Miners seed more money in the fields of AcademePublished by MAC on 2010-09-20
Source: Vancouver Sun, The Star
Over the past fortnight, two Canadian mining companies have donated generously to academic institutions in Canada and Scotland.
They are following in the steps of the country's leading gold miner, Barrick. See: Barrick's "Historic Gift" fulfills an academic dream
Gold tycoon Robert Buchan's personal $2 million gift to his Edinburgh alma mater seems to have few strings attached (and is intended to boost Scotland's role in promoting "alternative energy systems").
Goldcorp's $10 million underwriting of an eponymous arts programme in Vancouver is more questionable, given this is its home city, and the company has attracted a significant amount of criticism in recent years, both at home and abroad.
Just last month, Goldcorp faced charges of human rights abuses, levelled by the government of Honduras. See: Goldcorp staff face criminal charges over mine pollution in Honduras
Meanwhile, the world's leading "gold-plated" benefactor dishes out a much higher proportion of his ill-gotten gains - and hardly anyone seems to notice. See: Who's Soros now?
B.C. philanthropist donates $2 million to Scottish university
By Randy Boswell
Vancouver Sun (Canada)
14 September 2010
Robert Buchan, founder and former CEO of Kinross, is donating $2 million to his Scottish alma mater, a year after giving $10 million to Queen's University
A year after he made an unprecedented $10-million donation to his Canadian alma mater - Queen's University in Kingston, Ont. - B.C. mining magnate Robert Buchan is being hailed as a "modern Carnegie" in his native Scotland for making the biggest individual gift ever to a Scottish university.
The 63-year-old founder and former chairman of Kinross Gold Corp., has reached even further into his past by donating $2 million to Edinburgh's Heriot-Watt University, where the future gold tycoon earned a degree in mining engineering in 1969.
That donation comes on top of a $1-million gift from Buchan, announced days earlier by Scotland's Carnegie College - named for Andrew Carnegie, the Scottish-born U.S. industrialist who built the world's largest steel company in the late 1800s and became a leading philanthropist in the early 1900s.
The Aberdeen-born Canadian businessman has followed a Carnegie-like career path.
After making Kinross one of Canada's top mining firms, Buchan retired from the top job in 2005 and - while remaining active in the mining sector - has generated as many headlines in recent years for his charitable activities.
Buchan's latest contribution to the academic world will allow Heriot-Watt to establish the Robert M. Buchan Chair in Sustainable Energy Engineering, part of a push by the university to position Scotland as a major innovator in alternative energy systems.
"I believe in giving forward rather than giving back," Buchan said in a university statement announcing the donation. "It may sound like a small difference, but it reflects a desire to focus on what is needed in the future. The (chair) will focus attention on research and study in an area which, it is my hope, will keep Scotland at the forefront of this rapidly evolving discipline."
University president Steve Chapman applauded the "wonderfully generous donation by one of our most successful alumni" and added that "its influence will be felt in Scotland and in the wider world of energy sustainability."
Buchan's gift to Carnegie College is also targeted to energy research. And his massive 2009 donation to Queen's - where Buchan received a Master's degree in mineral economics 1971 - was described as "the largest single donation to mining education in Canadian history."
In recognition of that gift, Queen's renamed its mining engineering school the Buchan Department of Mining.
Buchan said at the time that he wanted the money to help Queen's train the "industry's next generation of leaders" and ensure that "the Canadian mineral sector has a bright and sustainable future in this rapidly evolving global mineral resources industry."
In an interview last year with the Financial Post, Buchan described how Kinross eventually grew "too big" to satisfy his creative instincts and that, eventually, "bureaucracy wins" in larger corporations.
"My line at Kinross was that if I ever saw a guy with a mail cart, I'm leaving," he told the Post. "We were getting close. I'd imagine there is a guy with a mail cart there today, but I don't know."
The Trouble with Billionaires
By Linda McQuaig and Neil Brooks
The Star (Canada)
10 September 2010
On the campus of the University of Toronto, buildings bear the names of some notable Canadians: among them, literary giant Northrop Frye, public health pioneer John FitzGerald, inventor Sir Sandford Fleming, who introduced the concept of standard time. But the buildings named in honour of important intellectual figures typically date back more than three decades. In more recent years, campus buildings have been named almost exclusively after those whose distinguishing characteristic is the possession of lots of money.
There's a reason for this. As universities have lost government funding in recent years, they've turned more and more to private donors. Universities are now heavily in the business of fundraising, devoting huge effort to wooing wealthy alumni. And the effort has paid off. In the past five years, U of T has collected an average of $120 million a year from benefactors.
In exchange for money, donors get their names on plaques, or auditoriums, or even whole buildings if they donate enough. The result is that affluent businessmen are honoured and commemorated throughout the university. Particularly prominent at U of T for instance are merchant banker Joseph Rotman, pharmaceutical entrepreneur Leslie Dan and businessman Peter Munk, chairman of Barrick Gold, the world's largest gold mining company.
But if the university has become a showcase for the wealthy, there's apparently no room at the university to honour someone who is the closest thing we have in this country to a genuine hero.
A group of U of T professors found this out when they approached the university in 2007 with the idea of naming the Health Studies Program after Tommy Douglas, considered the father of Canada's public health care system. In 2004, Douglas was selected the Greatest Canadian of all time, following a nationwide contest organized by CBC-TV in which more than 1.2 million votes were cast over a six-week period. (Runners-up were Terry Fox and Pierre Trudeau.)
But, other than apparently being the most respected Canadian ever, what does Tommy Douglas have to offer the University of Toronto? Apparently not enough to justify getting a program named after him.
Paul Hamel, a biologist in the U of T Faculty of Medicine and one of the professors pushing for the Tommy Douglas program, says that the university simply wasn't interested in the idea, seeing little potential in it for fundraising.
Hamel criticizes the university for adopting this attitude, which he sees as a function of the growing power exerted by its fundraising arm. "As a result, the priorities of the university have been skewed towards areas that interest the elites," says Hamel, "rather than towards the priorities of faculty, staff and students who are engaged in critical analysis, research and teaching."
This seems certain to undermine the role of universities and colleges as places of critical thought, where the prevailing policies and dogmas - championed by those wealthy business interests - are carefully scrutinized and debated.
This aspect of philanthropy is rarely mentioned in the public feting of wealthy benefactors. On the contrary, the role of philanthropy in funding universities - as well as hospitals, museums, art galleries, concert halls and opera houses - is typically advanced as one of the reasons we shouldn't be concerned by the rise of billionaires. After all, we're told, our public institutions need money, following the cutbacks of the 1990s.
Of course, the problem is circular. If governments hadn't cut tax levels so deeply - particularly for those at the upper end - there would be sufficient revenue to sustain our public institutions, as there was in the early postwar years.
The public also has an inflated sense of how much financing wealthy donors actually provide through philanthropy. For instance, there was much celebration in April 2010 when it was announced that a new $35 million donation from Peter Munk would enable the University of Toronto to establish a school of global studies. The new Munk School of Global Affairs (incorporating the existing Munk Centre for International Studies) is to be housed in a century-old stone building on fashionable Bloor Street West, and feature an elevated pixel board flashing the latest world news headlines.
But, although it wasn't mentioned in the announcement, Munk will receive a $16 million tax reduction for his $35 million contribution, reducing his actual personal contribution to $19 million. So he will really be paying just a little more than half the cost of his contribution, while the government (Canadian taxpayers) will be paying just a little under half. For that matter, if Munk made his donation in the form of shares in publicly traded companies - as most donors do - then his tax savings will be considerably larger (possibly by millions of dollars) and his personal contribution far smaller than $19 million.
The Ontario and federal governments also announced that they would each contribute $25 million to the new Munk school, bringing the total contribution of Canadian taxpayers to at least $66 million. But when it came to naming the building, the taxpayers' $66 million simply disappeared; only Munk's $19 million (or less) counted. Accordingly, the new school, with its flashy building on Bloor Street, has been named after Munk, ensuring that the thousands of people passing by daily will be confronted with a constant reminder of Peter Munk's commitment to higher education and global understanding.
Probably few of them will realize that Munk's contribution only amounts to about 20 per cent of the overall cost of establishing the new school. Indeed, since there will also be ongoing costs running the school - which taxpayers will cover - Munk's share of the overall cost of the school will be well below 20 per cent. It would seem more accurate, then, to call it the Canadian Taxpayers School of Global Affairs, with Some Help from Peter Munk.
So, for $19 million (or less) of his own money, Munk has not only gotten his name on a prominent public building, but he's managed to direct at least $66 million of public money towards a project of his choosing: a global affairs school. And it's likely to be a global affairs school that will fit with the political views and sensitivities of Peter Munk.
U of T administrator Tad Brown insists that Munk will have no influence over what goes on at the school he is helping establish.
But, according to Munk's written agreement with the university, the Munk donations will be paid over an extended time period, with much of the money to be paid years from now - and subject to the Munk family's approval of the school. For that matter, the school's director will be required to report annually to a board appointed by Munk "to discuss the programs, activities and initiatives of the School in greater detail." This sure sounds like Munk will have influence over the school's direction - and will indeed be able to withhold money if the school doesn't please him.
Equally disturbing is the fact that the agreement stipulates that the school will also house the Canadian International Council - a right-leaning think-tank that has been pushing to replace Canada's earlier role as a leading UN peacekeeping nation with a more prominent role in U.S.-led war efforts.
Philanthropy offers the wealthy an appealing option. Rather than simply handing money over to tax authorities, as all of us are obliged to do, the fabulously rich can afford to donate large sums in ways that allow them to increase their public influence, even as they're honoured in the community for their virtue and generosity. Honourary university degrees and other public tributes are frequently bestowed on philanthropists; Peter Munk, Joseph Rotman and Leslie Dan have all been awarded the Order of Canada, the country's highest civilian honour. And philanthropists receive highly flattering media attention for their donations.
Munk's 2010 donation to the University of Toronto, for instance, merited a fawning front page news story in The Globe and Mail, which heralded the gift as the largest in U of T's history, and celebrated his new school as a "vision of a global plaza reconfiguring Toronto's downtown Bloor Street West and becoming the hub of Canada's conversation with the world." It's impossible to buy publicity any better than that.
Whatever controversies may follow Munk abroad - his company has come under attack from environmental and indigenous groups in Chile, Argentina, Peru, the Philippines and Tanzania - at home Munk is associated with loftier things. His name is indelibly linked with good works, and emblazoned on important public buildings (to which he has contributed a relatively small portion of the costs).
Given the perks, it's debatable whether this should even qualify as philanthropy at all. Individuals receive a tax credit when they make a gift to a charitable organization, but in cases like this, donors get something very valuable in return - their name publicly commemorated for all to see. This should be treated for what it is: not a gift to the community, but rather a business transaction purchasing that most treasured of items - a personal legacy.
Goldcorp Donations $10 million to Simon Fraser University Arts Centre in Vancouver
GoldCorp Press Release
23 September 2010
Vancouver, BC - Goldcorp Inc. ("Goldcorp") today announced a $10 million donation to the Simon Fraser University downtown campus. The gift will help Simon Fraser University contribute to the social, economic and cultural revitalization of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. To acknowledge the gift, the university's new arts complex in the Woodward's redevelopment will be named the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts.
Five million dollars will support the university's capital campaign and ensure that state-of-the-art teaching and performance facilities are available for student, community and professional arts groups. The other $5 million will be placed in the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts Community Endowment to support programs aimed at community engagement in the Downtown Eastside community.
"Goldcorp is committed to making a positive difference here in Vancouver as well as those communities where we operate our mines," said Goldcorp President and Chief Executive Officer, Chuck Jeannes. "Vancouver's Downtown Eastside has become one of Canada's most depressed neighbourhoods, and we are optimistic that by working with Simon Fraser University, we will be able to reach out to its businesses and residents to help create a more sustainable future."
SFU president Andrew Petter is enthusiastic about the opportunities that the Goldcorp endowment will provide for the university to strengthen its ties with the community. "This gift will ensure that our Contemporary Arts program is not just located in the Downtown Eastside, but also is a vital and contributing member of the neighbourhood. It will enable us to offer new programs that are specially tailored to the needs of the local community."
The Goldcorp Centre for the Arts is the latest addition to SFU's vibrant downtown campus and home to SFU Contemporary Arts. It will serve as a centre for creative discovery, dialogue and collaboration in a broad range of artistic disciplines and will exemplify SFU's commitment to benefitting the communities it serves by delivering programs that are student centred, research driven and community engaged.
Goldcorp is North America's fastest growing senior gold producer. Its low-cost gold production is located in safe jurisdictions in the Americas and remains 100% unhedged. Goldcorp is committed to responsible mining practices and is well-positioned to deliver sustained, industry leading growth and performance.
For further information, please contact:
The Goldcorp Arts Centre in the Woodwards Building: Site of Displacement and Shame
23 September 2010
This morning, Vancouver based mining company Goldcorp announced that they would be donating $10 million to Simon Fraser University to fund the school's arts centre in the already controversial Woodwards building in the Downtown East Side. The school will be known as the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts.
Goldcorp officials, of course, worked hard to spin the donation into yet another indication of their generosity and benevolence towards marginalized communities. After all, what could possibly be wrong with charity?
"Goldcorp is committed to making a positive difference here in Vancouver as well as those communities where we operate our mines," said Goldcorp President and Chief Executive Officer Chuck Jeannes, in a press release this morning.
For anyone who has looked into Goldcorp's operations, this statement smacks of the arrogance and impunity with which they build and operate mines, and leave behind toxic sites, displaced villages, and poisoned and impoverished communities.
In Honduras, Goldcorp's San Martin mine poisoned community members in the Siria Valley, displaced an entire village from their lands, and affected the water supply to the extent that farming and ranching families were forced to migrate out of the area, either to Tegucigalpa or to the U.S.
In Guatemala, the company's Marlin mine is located on what was previously communally held Indigenous Mayan Mam and Mayan Sipakapense lands. The project began amid bloody repression, as one person was killed by police at a roadblock preventing mine construction. Recently, the Inter American Human Rights Commission ruled that the Marlin mine must shut down, but the company has refused to abide by their ruling. Villagers in the surrounding area have lived through deep and sometimes violent conflicts related to the mine, which flared up recently when a company employee shot mine opponent Antonia Hernandez Cinto in the face. All around the mine site, people are contracting illnesses from suspected toxins in the water and in the air.
In Mexico, the company just opened the Peñasquito mine, the country's biggest. Already, conflict around the mine is starting to simmer in the state of Zacatecas, as neighbors and communal land holders begin to understand the size of the project in a semi-arid area.
In Argentina, people have been organizing against the Bajo de la Alumbrera mine for years. They say the contamination of the mine, combined with electricity and water use, have made life in their villages unbearable.
In California, the company recently lost a Chapter 11 dispute under NAFTA. They claimed they had every right to bulldoze sacred Quechen Indigenous sites, and that the U.S. government should pay the company for forcing them to mitigate the damage done in sacred areas.
There are many more stories about how Goldcorp really treats the communities where it operates, a sample of which are contained in a booklet I worked on a couple of years ago called Investing in Conflict.
Something I realized after having done work on and off for a few years with Goldcorp-affected communities in Honduras and Guatemala was that companies really don't care what community members think of their projects. I mean sure, they'll try. They'll try and convince people, to buy them off, to build them schools or churches (evangelical ones) or whatever.
But if the people are firm, and they stand their ground, any mining, oil, forestry, and you name it company will poison them, displace them, wound them, jail them, and even kill them to get to the resources that they, through deals made with illegitimate and corrupted states, consider to be theirs. When things get to this point, the company can lean on the state government (to which they are sometimes even the largest taxpayer) to get the local police and army to keep the locals in check.
The people that companies really care about convincing, at this point, are North Americans. You know, working people, Americans and especially Canadians who invest their pensions in Goldcorp. Honestly, they do a pretty good job up here in the city, far away from the hellholes they've dug: the Ethical Funds Company even says that Goldcorp shares are an ethical investment. Seen in that light, buying their name onto an arts school in Canada's poorest off reserve postal code makes perfect sense.
Here's Chuck Jeannes again, from today's press release: "Vancouver's Downtown Eastside has become one of Canada's most depressed neighbourhoods, and we are optimistic that by working with Simon Fraser University, we will be able to reach out to its businesses and residents to help create a more sustainable future."
Goldcorp isn't a company that cares about human or social sustainability. They are, like every other transnational corporation out there, an organization that cares about their bottom line. SFU Arts should be ashamed of taking this money from Goldcorp, a company that values human life, communities and ecosystems far less than it does gold.