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NEWS: PM’s chief of staff now subject of formal conflict of interest investigation relating to Barrick Gold

The Canadian Press reports, “Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s chief of staff, Nigel Wright, is now the subject of a formal conflict of interest examination by the federal ethics watchdog. Mary Dawson’s office confirmed Tuesday that the ethics commissioner has launched an examination of Wright’s dealings with Barrick Gold Corp., under section 45 of the Conflict of Interest Act. That section empowers the commissioner to act on her own initiative — without waiting for an MP or senator to request an investigation — if she has reason to believe someone has contravened the act.”

Last month, the Canadian Press reported, “Barrick operates a mine in Argentina and is developing another controversial open pit gold and silver mine that straddles the border between Chile and Argentina. Companies were ‘freaked out’ that Harper’s performance at the Summit of the Americas (where he blocked a resolution on Argentina’s claim to the Falkland Islands) was making it harder for them to obtain permits from the Argentine government for their mining operations, said New Democrat MP and ethics critic Charlie Angus.”

Barrick operates the Veladero gold mine in Argentina and is developing the controversial Pascua Lama open pit gold and silver mine on the border of Argentina and Chile.

The Argentine government permits that Barrick may be seeking very likely relate to the Pascua Lama mine, already complicated by Argentina’s new glacier protection law. In October 2010, Agence France Presse reported, “Argentina’s Congress (has) passed a law that seeks to protect environmentally sensitive glaciers by imposing strict limits on mining, potentially affecting foreign investments. The measure, approved in the Senate by a vote of 35 to 33 with one abstention, prohibits mining near glaciers along Argentina’s 5,000 kilometer (3,100 mile) border with Chile. The senate also rejected a less restrictive version of the bill which was supported by provinces whose economies depend on mining.” Reuters added then, “Barrick was also seen affected by the Argentine Senate’s passage of a law that would curb mining on the nation’s glaciers. Analysts say the law could make it more expensive or even impossible for Barrick to develop its huge Pascua Lama site high in the Andes.”

An opponent of the Pacua Lama mine, Sergio Campusano Villches, the president of the Comunidad Agrícola Diaguita Los Huascoaltinos/ the Diaguita Huascoaltinos Indigenous and Agricultural Community, spoke at ‘Shout Out Against Mining Injustice’ this past June in Vancouver.

In April 2010 at the Peoples World Conference on Climate Change and Mother Earth in Cochabamba, Bolivia, Sara Larrain of Programa Chile Sustentable stated, “The Canadian company Barrick Gold wanted to destroy a glacier for the Pascua Lama mining project. Mining covers the glaciers with dust which makes them melt faster, but also mining companies destroy glaciers directly. Mining is taking away the future of water. They are climate criminals. They must be sued, taken to the Climate Justice Tribunal.” Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow added, “What Canadian mining companies do here and our refusal to lower our climate impact are a crime against humanity. And I intend to fight very hard to tell the story of what this crime is doing to the people of the Andes and to expose what Canadian mining companies are doing here.”

The Toronto Star article is at http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1255097–ethics-watchdog-examines-apparent-conflict-by-pm-s-chief-of-staff.