories, and the resources integral to these.

“This is a landmark decision for indigenous peoples in Colombia and globally,” said Viviane Weitzner of Forest Peoples Programme. “It recognises the legitimacy of indigenous self-regulation of subsoil resources within their territories, lifting the label of criminalisation of a spiritually, culturally and economically important activity that has been conducted without the use of harmful substances for centuries. The court is calling on the State to do more to protect indigenous territorial rights, by applying international standards around demarcation and titling and ensuring future decision-making includes the Cabildo’s free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). We remain concerned however that this decision may increase the risks to Resguardo leaders, some of whom have already suffered a number of recent credible death threats. It is important that the Colombian government ensure that members of the Resguardo are protected in light of this decision, and we urge the State to do everything in its power to ensure the safety of land and human rights defenders involved in this case.”

This historic court win is a critically important first step. But now rigorous implementation of the Court orders must take place for it to achieve its potential in upholding indigenous rights. Héctor Jaime Vinasco added: “We call on our allies and supporters to join the next moment of our journey, the implementation of the Court’s orders, which we know will be the hardest part.”

Note for Editors:

Contact persons for interviews:

Héctor Jaime Vinasco (Spanish-speaking only): ingruma@gmail.com; +57 318 3972770

Viviane Weitzner (English and Spanish speaking): (819) 664 6089

Photographs are available on request from communications@forestpeoples.org.

Useful Facts:

Figures from 2015 showed:

Some 29.8% of the national territory of Colombia is occupied by 768 indigenous reserves, with 30,590,599 titled hectares and 1,192,628 hectares still required.
Some 343,303 hectares issued in mining concessions overlap with Resguardo lands.
In 2015, the Resguardo submitted a “tutela” (writ of constitutional protection) to the Administrative Court of Caldas claiming, among other things, violation of the Resguardo members’ fundamental collective rights to their territories and natural resources, to self-determination and self-governance within their territories, as well as to effective participation (including free, prior and informed consent) in relation to activities proposed within their territories. This writ was rejected at first instance and on appeal, but the Constitutional Court has overturned these decisions.

For decades the Resguardo, which was established in colonial times, has been seeking official delimitation of its territories through various administrative authorities in Colombia. In the absence of such delimitation, which was never completed, the National Mining Agency continued to grant permits and licences for gold mining without consulting with or seeking the consent of the Cabildo, the traditional authorities of the Resguardo, on the basis that the Resguardo’s territories were not registered in the official land titles register.

Gold mining is an ancestral activity of the Embera Chamí people, who have self-regulated this activity even prior to the formation of the Colombian State. The State’s permits both undermine the Resguardo regulations related to mining in their lands, and threaten the livelihoods of those who continue to carry out ancestral mining activities.

The Resguardo Cañamomo Lomaprieta comprises 32 communities (including one Afro-descendant community, some members of which are seeking separate status) and 24,068 inhabitants, according to a 2014 census. The lands currently claimed by the Resguardo total 4,836 hectares. The current territory claimed is significantly less than the original lands granted to the Resguardo in colonial times (which is in turn significantly less than the traditional territories of the Embera Chamí people).

The Embera Chamí people are an indigenous people from Western Colombia, whose traditional lands extended through the current departments of Antioquia, Caldas, Chocó, Risaralda and Valle de Cauca. Different groups within the Embera Chamí people continue to live across these departments (i.e. the people is not solely located within the Resguardo Cañamomo Lomaprieta).

For more information on the situation in Colombia, see Pushing for Peace in Colombia.

Forest Peoples Programme, 1c Fosseway Business Centre, Stratford Road, Moreton in Marsh GL56 9NQ, UK Tel: +44 (0)1608 652893, Charity Registration Number: 1082158 A company limited by guarantee (England & Wales) Reg. No. 3868836

www.forestpeoples.org

http://contacts.forestpeoples.org/civicrm/mailing/optout?reset=1&jid=13121&qid=915597&h=70a4ad7aa34b5ab0

Viviane Weitzner
PhDc/Doctorante, Centro de Investigación y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social (CIESAS DF-México)
Asesora Política/Policy Advisor, Forest Peoples Programme/Programa de los Pueblos de los Bosques (Reino Unido)
Tel (Mexico): 5561255899 (cel)
Tel (Colombia): 3003799907 (cel); 3168002234 (cel)
Tel (Canada): (819) 459-3557; (cel) (819)6646089
Skype: viviane.weitzner

Jennifer Moore
Latin America Program Coordinator
MiningWatch Canada
tel: 613.569.3439 / fax: 613.569.5138
www.miningwatch.ca
https://www.facebook.com/MiningWatch
twitter: @MiningWatch

Ecuador: Mining by blood and fire in Shuar ancestral lands

Leading environmental organization Acción Ecológica will not be shut down

Published by MAC on 2017-01-28

Source: La Press, Intercontinental Cry, Acción Ecológica (2017-01-28)

As leading environmental justice organization Acción Ecológica has come under threat of being shut down, the Shuar and campesino communities in the province of Morona Santiago have been facing, criminalization, militarization and severe restrictions on their rights as a result of the imposition of a Chinese-owned mining project in the area.

This mining project was originally explored by BHP Billiton and Canadian mining company Corriente Resources, an earlier source of repression and violence in the area, where Shuar and campesino people have long been fighting to defend their land, water and ways of life from big mining.

While Acción Ecológica will not be shut down after the Ministry of the Environment found that there is no basis for this to happen, the bad news is that on the same day this was decided, the president of Ecuador renewed the state of exception (emergency) in Morona Santiago for another month.

Militarization in Morona Santiago is reportedly creating a state of fear in various small communities. Some nine community members have been detained, including the president of the Interprovincial Shuar Federation (FISCH), whose offices were raided by about 100 police at which time the president, Augustín Wachapá, was thrown in maximum security jail. Many other indigenous leaders are in hiding, as a result of arrest warrants issued against them.

See previous articles:

2016-12-16 Ecuador: Government declares state of emergency, sends troops to Chinese copper project in Amazonia

2016-11-20 Ecuador: Water protectors vow to defend their land from mining

SOURCE: http://www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=13584

International organizations celebrate precedent-setting step toward justice in civil suit against Tahoe Resources in Canada for violence in Guatemala

January 27, 2017

(Guatemala/ Montreal/Ottawa/Reno/Tatamagouche/Toronto/Washington, DC) Canadian and US civil society organizations wholeheartedly welcome a British Columbia Court of Appeals’ decision that Vancouver is the preferred forum for a civil suit to be heard against Tahoe Resources concerning violence against peaceful opposition to its silver mine in Guatemala.

Announced yesterday, the decision opens the door for seven Guatemalan men, shot and injured in 2013 while peacefully protesting the Canadian company’s Escobal silver project, to proceed toward trial in their suit for negligence and battery. Tahoe Resources is registered in B.C. with offices in Reno. At the time of the violent attack, Tahoe Resources’ only project was the Escobal silver mine in southeastern Guatemala, which began commercial production in early 2014.

“This mining project has been a disaster from the get-go and it is high time that the company be held to account,” remarked Ellen Moore for the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN). “Since well before the mine went into operation, there has been broad community opposition to which the company developed a militarized security strategy to suppress dissent. A state of fear was instilled in the communities that Tahoe capitalized on in order to push the project forward.”

“Nearly one hundred community members and supporters have been forced to endure unfounded charges and even months of jail time, only to then be absolved. The shooting by Tahoe Resources’ private security against the peaceful protest in April 2013 demonstrated that the company would stop at nothing to ensure this project went ahead. Some real justice is urgently needed in this case,” added Becky Kaump for the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA).

Just weeks before the shooting, the Minister of Energy and Mines approved the exploitation license for the project without consideration for over 200 individual complaints filed by local residents over concerns that the mine would negatively affect their health and living environment. The minister, who resigned in 2015, is implicated in a corruption scandal in Guatemala and is currently at large in the United States. Meanwhile, evidence of cracked homes, water shortages and serious environmental contamination around the mine have been documented.

“Impunity is the norm in Guatemala. We applaud this decision that recognizes Canada as the appropriate place to address these abuses,” added Kelsey Alford-Jones of the Center for International Environmental Law.

“We have spent years accompanying mining-affected communities in Guatemala and are pleased with the court’s serious consideration of the precarious situation that is the country’s judicial system, especially in cases where powerful economic and political interests are at play,” stated Lisa Rankin for the Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network. “Based on what we have observed, we concur with the appeals court that if this case is not heard in Canada, there may be no chance for justice for the victims.”

This marks the first time a Canadian court of appeals has admitted a case concerning the overseas operations of a Canadian mining corporation on the basis that Canada is the best place for the case to be heard, based on a legal concept known as ‘forum non conveniens’. The case against Tahoe Resources joins several others moving through Canadian courts, including three against HudBay Minerals for its negligence in violence in eastern Guatemala and another against Nevsun, also for negligence regarding the use of slave labour in Eritrea.

“This decision is groundbreaking. It is vital that Canadian courts become open for justice given the prevalence of violent conflict and harm in connection with Canadian mining operations in Guatemala, Latin America and around the world,” said Jackie McVicar for United for Mining Justice.

“The Guatemalan plaintiffs should be congratulated for their courage to press for justice against a company that has been relentless against the peaceful opposition to the Escobal project. We want to express our continuing support for this long-term, uphill battle, and our pleasure that it is moving forward,” noted Caren Weisbart for the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network.

“Good news like this is very much needed when repression and targeted violence against communities fighting for their land and wellbeing has become the norm. This reinforces our commitment to keep fighting for respect for community self-determination and greater legal protections for those affected by Canada’s globalized mining industry,” concluded Jen Moore for MiningWatch Canada.

See the statement from the lawyers and plaintiffs on the case here.

Contacts:

Lisa Rankin (Guatemala) – Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network, +011 (502) 4906-5626, btscoordinator(at)gmail.com

Jen Moore (Ottawa) – MiningWatch Canada, 613-569-3439, jen(at)miningwatch.ca

Caren Weisbart (Toronto) – Mining Injustice Solidarity Network, caren.weisbart(at)gmail.com

Becky Kaump (Guatemala) – NISGUA, +011 (502) 5575-2058, becky(at)nisgua.org

Ellen Moore (Reno) – PLAN Nevada, 775-348-7557, emoore(at)planevada.org

Jackie McVicar (Montreal) – United for Mining Justice, 902-324-2584, unitedforminingjustice(at)gmail.com

Kelsey Alford-Jones (Washington, DC) – Center for International Environmental Law,202-742-5854, kalford(at)ciel.org

SOURCE: http://www.unitedforminingjustice.com/single-post/2017/01/27/International-organizations-celebrate-precedent-setting-step-toward-justice-in-civil-suit-against-Tahoe-Resources-in-Canada-for-violence-in-Guatemala