MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Kairos urges government action in mining abroad

Published by MAC on 2005-10-28

Kairos urges government action in mining abroad

TORONTO, Oct. 20 2005 /CNW/ - KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives today condemned the federal government's failure to ensure Canadian mining companies adhere to internationally accepted human rights and environmental standards when operating abroad. KAIROS is particularly concerned about two urgent cases in Mexico and the Philippines.

KAIROS is a national organization that unites 11 Canadian churches and church agencies working on social justice issues. It is responding to a government report released on Tuesday that rejects recommendations of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade (SCFAIT) which would help prevent Canadian companies becoming complicit in violating accepted human rights and environmental standards overseas.

"Canadian mining companies operating abroad often have little regard for human rights or the environment. This week the federal government failed to take any action to stop them," says Rusa Jeremic, a KAIROS Global Economic Justice Program Coordinator.

Mining in Developing Countries, the government's response to SCFAIT, fails to implement recommendations that would hold Canadian mining companies accountable for human rights or environmental violations committed abroad.

The lack of government action will have immediate consequences for the historic town of Cerro de San Pedro, Mexico, which is facing imminent danger from Canadian mining activity. Last week a violent explosion shook the town and its centuries-old buildings as Toronto-based Metallica Resources Inc. started blasting to develop an open pit gold and silver mine, which the community has been fighting for over ten years.

"We feel helpless," says Ana Maria Alvarado Garcia, a resident of the community, who felt the explosion from over 1.5 kilometres away. "All we are asking for is respect - respect for our culture, respect for our village, respect for our wishes." The villagers of Cerro de San Pedro fear the open pit mine will destroy their way of life, their historic village and the surrounding ecosystem through contamination of the water supply with cyanide. "How long will the government keep its head in the sand around Canadian mining abuses overseas?" asks Rev. Mark Lewis, former moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, who travelled to Cerro de San Pedro on a KAIROS delegation in March 2005. "Clearly it's time for Canada to hold mining companies accountable."

In its response Tuesday, the federal government also failed to launch an investigation, as requested by the SCFAIT, into the controversial Canatuan Mine Project in the Philippines. The Canatuan Mine is owned by Calgary-based TVI Pacific Inc. Earlier this year, indigenous leaders from the Philippines testified before a parliamentary subcommittee about the forced relocation of their people and negative environmental impacts connected with the mine.

"The Canadian government is failing the people of the Philippines by not investigating serious human rights questions raised by TVI Pacific's activities," says Ian Thomson, KAIROS Corporate Social Responsibility Program Coordinator.

In June of this year, the SCFAIT adopted a groundbreaking report on mining and corporate social responsibility. The recommendations in the report have been strongly supported by many human rights, labour and faith-based groups in Canada, including KAIROS.

For further information: Media contact: Adiat Junaid, Communications Coordinator, KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, (416) 463-5312 ext.223, ajunaid@kairoscanada.org, www.kairoscanada.org

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