Monday, May 2, 2016
Activists want Canada to Reform Hemispheric Mining Practices
A network of environmental and human rights activists from the Americas and Europe is calling on Canada’s new
prime minister to promote legislative and administrative reforms aimed at Canadian mining companies operating across the globe.
In an April 25 letter to Canadian
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, more than 190 non-governmental organizations, including Mexico’s Tlachinollan Human Rights
Center of the Mountain, Bios Iguana, the Mexican Network of Persons Affected by Mining, and other civil society groups, urged
the Canadian leader to push reforms that will ensure mining firms from his country abide by international treaties, respect
human rights standards, and conform to transparent, good government practices in the public and private financing of mining
activists further called on Trudeau not to support influence peddling around regulatory policies in countries where mining
takes place, to uphold the right of self-determination of Indigenous communities, to refrain from backing free trade agreements
and international arbitration mechanisms that shield corporations from accountability, and to allow international victims
of human rights violations access to the Canadian justice system.
Besides environmental damages, some Canadian-owned mining projects have been
linked to violence against environmentalists and community leaders, political corruption and organized crime throughout Mexico
and Latin America, according to numerous press reports and a new report from European-headquartered researchers.
The lure of new gold mines has also
created lucrative opportunities for thieves, such as the 2015 robbery of 7,000 ounces of gold from the Canadian-owned El Gallo
mine in Sonora, Mexico.
Asserting that previous Canadian governments lacked the political will to address international environmental and
human rights concerns, the signatories of the letter to Trudeau expressed optimism that Canada’s new leader will take
a different track.
They wrote, “We are hopeful that your commitment to human rights will lead to measures that hold state agencies
and corporations to account and prevent further abuses by Canadian mining companies operating abroad.”
During the administration of former
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canadian mining corporations – often subsidized by their home government –
dramatically expanded their operations in Latin America and other regions of the world.
In Mexico, an estimated 70 percent of the mining
is currently done by Canadian companies, especially in the states of Sonora, Chihuahua, Durango, Sinaloa, Jalisco, Guerrero,
and Oaxaca. In many cases, the geography of mining overlaps with the geography of illicit drug production and other organized
According to a recent report by the Geneva-based Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime cited in
the Mexican press, Mexico ranks as the world’s 13th largest gold exporter, chalking up $5.4 billion in exports in 2012
alone. State governments like Chihuahua’s have an open door policy to mining companies, and frequently tout their local
mines as beneficial to a strong economy.
The Global Initiative report, “Organized Crime and Illegally Mined Gold in Latin America,”
contends that organized crime “controls the right to realize” mining through extortion in several Mexican states,
with underworld groups including Los Zetas, the Templar Knights, Guerreros Unidos, Los Rojos, and the Sinaloa Cartel having
criminal organizations benefit from the extortion of mines that legally operate, evidence also exists of deliberate collusion
between the mines and leaders of organized crime,” the report states.
According to the report’s authors, a similar pattern of
mining/organized crime exists in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Guyana, Peru, and Venezuela,
In Mexico the Global Initiative report
claimed that not only are mining companies shaken down for turf fees, but so are company employees who are individually taxed
for the “right” to work in a mine.
The report cited a March 2015 attack on a community near a Canadian Goldcorp mine in Mezcala, Guerrero,
allegedly committed as “a reminder to pay” the protection money, which resulted in the killing of three off-duty
Goldcorp employees. Although a company executive told a Guerrero newspaper that the slain workers were not engaged in employment-related
activities at the time of their killings, victims’ relatives blamed Goldcorp for not providing adequate security.
A more recent mining controversy
flared in the same region when fishermen and landowners staged protests this spring at a subsidiary of the Canadian mining
company Torex Gold Resources in Nuevo Balsas, Guerrero. Demanding hefty compensation, the protesters alleged that mine-related
explosions, dust and the dumping of oil and other waste into the local river were injuring or driving away fish in addition
to negatively impacting the health of the local population.
According to Torex Gold Resource’s website, the Nuevo Balsas mine contains
the estimated equivalent of 7.4 million ounces of gold. Geographically, both Mezcala and Nuevo Balsas are situated in
the same organized crime corridor where government security forces and cartel gunmen have been linked to the murders and disappearances
of civilians and Ayotzinapa college students on the evenings of September 26-27, 2014, as well as to the prior disappearances
of hundreds of other people.
Sources: La Jornada, April 26, 2016. Article by Matilde Perez U. La Jornada (Guerrero edition), April 3, 2016. Article by Raymundo Ruiz Aviles. Frontenet.com, March 31, 2016. Article by Gustavo
Ramos. Proceso/Apro, March 30, 2016. El Financiero, March 28, 2016. Article by Natividad Ambrocio. El Sur, March 18, 30, 31,
2016; April 1, 6, 7, 9, 2016.
Reprinted with authorization from
Frontera NorteSur, a free, on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news source; translation FNS. Frontera NorteSur (FNS), Center for Latin American and Border Studies, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico