MAC: Mines and Communities

Canada's support for controversial mining projects goes a step further

Published by MAC on 2012-03-14
Source: Statement, Globe and Mail, Embassy

The Canadian government has invited eleven foreign journalists to attend the country's leading mining conference - and domestic taxpayers will foot the bill.

Campaigners claim this is yet a further step in trying to neutralise legitimate opposition to the activities of Canadian mining companies overseas and at home.

Meanwhile, opposition is increasing to recently-announced "development partnerships" between three NGOs and three mining companies, also brokered by the government,

See: Canada's government equates mining with "development"


Canadian Embassies bring journalists to mining convention from countries mired in conflict

Press release

6 March 2012

This week, Canadian taxpayers will cover the costs of eleven journalists from eight Latin American countries - and Mongolia - to attend the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada's (PDAC) 2012 conference. Most of them will also make paid visits to mine sites in Quebec.

Steven Chapman from KI "Protect KI Sacred Lands"
Steven Chapman from KI. "Protect KI Sacred Lands"
Source: Allan Lissner

"This seems like an attempt on the part of the Canadian government to manage the message instead of seriously addressing the roots of mine conflicts in countries such as Argentina, Honduras, Guatemala, Peru and Ecuador where Canadian companies are operating," says Jen Moore, Latin America Program Coordinator for MiningWatch Canada. "Are these journalists going to go home and acknowledge that the stories they write have been sponsored by the Government of Canada? I don't think so."

Such conflicts are not minor or localised:

· Opposition to Osisko Mining's exploration project in the province of La Rioja, Argentina, over potential impacts of mining on water supplies, led to a month long blockade in January. The blockade was only lifted after the company issued a statement saying it would not carry out exploration work until it could obtain local support for the project.

· In February, thousands of peasant farmers marched on the capital of Peru demanding a new mining law that would protect their watersheds and opposing mine expansion projects by companies such as Barrick Gold.

· Ecuadorian organizations will kick off a similar march on the national capital at the end of this week, starting from the south of the country where communities and their representatives have demonstrated against projects owned by companies such as Kinross, Iamgold and International Minerals Corporation. Eight women were detained Monday during a protest in Quito against the signing of an agreement with Ecuacorriente, which changed hands from Vancouver-based Corriente Resources to a Chinese consortium in 2010.

· In Honduras, mine-affected communities and environmental and indigenous organizations are protesting a proposed mining law that Honduran authorities are promoting at PDAC this week, also with support from the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs.

"Government and industry representatives are sure to give these journalists a glowing picture of Canada's disingenous Corporate Social Responsibility framework for mining overseas, while trying to demonstrate that mining is developing without a hitch here at home," remarks Ramsey Hart, Canada Program Coordinator for MiningWatch Canada, "but it's not that simple."

On Tuesday, members of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI First Nation) will be at PDAC to demonstrate against the failure of the Ontario provincial government to ensure that mining exploration company God's Lake Resources respects their right to free, prior, and informed consent. In June 2011, KI declared their opposition to industrial developments on their territory in order to protect the watershed that is the core of their territory.

Also in Ontario, three lives have been lost in fatal accidents at Vale-owned nickel mines in Sudbury during the last year.

Osisko Mining's open-pit gold operation in Malartic, Quebec, which visiting journalists might tour, has led to discontent among community members who claim the company betrayed its promises to ensure that they would face no major problems during the mine's construction. Noise, dust, plummeting housing values, and a disappointing relocation process have led citizens to protest.

"Do we need to warn all the other citizens of Quebec," they wrote in a recent open letter to Quebec premier Jean Charest, "[...] not to trust the nice promises mining companies make while trying to sell their projects?" They continued, "You will create some well-paid jobs, [...] but we've learned from experience that the modest citizens will pay the price. With the current law, accepting a mine near you, open pit or not, is an expensive choice destined to become a poisoned present that one quickly learns to regret having accepted."

The delegation of reporters may also visit Goldcorp's project on Cree territory in Eleonore, Quebec. It is unlikely that the vast differences in conditions under which the Cree negotiated a successful agreement with this gold mining behemoth will be constrasted with those facing indigenous Maya communities whose right to consultation and consent has been consistently undermined. In the Guatemalan highlands, growing evidence of water contamination and public health impacts of such a short-lived mine operation are predicted to spell long-term impoverishment for an already troubled area.

"The government-sponsored tour is also unlikely to acknowledge other conflicts that have arisen that are important to understanding the difficulties that aboriginal and non-aboriginal people in Canada face in having their rights respected and community health protected," adds Mr. Hart.

For example, at Barriere Lake, in unceded Algonquin territory, the Quebec government refuses to acknowledge its responsibility to consult with the First Nations over mineral exploration projects on their territory. In New Brunswick, citizens in the town of Penobsquis are also fighting for compensation over the alleged loss of their well water, damages to their properties, and impacts on their quality of life from underground potash mining. Meanwhile, in British Columbia, the Tsilhqot'in People are having to re-engage in a review process of an already-rejected proposal for an open pit gold and copper project,and where the proponent recently launched a lawsuit against an environmental group critical of its project.

"I hope that at least a couple of these journalists will take the opportunity to ask a few hard questions," concludes Ms. Moore, "so as not to further reinforce the misinformation that is frequently spread in Latin America that our companies are being held to international standards, when in fact we have no effective mechanisms to ensure that."

The reporters, visiting at the invitation of Canadian embassies in their respective countries, should ask federal government representatives why the Conservative government turned its back on a 2007 consensus report between civil society, industry, and government representatives that recommended a series of corporate accountability measures that would have helped provide recourse for mine-affected communities abroad. And examine why our national broadcaster recently criticized one of the pillars of Canada's CSR strategy as a waste of money.


In Ottawa: Jen Moore, Latin America Program Coordinator, MiningWatch Canada (613) 569-3439
In Toronto: Ramsey Hart, Canada Program Coordinator, MiningWatch Canada (613) 298-4745 (cell)

A cautionary tale for the mining industry

By Jeff Gray

The Globe and Mail

7 March 2012

David Babin, chief of the tiny Wahgoshig First Nation in Northern Ontario, was driving home from nearby Kirkland Lake during the spring thaw last year when he noticed the heavy equipment of a drilling crew, looking for gold in his people's traditional lands.

It was the first Chief Babin had heard of the drilling. And it was the beginning of conflict that would end up in court, with an Ontario judge handing down a rare injunction earlier this year that suspended drilling on behalf of Solid Gold Resources Corp., a Thornhill, Ont.-based junior miner, and ordered consultations with the Wahgoshig.

"They didn't understand first nation's concerns," Chief Babin said of the company in an interview. "Meanwhile, these guys kept on drilling, saying, ‘We've got the right to drill, and you can't stop me.' "

Lawyers who work on these cases, representing both native bands and mining companies, say Solid Gold's story is a cautionary tale for companies that fail to properly consult native communities that could be affected by their activities on Crown land.

Mining activity has boomed in recent years in the North, but the Supreme Court of Canada's landmark 2004 Haida decision, which broadened the legal concept of a "duty to consult" native bands in such cases, has also forced companies to conduct broader consultations. But in addition to revenue-sharing deals, job guarantees and other agreements between native bands and mining companies, dozens of cases like Wahgoshig's are ending up before courts and tribunals.

It is a front-of-mind issue in the industry. The Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) annual mining industry convention in Toronto this week offers a list of workshops in aboriginal engagement.

Outside the event on Tuesday, members of the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation, located some 600 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, and about 80 supporters protested against the presence of junior miner God's Lake Resources Inc. in their traditional lands.

On Sunday, the Ontario government suspended all other mineral exploration in the area to avoid conflicts. (In 2008, six KI members were jailed as they battled another mining company, Platinex Inc. In that case, Ontario paid the company $5-million to abandon its plans.)

In the Wahgoshig case, Ontario Superior Court Justice Carole Brown issued an order in January that Solid Gold cease any exploration for 120 days and enter into a process of "meaningful consultation and accommodation." The injunction was granted pending a lawsuit from the Wahgoshig against both Solid Gold and the province over the drilling.

Judge Brown pointed out that Solid Gold had been advised by the Ontario government in 2009 to consult the Wahgoshig but failed to do so before starting drilling last year close to the reserve, which is near Matheson, Ont.

She said the evidence shows Solid Gold "made a concerted, willful effort not to consult," until after its financing from so-called flow-through shares had been exhausted at the end of last year.

Solid Gold is appealing the ruling, and says it intends to sue the Ontario government for its losses in the case. Its president, Darryl Stretch, said in a press release that the results of the case could have an impact on the Canadian economy as a whole.

The company could not be reached Tuesday. But it argues in court documents that it was doing nothing wrong and had no duty to consult the Wahgoshig about its drilling, which the company said would have minimal impact, because it was guaranteed the right to exploratory drilling under Ontario's "free entry" mining legislation.

In its court submissions, the company's lawyers, Neal Smitheman and Tracey Pratt of Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP, dismiss the Wahgoshig's claims to its traditional territory around Lake Abitibi: "Contrary to WFN's repeated references to the contemplated drilling taking place on ‘its' traditional territory, the exploratory drilling in the is case will take place on land that was surrendered more than 100 years ago under a treaty whose express purpose, in the very text of the treaty, was to open up the surrendered territory to, among other things, mining uses."

Lawyer Kate Kempton of Olthuis Kleer Townshend LLP, who acts for Wahgoshig, said this argument simply ignores the current landscape of aboriginal treaty rights. The Supreme Court's decision in the Haida case obligates the Crown, or a mining company to whom the Crown delegates this obligation, to consult first nations whose rights to use those Crown lands, often guaranteed in treaties signed over 100 years ago, may be affected.

While there is no formula for just how much consultation is required, it must be real, she says, with companies prepared to change their plans to address concerns.

"It's not just talking at somebody or sitting there while they talk at you," said Ms. Kempton, who also acted for KI in its court battle with Platinex. "It's really engaging."

In the Wahgoshig case, members have raised concerns about the need for studies to find burial sites before drilling or mining, and whether the activity would affect the local moose population.

Ms. Kempton said many companies now make efforts to engage with first nations. In many cases, their ability to get financing depends on signed agreements with native groups. But other companies make only half-hearted attempts, she said.

Lawyers who act for mining companies in talks with native bands say proper consultations with first nations are increasingly important for their clients.

Richard King, a partner with Norton Rose Canada, said he was surprised at the approach that Solid Gold appears to have taken. Most of his clients, he said, are interested in holding proper talks with native groups.

"It's not been my experience that clients approach the consultation process aggressively, like ‘Let's get in and out of the consultation stuff doing as little as possible,' " he said.

Chief Babin, in Toronto for the PDAC mining conference, says the Wahgoshig are by no means opposed to development, pointing to other resources companies operating nearby with whom they have signed agreements.

"We don't try to stop all development, but when new stuff comes in, we want to look at it," he said. "We want to make sure that they understand that there's a lot of history in our area."

Chief Morris goes to Sherman Lake to Guard against GLR

KI News Release

7 March 2012

KI Chief Morris goes to Sherman Lake to guard against GLR, calls on Minister Bartolucci to start negotiating

Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) -As over a hundred KI supporters rallied in Toronto, KI Chief Donny Morris travelled to the Sherman Lake site yesterday to guard against trespass by mining exploration company Gods Lake Resources (GLR). The Chief is challenging the government of Ontario to avert an escalated conflict with the junior gold exploration company which insists on drilling on leases and claims in an area known to contain sacred burials and other KI cultural values.

Chief Morris posted a youtue video from the site today:

"We are getting ready for the company that is coming to this territory," said Chief Morris in the youtube video, the latest in his series of public statements from the remote community. "Bartolucci, I'm here now so let's start the negotiations, let's sit down."

On Sunday the Ontario government unilaterally withdrew 23,181 sq km of land in KI Homeland from mining exploration in response to KI's longstanding decision to place a full moratorium on industry in our Indigenous Homeland. However, the claims and leases at the heart of KI's conflict with GLR are unaffected by ON's move and the dispute over protection of our burials and sacred landscape remains unresolved.

The MNDM has indicated that GLR intends to access the site this month. Both GLR and ON refuse to say what date the company plans to move its drill rig in, prompting KI to establish a reconnaissance presence at the site.. KI Chief Morris said in a Feb. 16 youtube video that his community was mobilizing and he feared that the situation would escalate. In a March 1 news release GLR indicated that they are looking to hire private security for their drill program - a potentially explosive move.

"As a child this is where I grew up hunting with my family, and I'm here now on familiar ground," said Chief Morris.

KI gained national attention in 2008 when six of its leaders, including Chief Morris, were jailed for opposing mining company Platinex. Major unions and NGOs are joining forces with KI Indigenous Nation to insist that mining Minister Bartoluccui stop exploration on KI's land before Ontario taxpayers have to foot the bill. In 2009, Platinex received $5-million plus mediation for ceding their claim to KI Lands.

For interviews:
Chief Darryl Sainnawap: (807) 537-2263
N.B. Chief Morris will be unavailable for a few days.

For more information and live interviews with KI reps in Toronto contact:
David Sone: 647-386-1481

KI First Nation mobilizes to block Mining on their sacred land

By Tim Groves

Media Coop

6 March 2012

On March 6th over 120 people gathered to protest mining on the sacred lands of the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) First Nation. They held a boisterous rally across the street from the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, which is hosting the words largest mining industry convention.

KI is currently mobilizing to prevent gold mining company God's Lake Resources from prospecting or mining on their homelands. The Ontario government has indicated that the company plans to begin prospecting this month.

"We want the Government to recognize we are a nation, we are a government, we have our own sacred laws" said KI Councilor Cecillia Beggs, addressing the crowd.

Supporters carried placards, flags and two giant 25ft banners, one reading "Protect Sacred KI Lands" and the other "No mining abuse."

Several speakers from KI addressed the crowd in Oji-Cree and English. There were also speakers from the Ontario Federation of Labour, and NGOs including Mining Watch Canada, the Council of Canadians and Greenpeace.

"Canada needs to respect KI's leadership including our right to say no," Beggs told the Toronto Media Co-op, explaining that government and industry "need to respect our ancestral lands, our indigenous laws and our sacred burial sites."

Beggs was one of six members of the community who were jailed in 2008 for opposing a previous gold mining company, Platinex, from operating on their land despite a court injunction. The campaign against the company eventually led the Ontario Government to pay Platinex over $5 Million in 2009 to abandon their mining claim.

Beggs said she would be willing to be arrested again to prevent God's Lake Resources from mining on their land.

God's Lake Resources released a statement on March 1st saying that they were "canvassing security companies to ensure the smooth completion of the drill program."

On March 4th, the Ontario government responded to the escalating tensions between KI and God's Lake Resources by releasing a statement, saying it had "withdrawn" 23,181 square kilometers from prospecting and mining.

However, a press release from KI Cheif Donny Morris says the withdrawn land "does not include Gods Lake Resources' (GLR) claims and leases at Sherman Lake in KI Homeland, a sacred area known to have KI burials and other cultural values."

The media release expressed concern that the Minister of Northern Development and Mines, Rick Bartolucci, had made the decision without consulting KI or considering their leadership over the land.

"I challenge the Minister to come to KI for an historical event where we sit down, come to agreement, and sign off together to make this withdrawal permanent under KI Indigenous protection. And that should include our land that Gods Lake Resources is trying to access. Come to KI to sign together in a true spirit of cooperation."

While several leaders from KI attended the rally in Toronto, Chief Morris traveled to the Sherman Lake region in which God's Lake Resources hopes to prospect for gold.

"As long as there is breath in me I will defend our land," said KI Councilor Randy Nanokeesic, addressing the crowd in Toronto. "I grew up on the trapline, I live from the land and I will live to defend it."

"We have people supporting us, and with greater awareness and support I am sure that we will be successful," said Beggs.

Beggs and Nanokeesic were among the speakers on a panel at the Steel Workers Hall the previous night. That event also saw the launch of a new film on KI and its struggle to protect its lands.

You can watch the film here:

Foreign policy is mining policy

By Elizabeth Payne

The Ottawa Citizen

7 March 2012

Six months after International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda announced CIDA would fund three controversial development partnerships between NGOs and Canadian mining companies, the federal government is laying the groundwork for more foreign aid to be delivered with the help of the mining industry. It's a trend in international development that is raising new concerns.

"As I listen to this conversation ... I sometimes think I'm at a business development meeting," NDP MP Jinny Jogindera Sims said during recent Foreign Affairs and International Development committee hearings into the role of the private sector in achieving Canada's international development interests.

"The purpose of ... international development ... aid is to reduce poverty. Yet a lot of the focus I've heard today has been on putting infrastructures in place or institutions in place that will help the mining companies." Sims said she has concerns "about our aid being so closely tied to one particular industry."

When the pilot projects partnering NGOs with Canadian mining companies to deliver aid became public last year, critics raised concerns about the embrace of mining as a foreign policy tool and the use of aid dollars to support corporate social responsibility projects.

The new direction in foreign policy is having other negative effects, the same House of Commons committee was warned last week.

Anthony Bebbington, director of the Graduate School of Geography at Massachusetts-based Clark University, told the committee that he has heard from Latin American politicians that Canada's foreign policy links with mining are undermining the country's credibility. "I don't know if Canada has been quite so discredited in its history," a Latin American minister of the environment (whom he did not name) said to Bebbington. He also quoted a "sub-secretary in a ministry of energy and mines" as saying this: "As far as I can tell, the Canadian ambassador here is a representative for Canadian mining companies."

The comments, he noted, did not come from "raving left-of-centre activists. They are from politically appointed technocrats trying to build public policy and address poverty and vulnerability in very practical ways."

In a week when Joe Oliver, minister of natural resources, lavishly praised the contribution of mining to the Canadian economy during the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada's international convention, the links between Canada's mining industry and foreign policy appear tighter than ever.

Mining and resources are huge economic drivers for Canada, as Oliver pointed out, calling it the cornerstone of the Canadian economy. Mineral production accounted for $35 billion of the country's GDP in 2010 and $18 billion of its trade surplus. "Those kinds of numbers are giving Canadians a new appreciation for the importance of our mining and other resource industries," the minister told the convention. An Embassy magazine headline ran: "At global mining convention, Joe Oliver is a rock star."

The government's appreciation for the mining industry is understandable - it is a massive economic player. But is the government allowing its relationship to unduly influence foreign policy and direct aid dollars? And does that mean Canadian interests come first when international aid is distributed?

Oda has strongly defended the use of private industry, such as the mining companies that are involved in CIDA-funded projects in Africa and Peru, as partners to help deliver Canada's foreign aid dollars. CIDA is currently looking for another NGO partner for a $6.5 million project in Peru that, among other things, would "promote corporate social responsibility through partnership arrangements between extractive sector companies and other stakeholders aimed at socioeconomic development and support to governance."

Foreign Affairs, meanwhile, has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars for corporate social responsibility projects over recent years. The department has paid to bring journalists from Latin America and Mongolia to Canada to attend the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada conference and to tour mines in Quebec.

CIDA's focus on the private sector coincides with a change in the way it delivers aid dollars through aid agencies. CIDA's new system of making aid agencies compete for specific projects has left a number of Canadian aid organizations laying off staff and reconsidering their futures after they were turned down for aid dollars. Some of those agencies, such as the Mennonite Central Committee, have been working with CIDA for decades.

CIDA's new system, according to a survey of NGOs released by the Canadian Council for International Co-operation, was badly run and lacking in transparency. Some organizations, who waited months to learn whether they would get CIDA funding, said it reduced their credibility with partners and volunteers, that they felt pressure to change their priorities in order to come up with "acceptable" proposals and were forced to cut programs.

More pointedly, most organizations who responded to the survey said the new system has put a chill on advocacy work "as a result of the widely shared perception that CIDA looks unfavourably on organizations that do policy and advocacy work, especially in areas that are controversial for the current government ...."

The message from CIDA is clear. The future is in private sector development.

Elizabeth Payne is a member of the Ottawa Citizen's editorial board.

Mining, CIDA partnership in Peru is pacification program, not development

By Rick Arnold

Embassy Magazine

5 March 2012

Local indigenous rep writes to World Vision, Barrick Gold, CIDA asking them to stop.

Controversy erupted recently about new funding arrangements announced by the Canadian International Development Agency that would hook CIDA up with the mining industry and have both channelling funds to South America and Africa via a handful of international NGOs.

One of those projects connects CIDA, Barrick Gold, and World Vision in Peru.

But little coverage has focused on the real story behind this ‘development' initiative targeting community members in the district of Quiruvilca, north-west of the capital city of Lima.

Opposition to Barrick's presence in the Quiruvilca district goes back several years. For example, on Feb. 9, 2007 some 3,000 people demonstrated against ongoing Barrick operations in the district.

Barrick is currently seeking to open a new open-pit mine in an area known as Laguna Sur. In 2011 the company carried out 366 perforations in a wet zone close to five small lakes that comprise a catchment area providing clean water for some 8,000 farmers downstream.

In response to these developments the municipality of Santiago de Chuco passed an ordinance in June 2011 providing for a conservation zone for the catchment area. Barrick's response to this ordinance was to immediately contest it by appealing to the Third Constitutional Court in Lima.

Opposition to Barrick's presence in the Quiruvilca district is mounting. On Feb. 3 a contingent of farmers and rural dwellers from the district walked and caught rides covering a distance of 557 kilometres, and arrived in Lima on Feb. 9 to join thousands of others from across Peru in the National March for Water.

The demands of the national march included a new Peruvian mining law to replace the one instituted by the corrupt Fujimori regime. Quiruvilca-area farmers had their own chant prepared for the mega-march: "Water is life, and we are going to defend our lakes."

Rights trump ‘development'

Having recently caught wind of the World Vision-led project to be financed jointly by CIDA and Barrick Gold, Miguel Palacin, the general co-ordinator of the Andean Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations, sent a strongly worded letter of concern to World Vision-Canada and Barrick Gold headquarters in Toronto, as well as to International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda.

Mr. Palacin represents a group that is the co-ordination nexus for the indigenous organizations of Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru, with a mandate to work to promote and defend the rights of indigenous peoples internationally.

This letter, in part, makes the following points:

"Unfortunately, Canadian mining companies have a bad track record in our [Southern] countries, where companies such as Barrick Gold are the source of many conflicts because of the dispossession of lands, destruction of water sources, and the ignoring of international rights (ILO Convention 169, the UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples, among others), that lead to multiple environmental and social impacts on our communities.

"The solution is not to mediate and negotiate based on what has already been done, and no ‘social works' carried out with the mining companies can compensate for the damage done, particularly in the face of rights having been violated.

"So for these reasons we ask that you, World Vision Canada/Barrick Gold/CIDA, refuse to take any part in this development policy, and instead that you take responsibility to ensure that Canadian companies respect, and demand that States respect, the rights of the indigenous peoples affected before anyone seeks mining concessions in our countries."

For this World Vision-led ‘development' project to go ahead in the district of Quiruvilca in the face of concerted opposition locally and nationally would be tantamount to running a pacification program, and not a development project, in advance of the eventual destruction of a people's way of life-all for gold.

As Mr. Palacin is strongly suggesting, World Vision-Canada should focus its efforts on Canada. It should join with other organizations working to bring about needed legislation at home to hold Canadian mining companies responsible for damages done abroad.

World Vision-Canada would be welcome to participate in Walking the Talk: Human Rights Abroad, a conference to be held on Parliament Hill on March 16. It's meant to be a multi-sectoral dialogue (including leaders from the Global South) focusing on corporate practices abroad, and on related international violations of human and environmental rights.

The conference is to discuss NDP MP Peter Julian's private member's bill, C-323, which had first reading last fall. The bill would provide international communities with the option to pursue legal recourse in Canadian federal courts. It's modelled on current US legislation known as ATCA, the Aliens Tort Claims Act.

Rick Arnold was born in Venezuela. He has worked for a number of Canadian international NGOs, and has just retired as co-ordinator for Common Frontiers-Canada, a group that confronts, and proposes an alternative to, the social, environmental, and economic effects of economic integration in the Americas.

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