CANADA: A MINING GIANT
Canada is a superpower in the global mining industry, with 75% of the world’s mining companies headquartered in Canada. Some of the mines owned by these companies are located in Canada, while others are in the Global South. Together, they contribute over $50 billion annually to Canada’s Gross Domestic Product.
A number of these mining companies have been irresponsible in their mining practices, leading to environmental degradation. Some have also been implicated in major human rights violations. Their practices include:
- Developing mines without adequate consultation and in violation of the rights of Indigenous peoples
- Doing irreparable environmental damage
- Engaging in corrupt practices and intimidation tactics
- Contributing directly or indirectly to violence
- Plundering resources without adequate compensation
IRRESPONSIBLE MINING: TWO CANADIAN EXAMPLES
FLIN FLON MANITOBA
For over 85 years, HudBay smelted copper in Flin Flon in what Mining Watch Canada describes as “one of the dirtiest facilities in Canada in terms of emissions.” When studies showed a high concentration of heavy metals in the soil and vegetables in the Flin Flon area and elevated levels of lead in the blood of children, HudBay claimed that health risks were “negligible.” As HudBay also said, everything it did was legal.
In 2010, after the federal government tightened environmental regulations, HudBay closed down the smelter. While residents of Flin Flon are no longer breathing in pollutants, they are still being exposed to toxins through dust, soil, and food grown locally.
MATHIAS COLUMB CREE NATION
Without the consent of the Mathias Columb Cree Nation, HudBay has been operating on their territory for almost a century, harvesting billions of tonnes of copper with no compensation and polluting the land and water. In 2014, when the community held protest rallies, HudBay filed a court injunction banning community members from anywhere HudBay has an interest and filing a $400 million lawsuit.
EL ESTOR, GUATEMALA
Indigenous Guatemalans are currently suing HudBay over human rights abuses:
- The gang-rape of 11 women by mining company security personnel, police, and military personnel during the forced eviction from their homes and farms in 2007
- The brutal murder of Adolfo Ich, a community leader and teacher who was hacked by machetes and shot by mining company security in 2009
- The shooting and paralyzing of German Chub by mining company security in 2009
The case is currently before Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice. It is the first time such a case has been heard in Canada.
- BARRICK GOLD
Headquartered in Toronto, Barrick Gold is the world’s largest gold mining company, with mines on five continents. Like HudBay, Barrick has built up a legacy of environmental crimes, human rights violations, and abusive legal tactics. For example:
PORGERA, PAPUA NEW GUINEA
- Barrick’s Porgera mine dumps more than 16,000 tons of toxic waste into the Porgera River, every day. Indigenous peoples rely on the river for drinking water and bathing.
- The mine has three vast dumps of waste rock that cover large tracts of land, reducing the amount of land available for farming.
- Women and girls living near the mine have been brutally raped by Barrick security guards.
- Over the past decade, these same guards have killed up to 14 men living in the area.
- In 2010, Barrick Gold threatened to sue the publisher and authors of Imperial Canada Inc. for “substantial damages” if publication of the book went ahead. The book examines “the harmful consequences of [Canada’s] ultra-permissive laws regarding the extractive industry.” The book was, after some delay, published.
Earlier this year, Prime Minister Trudeau claimed that Canada is “without some of the baggage that so many other Western countries have — either colonial pasts or perceptions of American imperialism.”
In fact, when it comes to mining (as well as in a multitude of other ways), Canada has plenty of both kinds of baggage.
LEARN MORE ABOUT CANADIAN MINING COMPANIES
- Watch Flin Flon Flim Flam, a movie about Hudbay, a mining company headquartered in Flin Flon, Manitoba, available on you tube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7aacPtEI8s
- Visit the website of Mining Watch Canada: http://miningwatch.ca/
- Read Imperial Canada Inc.: Legal Haven of Choice for the World’s Mining Industries, by Alain Deneault and William Sacher, available at Regina Public Library