MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Top Canadian ex-diplomats to work for censured mining company

Published by MAC on 2009-05-11

Among our other services, MAC monitors examples of key personnel within industry, government and NGOs who shift their professional allegiances, whatever the motivation for doing so.

The "revolving doors", through which such power brokers and opinion leaders move, undoubtedly have an impact on political decision-making related to extractive projects.

This impact is often negative. Here we reveal that two of Canada's recent top diplomats have now been recruited as lobbyists for the one of the country's most insidious mining companies.

Chretien's chief of Staff now lobbyist for Ivanhoe despite firm's Burma ties

Canadian Friends of Burma

7th May 2009

Ottawa- Vancouver-based mining firm Ivanhoe Mines has recently hired two big names to lobby the Canadian government on its behalf, Eddie Goldenberg, former chief of Staff for Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Allan Gotlieb, former Canadian Ambassador to the US. According to filings with the Commissioner for Lobbying, Goldenberg and Gotlieb are to lobby Foreign Affairs and International Trade and the Canadian Ambassador to Mongolia about "Canada's position regarding foreign investments in Mongolia."

Lobbyist filings contain misleading information

Both Goldenberg and Gotlieb have indicated in their filings with the Lobbyist Commissioner that their client Ivanhoe Mines "does not have any subsidiaries that could be affected by the outcome of the undertaking." In fact Ivanhoe's latest Annual Information form filed with the SEC lists several "principle subsidiaries" that could be affected by their lobbying these include Ivanhoe's fully owned Mongolian subsidiary Ivanhoe Mines Mongolia Inc and SouthGobi Energy Resources Ltd which is 80% owned by Ivanhoe and has substantial coal interests in Mongolia.

"It's extremely disappointing that both Mr. Gotlieb and Mr. Goldenberg are not taking the office of the commissioner seriously by means of hiding the fact that Ivanhoe does indeed have several subsidiaries that would benefit from their lobbying," says Kevin McLeod, member of the board of directors of the Canadian Friends of Burma. "I wonder if they are neglecting to include any other information about their lobbying for Ivanhoe," he added.

Goldenberg was seen as a key member of the Chretien brain trust. He served as a senior policy advisor to Chretien from November 1993 till June 2003 when taking over as the Prime Minister's Chief of staff, a role he filled till the end of Chretien's tenure as prime minister. Allan Gotlieb was as an important senior civil servant in Ottawa during the Trudeau era before being appointed Canadian Ambassador to the US in 1981, a position that he held till 1988. Mr. Gotlieb also served on the board of directors of Hollinger, the defunct media giant controlled by now jailed tycoon Conrad Black.

Ivanhoe Chairman Friedland believes Mongolia perfect place for waste dumps

In 2005 Ivanhoe Chairman Robert Friedland angered many Mongolians when he boasted to an audience at an American mining conference about the benefits of Ivanhoe's Mongolian project. "The nice thing about this, there's no people around. ...There's no NGOs. ...You've got lots of room for waste dumps without disrupting the population." (The Globe and Mail, 30 September 2005). In light of Mr. Friedland's comment, it is hardly surprising that he was burned in effigy at a massive protest held in the Mongolia capital, an apparent first for a Canadian mining executive.

Many Mongolians fear that Ivanhoe's planned Oyu Tolgoi Project which will require huge amounts of water that will drain the Mongolian countryside of already dwindling supplies of water. Instead what little clean water that is available will be turned into poisoned mining waste.

CFOB deeply concerned about Ivanhoe's Burmese activities and murky blind trust

In 2007 Ivanhoe's partner in Mongolia, Rio Tinto acquired a 9.95% stake in Ivanhoe Mines in a deal that stated that Ivanhoe was withdrawing from Burma. Despite Ivanhoe's claims that they withdrew from Burma, the firm by way of a blind trust created in February 2007 continues to own a 50% stake in Myanmar Ivanhoe Copper Company Limited (MICCL), the joint venture created by Ivanhoe with the Burmese military regime to operate Burma's largest mine the Monywa copper project. The "blind trust" is extremely convenient for Ivanhoe because the firm can continue to own a 50% stake in the mine and claim they've pulled out of Burma. Ivanhoe has refused to seriously address toxic pollution caused by the mine which has severely impacted neighbouring farmland.

Just days before President Bush left office this past January the US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) added (MICCL), the joint venture now held by the blind trust, to the US government's Burma sanctions list. Ivanhoe has so far declined to comment on this major development, preferring to leave shareholders in the dark about it.

Does Ivanhoe yearn for better Burmese days again?

CFOB believes that Ivanhoe is determined to remove MICCL from the US sanctions list and also lift Canada's Burma sanctions regime, says Tin Maung Htoo, executive director of CFOB.

"The fact that Ivanhoe still owns a 50% stake in MICCL is deeply troubling but hardly surprising given that the copper mine was so profitable. Canadians should be deeply disturbed by Ivanhoe's arrogance and total disdain for human rights," he added.

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