MAC: Mines and Communities

Canada's government equates mining with "development"

Published by MAC on 2012-02-14
Source: Embassy, Globe & Mail, blogs

Some NGOs agree, others are outraged.

There's nothing new in the assertion that mining brings jobs, services and general socio-economic development to local communities.

This argument appeared to win the day at the 2002 World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg - and will doubtless be reprised later this year at Rio-plus 20.

However, Canada's development agency, CIDA, has gone two steps further.

It's not only subsidising mining companies through three major NGOs, but also cutting support for a number of other civil society groups which are highly critical of the industry.

CIDA will spend nearly 7 million dollars on three pilot "corporate social responsibility" projects brokered between Plan Canada, World University Service of Canada, and World Vision Canada, in partnership with IAMGOLD, Rio Tinto Alcan, and Barrick Gold *.

Meanwhile, the industry's leading advocacy organisation, ICMM, has renewed its close collaboration with IUCN, the world's largest conservation group.

According to IUCN, the aim of this partnership is "to continue to influence and improve the environmental performance of mining companies."

* For further details, see "CIDA’s Partnership with Mining Companies Fails to Acknowledge and Address the Role of Mining in the Creation of Development Deficits" available at


The back story to the CIDA-mining partnerships

By Catherine Coumans

8 February 2012

The Canadian International Development Agency's funding of Corporate Social Responsibility projects mostly near mine sites is intended to help Canadian mining companies compete for access to lucrative ore bodies in developing countries in the face of increasing local opposition to mining.

As I write this, thousands of Cajamarcans in Peru are protesting Newmont Mining Corp.'s proposed Conga mine that will destroy four lakes they depend on for their water supplies and livelihoods.

Last month an estimated 10,000 people marched at the governor's office in La Rioja, Argentina calling for the cancellation of Osisko's gold mine agreement citing fears that the water they need for their world-class wines, olives, and nuts would be depleted and polluted.

There are at least 10 provincial and 32 municipal moratoriums on large-scale mining in the Philippines leading to a resolution tabled in the House of Representatives in 2010 calling for a moratorium on large-scale mining in the country as a whole, noting that local government units "are not convinced of the claimed development benefits of mining" (House Resolution No. 528).

In Latin America, communities are increasingly carrying out consultas, or referendums, to demonstrate their collective opposition to mining, invariably citing the need to protect the natural resources they depend on for their food security and future development.

Community-level opposition to mining, often by poor and marginal peoples at great cost to themselves, is increasingly taking place before a mine has received its permits, as even remote communities have become aware of the severe and long-term risks mining poses. Local-level opposition and conflict is a serious problem for mining companies seeking to secure stable access to ore bodies. The industry recognizes this when it speaks of needing to secure a "social licence to operate."

Conflict comes home

In Canada, encounters between parliamentarians and people who travelled from afar to relate the harm they suffered as a result of Canadian mining operations led to a groundbreaking parliamentary report in 2005 recommending that the Canadian government "establish clear legal norms in Canada to ensure that Canadian companies and residents are held accountable when there is evidence of environmental and/or human rights violations associated with the activities of Canadian mining companies."

This report led to government-mandated Corporate Social Responsibility Roundtables on the extractive sector in 2006 and a greatly increased awareness among Canadians of the negative impacts associated with mining in developing countries.

As a participant in the multi-stakeholder advisory group of the CSR Roundtables I heard mining industry participants repeatedly decry the reputational damage the industry was suffering as a result of heightened attention in Canada on the industry's problems overseas. I also heard industry pleas for greater support from the Canadian government to ensure continued competitive advantage for Canadian mining companies operating globally.

In particular, industry participants asked for unprecedented support from CIDA directly at mine sites where companies often face fierce community opposition. The industry was strongly opposed to any mandatory accountability measures by the Canadian government that would enforce better social and environmental performance overseas.

Joining forces

As the final report of the CSR Roundtables was presented to the Canadian government in 2007, industry leaders, disgruntled with the consensus recommendations of the report, initiated closed-door meetings with large development NGOs, creating what was to be called the Devonshire Initiative. I learned that as the Devonshire Initiative, mining and development NGO executives jointly lobbied CIDA to 'partner' with them on mine site CSR projects.

It wasn't until 2009 when the Canadian government issued its response to the CSR Roundtable report, called "Building the Canadian Advantage," that CIDA was officially given the policy cover the agency needed to enter into such partnerships-policy cover that was not intended by the CSR Roundtable report.

It is not the least surprising that Pierre Gratton, president of the Mining Association of Canada, recently wrote a piece that appeared in the Ottawa Citizen titled "CIDA changes long overdue." Nor is it particularly surprising that CIDA, as ever a tool of foreign policy objectives of the government of the day, is responding to direct appeals from the industry by channelling taxpayer dollars to mining companies to subsidize their CSR projects mainly near mine sites.

CIDA is spending $6.7 million to support three pilot projects that Canadian NGOs Plan Canada, World University Service of Canada, and World Vision Canada are running in partnership with IAMGOLD, Rio Tinto Alcan, and Barrick Gold, respectively. The projects involve skills training and capacity-building for local leaders mostly near mine sites.

Subsidizing the CSR projects of well-endowed multinationals is an irresponsible use of public funds by CIDA, particularly as these CSR projects mask rather than address the serious local- and national-level development deficits caused by mining.

If the Canadian government were interested in addressing the negative impacts of mining on development it would have implemented the recommendations of the parliamentary report of 2005 and the CSR Roundtables of 2007.

For the first time, top executives of World Vision, World University Service of Canada, and Plan Canada last week published their collective view on their current partnerships with mining companies in the Globe and Mail. In an opinion piece these Devonshire Initiative NGOs advance the industry's own message that mining companies are "already significant development actors in their own right."

Mining companies' branding of themselves as bringers of development needs to be critically examined against the burgeoning 'resource curse' literature that links mining to deepening national impoverishment in mining-dependent developing countries (through loss of competitiveness, loss of development of other economic sectors, and unequal distribution of benefits associated with mineral wealth, for instance) and against the growing global local-level opposition to mining.

The Devonshire Initiative NGOs further justify their partnerships on the basis that mining is "at the heart of a developing country's own economic development plans," showing no awareness of the fact that the industry itself, as I have documented elsewhere, through the International Council on Mining and Metals, promoted for the inclusion of mining in the poverty reduction strategies of mineral-rich developing countries.

Finally, the NGO executives note that "sitting on the sideline is not an option." Here we can agree. These NGOs played no role in attempts by parliamentarians and civil society organizations to develop home state accountability mechanisms to ensure high environmental and social standards for the operations of Canadian mining companies overseas.

Their support for this ongoing effort would be welcomed.

Catherine Coumans is the research co-ordinator and Asia Pacific program co-ordinator for MiningWatch Canada. She is the author of Whose Development? Mining, Local Resistance, and Development Agendas.

CIDA, Barrick Gold, new partners in development?

By Dennis Gruending

2 February 2012

When she shut down the 35-year relationship between the ecumenical group KAIROS and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) in 2009, it seemed that Conservative minister Bev Oda had lost her tongue.

It was left to a faceless bureaucrat to call KAIROS and tell them their human rights projects in some of the world's most troubled countries no longer fit CIDA's criteria. When Oda was questioned about this in the House of Commons, she had nothing to say and sat there mutely while other (male) cabinet ministers tried to parry the blows. But Oda has plenty to say these days, including a recent lengthy interview with the Ottawa Citizen, in which she speaks with great enthusiasm about CIDA's new support for pilot projects abroad with Canadian mining companies and select NGOs.

What was not clear in 2009 is becoming much more obvious today. The Conservatives have pulled CIDA out of a number of the world's poorest countries, particularly in Africa, and have refocused on other countries where Canada has more robust trading relationships. It would seem that aid is all about trade, although Oda sees no distinction. Asked by The Citizen how she separates Canada's trade and foreign policy interests from development goals, she said, "I really don't separate them."

CIDA changes partners

CIDA will soon abandon a number of its long-standing development partners among Canadian NGOs, including a number of church-based organizations. Reliable sources say that a number of those groups will see their funding ended or curtailed this year. CIDA is replacing them in its affections with Canadian based multinationals, including Barrick Gold, IAMGOLD, and Rio Tinto Alcan. Oda has been speaking enthusiastically about overseas projects with these three companies and others in the agri-business sector.

CIDA wants to ensure that foreign aid also supports trade and economic growth in Canada. Oda announced $26 million in projects last fall. and more projects are in the pipeline. In Burkina Faso, for example, the project with IAMGOLD is said to offer skills training to young people to work in the mining industry. The budget is $7.6 million over five years. CIDA will provide $5.7 million of that amount; the company will provide $1.0 million; and an NGO called Plan Canada will provide the remaining $900,000.

The Canadian mining industry thinks it is a great idea. "There is a policy shift under way, and it is one we are encouraged by," says Pierre Gratton, president of the Canadian Mining Association. "These projects help improve the image of the industry ... because they are meaningful and have value," he adds. "This is not just PR."

Positive spin

Some would say that it is more than image that needs improving for the mining industry. The Canadian group MiningWatch has been blowing the whistle for years on the questionable environmental, human rights and labour relations practices of Canadian mining companies in a number of poor countries. MiningWatch is not on the Prime Minister's Christmas card list.

Jamie Keen of MiningWatch says joint ventures abroad involving CIDA and the industry will help to put a positive spin on the operations, whether deserved or not. He also says, "These companies are sitting on piles of cash, so why are taxpayers paying for their development projects?"

Hoarding cash

Research conducted for the Canadian Labour Congress indicates that Barrick Gold saw its short and long term assets increase dramatically between the years 2000 and 2010 - from $642 million to $4.5 billion. Presumably much of this cash hoarding had to do with the federal government's dramatic reduction in corporate income taxes during that period. Barrick's CEO took home $9.9 million in pay in 2010. (In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I have a day job with the CLC).

Negatives outweigh positives

Very Rev. Bill Phipps, a former Moderator of the United Church of Canada, is concerned by what he hears about CIDA's three new pilot projects in Burkina Faso, Peru and Ghana. "I think the negatives outweigh the positives, he says." Phipps returned recently from a fact-finding visit to areas in the Philippines that are being targeted for exploration by mining companies, some of them Canadian.

"The Aboriginal people in the area I visited have a good subsistence life, where they grow healthy food and have clean rivers. There are seven or eight exploration applications on the books and the people oppose them for environmental, cultural and spiritual reasons. As the mining applications increase, the military follows and it is right in the face of these people. The army is operating hand-in-glove with development."

CIDA's pilot projects are also causing a rift within the Canadian NGO community. Each of the three projects has an NGO partner. Others in the sector worry that these agencies will "whitewash" the practices of the mining industry - a claim that is denied aggressively.

In the case of the Barrick Gold project in Peru, the partner is World Vision. The Globe and Mail quotes World Vision Canada's president Dave Toycen on January 30, 2012 as saying: "We have to be realistic here, there is self interest on the part of every party here. Anything we can do to encourage and advocate for better mining practices, and support the communities that they are displacing or affecting, we're contributing to a better lifestyle and environment for them."

Rev. Phipps, who has not visited the proposed pilot projects, says: "No matter how responsible a corporation tries to be, there are inevitable differences of opinion and conflicts on ecological, human rights, labour, cultural, and other issues. So sometimes an NGO needs to become an advocate for the communities on these conflicts. The company and NGO have different roles, and NGOs should not provide a cover or fig leaf for corporate actions. Too close a relationship is fraught with conflicts of interest."

Partisan considerations

One can also look for the partisan considerations at play. KAIROS not only lost its funding in 2009, but was accused by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney of being anti-Semitic. The group had also challenged the government on its commitment to rapid development of the oil sands in Western Canada.

The KAIROS member agencies are drawn mainly from the mainline Protestant and Catholic churches. World Vision, on the other hand, is mainly identified with evangelical Christians, a group that is generally friendly to the Conservatives and tends to vote for them.

When news comes out, as it soon will, about whom CIDA will fund and whom it discards, this religious lens is one to watch.

CIDA funds seen to be subsidizing mining firms

Daniel Leblanc

Globe and Mail

29 January 2012

Ottawa - The Harper government weathered a storm when it cut funding to long-standing foreign-aid groups, but is now facing more controversy over its decision to launch development projects in partnership with mining firms.

The Canadian International Development Agency has established three foreign-aid pilot projects in Africa and South America with large mining corporations, as part of a plan to ensure that foreign aid also fuels economic growth and international trade at home.

Critics argue that Canada is needlessly subsidizing the foreign operations of profitable corporations, but the government is encouraging non-governmental organizations to come up with more projects with the private sector. This marks the first time that CIDA and mining firms are jointly funding aid projects abroad, and comes after the Conservatives faced a massive pre-election controversy over funding cuts to traditional partners, such as church-backed Kairos.

The mining industry is welcoming the new trend in Canada’s foreign-aid policy.

“There is a policy shift under way, and it’s one we’re encouraged by,” said Pierre Gratton, the president of the Canadian Mining Association.

In an interview, Mr. Gratton praised International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda for pushing the new initiatives, which will make it easier for mining firms to sell their sometimes controversial projects to local populations.

“These projects help improve the image of the industry … because they are meaningful and have value,” Mr. Gratton said. “This is not just PR.”

Federal officials said the policy shift at CIDA is co-ordinated with efforts by International Trade and Natural Resources to encourage the growth of Canadian firms abroad. Prime Minister Stephen Harper outlined the shift in 2007, his second year in power, when he met with officials from Barrick Gold during a trip to Tanzania and said the government wanted “to assist in building our investments here.”

Ms. Oda has pushed for greater links between NGOs and mining firms, announcing $26-million in projects last fall. These included partnerships with Barrick Gold, IAMGOLD and Rio Tinto Alcan. On Dec. 23, CIDA announced a $4.5-million project in Ghana, Mali and Senegal in partnership with Lundin for Africa, which is the philanthropic arm of mining giant Lundin Group of Companies.

Over all, CIDA has approved at least $50-million in projects that are linked to the mining industry in countries such as Peru and Burkina Faso since the Conservatives came to power in 2006, according to CIDA’s project database.

Officials inside and outside government said more projects are in the pipeline. Ms. Oda travelled last August to Mongolia, the resource-rich country that is in the sights of major Canadian mining operations, but not on CIDA’s list of “countries of focus.” During the visit, Ms. Oda said that Canada was looking to assist Mongolia to “strengthen its democratic governance and economic growth.”

The practice is fuelling the ire of some NGOs and critics of the mining industry, which lambaste the government for subsidizing the so-called “corporate social responsibility” projects that are put in place by profitable companies. Jamie Kneen of MiningWatch Canada said the government is helping the mining industry to put a positive spin on their operations, despite their negative environmental and human-rights records.

“These companies are sitting on piles of cash, so why are Canadian taxpayers paying for their development projects?” Mr. Kneen said.

But World Vision Canada, which is working with Barrick Gold and CIDA in Peru on a $1-million project, is defending its actions as having a positive impact on children and families.

“We have to be realistic here, there is self-interest on the part of every party here,” said World Vision Canada president Dave Toycen. “Anything we can do to encourage and advocate for better mining practices, and support the communities that they are displacing or affecting, we’re contributing to a better lifestyle and environment for them.”

In a statement issued by her office on Thursday, Ms. Oda said her government wants to encourage Canadian firms to help “local populations,” arguing that extractive industries – referring to mining and oil and gas – are creating jobs and economic development.

“This approach of partnership will result in enriching the local communities, building a stronger skilled workforce and reducing poverty for many families,” she said. “Creating sustainable economic growth in developing countries is key to reducing poverty.”

With a report from Campbell Clark

CIDA doles out corporate welfare to mining giants

Creekside blog

30 January 2012

In Oct 2010, Bill C-300, An Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries, went down to defeat 140 to 134 because 13 Liberals, 4 Bloc, and 4 NDP skipped the vote. The bill sought only to limit Canadian tax dollars being spent to subsidize mining abuses committed by Canadian-registered companies abroad and only if they agreed to it.

A couple of months later in January 2011, Bev Oda, Minister of 'Not Kairos' and International Cooperation, acknowledged that Canadian tax dollars were subsidizing mining companies' CSR (corporate social responsibility) projects through CIDA - half a million to Barrick Gold, another half million to Rio Tinto, etc etc up to a total of $50-million for the year.

Today's G&M [Toronto Globe & Mail]: CIDA funds seen to be subsidizing mining firms

This marks the first time that CIDA and mining firms are jointly funding aid projects abroad ... The mining industry is welcoming the new trend in Canada's foreign-aid policy.

"There is a policy shift under way, and it's one we're encouraged by," said Pierre Gratton, the president of the Canadian Mining Association, while World Vision Canada, a CIDA partner with Barrick Gold in Peru, put it this way (italics mine):

"Anything we can do to encourage and advocate for better mining practices, and support the communities that they are displacing or affecting, we're contributing to a better lifestyle and environment for them."

Yes, sadly, communities will be displaced but at least our taxes will be there to help polish the image of their new corporate landlords .

It's particularly galling that multinational mining giant Rio Tinto ($US15 billion-plus earnings in 2011) is receiving Canadian corporate welfare after locking 800 Canadian workers out on New Years Day in Quebec for protesting having their union jobs replaced by contract workers. Additionally, a court injunction only permits 20 workers to demonstrate at any one time and only at a distance of 150 metres from the front gate.

Back to the G&M :

Federal officials said the policy shift at CIDA is co-ordinated with efforts by International Trade and Natural Resources to encourage the growth of Canadian firms abroad

Sure it is.

A couple of days ago, Rio Tinto took majority control of Canada's Ivanhoe Mines which owns 66% of Mongolia's Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold mine, the rest being owned by the state of Mongolia.

As it happens, Bev Oda was in Mongolia last August :

"looking to assist Mongolia to strengthen its democratic governance and economic growth"

presumably with the help of China :

"In 2010, Rio Tinto said that it had held talks with its biggest shareholder, Chinalco, about the possibility of bringing in the Chinese state-owned company as a partner in Oyu Tolgoi"

Why are Canadian tax dollars subsidizing these massive multinational mining corps with corporate welfare again?

Mining and conservation working together

International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) Press Release

30 January 2012

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) have signed a second memorandum of understanding (MOU) which builds on the 2004-2008 ICMM-IUCN Dialogue and marks the start of a new phase in the working relationship.

The two organizations gave a joint presentation and discussed joint efforts for 2012 at the 4th West & Central Africa Mining Summit in September 2011. Other planned activities include:

Participation in a panel on collaboration between mining and conservation organizations at Mining Indaba (Cape Town, South Africa, February 2012)

A workshop at IUCN's World Conservation Congress (Jeju, South Korea, September 2012).
Work is underway to develop a project development cycle that will identify, develop, deliver and evaluate projects.

"We are delighted to embark in this new phase of work," said Anthony Hodge, President of ICMM, "It signals our commitment to collaboration as the best means of ensuring that our contribution to people and the ecosystem is positive in the long-term."

"IUCN continues to build bridges between the conservation society and business," said Julia Marton-Lefèvre, IUCN Director General. "With the signing of this memorandum of understanding, we aim to continue to influence and improve the environmental performance of mining companies."

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