In her speech at our ‘Shout Out Against Mining Injustice’ conference this past June in Vancouver, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow made it clear that our campaign against mining injustice is deeply interconnected with our longstanding work on the right to water and our priority of sinking the Harper agenda.
1. Mining injustice is water injustice
“The extractive mineral industry is exploding around the world. Mining Watch reports that every year, mining companies dump 180 million tonnes of toxic mine waste into oceans, lakes and rivers – 1.5 times the amount of municipal solid waste the US sends to landfills every year. The tailings contain as many as 3 dozen dangerous chemicals, including arsenic, lead, mercury, and cyanide.” When drinking water is depleted and polluted by mining operations – which heavily use cyanide and arsenic in their extraction processes – the human right to water is violated.
2. Harper is a friend to Canadian mining companies
“The biggest and worst mining operations in the world are Canadian. And do Canadian mining companies ever have a friend in Stephen Harper, who refuses to put any leash whatsoever on their practices. Canadian mining companies are notorious for refusing to cooperate in investigations in Latin America that involve violence against local anti-mining activists, knowing they face no penalty back in Canada at all. Harper and his government defeated a private member’s bill that would have given the government limited authority to at least withhold funding from some companies charged with violations by local communities in the global South.”
3. Harper is promoting mining injustice/ water injustice through trade agreements
“The Harper government is aggressively promoting trade agreements that give mining corporations the right to sue governments if their right to profit is limited by new environmental or human rights rules. The government is deep into the Canada EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) that will give big European corporations permanent access to Canadian mineral resources as well as the water it takes to mine them. Using a trade agreement, Vancouver based Pacific Rim is now suing the government of El Salvador for refusing to grant the company a license for a gold mine that would have polluted 10,000 litres of water a day.”
4. Harper is undermining aid and advocacy work in mine-affected communities
“The Harper government has made it clear that it will tie aid to those countries who make our mining corporations welcome with friendly investment policies. The Canadian International Development Agency has already approved $50 million in projects linked to the mining industry since the Harper government took power. This means that Canadian tax dollars, aid agencies and even some embassies may be implicated in the violent suppression of local anti-mining communities in the global South. It is certain that this government has put a huge chill on advocacy here in Canada.”
5. Harper is gutting mining-related environmental protections for water
“The Harper government is gutting environmental assessments and the Fisheries Act for his friends in the energy and mining sector. This is the most anti-environmental government in our history, wiping out decades of protections built by past generations.” She highlights the Ring of Fire mining project in Ontario, Plan Nord in Quebec, and the Ajax mine, the Raven coal mine and the Taseko mine in British Columbia.
And now, the proposed Pascua Lama mine on the Chilean-Argentine border is quickly becoming a flashpoint for the Harper government. In July 2007, CBC reported, “Prime Minister Stephen Harper was greeted with ‘Harper go home’ as he spent his last day in Chile visiting a controversial Canadian mining company. Dozens of protesters waited outside Barrick Gold’s Santiago headquarters for Harper’s visit. The protesters claim the company’s gold and silver Pascua Lama Project in the Andes Mountains is displacing indigenous people, polluting rivers and damaging three glaciers.” This September, the Canadian Press reported, “Harper’s chief of staff, Nigel Wright, is the subject of a formal conflict of interest examination by the federal ethics watchdog. Mary Dawson’s office confirmed 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.” More on this at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=16601.
Barlow’s speech can be read in full at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=15560.
Photo: Maude Barlow with Vidalina Morales de Gámez, a member of The National Roundtable against Metallic Mining in El Salvador, also known as La Mesa. “Vancouver based Pacific Rim is now suing the government of El Salvador for refusing to grant the company a license for a gold mine that would have polluted 10,000 litres of water a day” in Vidalina’s community.
PHOTO: Maude Barlow with Vidalina Morales de Gámez, a member of The National Roundtable against Metallic Mining in El Salvador, also known as La Mesa. “Vancouver based Pacific Rim is now suing the government of El Salvador for refusing to grant the company a license for a gold mine that would have polluted 10,000 litres of water a day” in Vidalina’s community.