In a country as rich in minerals as Canada one would imagine that international exploitation would be unnecessary. However, this seems not to be the case. It’s much more convenient to pollute someone else’s backyard rather than your own, especially if the neighbour’s eyes hunger over the promises of easy short term riches.
Although the driving force for Canada’s dominance of the world mining industry is greed not necessity, the average Canadian outside of the mining sector don’t drink their beer in gold steins.
So who benefits from all the rainbows leading from the Toronto Stock Exchange over land and sea to far away places?
The average Canadian does.
Hey. Hang a sec. Didn’t I just contradict myself?
Perhaps you don’t benefit directly from the industry unless you hold mining stocks individually or through mutual funds that are actually paying you dividends or capital gains, but indirectly ALL Canadians who will ever receive Canadian Pension Plan payouts upon retiring are unwitting beneficiaries. And ALL Canadians who by law must pay into CPP are de facto mining supporters.
Canadian owned mining companies have their fangs in all sorts of places. In fact, half of the world’s mining is conducted by Canadian companies. Not bad for a country of 35 million, eh?
Actually, very bad.
So let’s take a look at what we all support.
US corporations must abide by domestic laws that govern their activities abroad. Canadian companies have no such governance. Not surprisingly the current Conservative government has actually voted down several attempts to add transparency and accountability to the foreign operations of Canadian Corporations. As the laws stand right now, ethical behaviour or lack thereof on the part of the company are left to the domestic laws of the countries they do business in.
If the industry at home cannot post the claim on their website: “No beavers were harmed in the tailings of this mine” then just imagine what is happening in more lax jurisdictions: everything from human rights violations, beatings, seizures, murders, rapes, and the destruction of the earth’s ecosystems.
I am attempting to keep a spirit of levity with this post but finding it quite difficult. It’s one thing if we are soiling our own knickers when the “oh crap! You mean that wasn’t almond flavouring in my morning brew” hits, but traces showing up on every continent except Antarctica?
Yes. Canada is a multi-fanged vampire that sucks the life out of all sorts of cultures. We’re not fussy. As long as they have gold we have the cyanide.
Did you also know that Canadian mining, oil and gas companies do not currently have to report payments to foreign governments and government officials? In case you were wondering how projects get approved when the majority of the local population is against them…just saying.
Here is the legacy we are leaving for future generations:
- Costa Rica 2007— a mine’s cyanide containment area cracks leading to a nation wide campaign against the use of cyanide and as a result Costa Rica bans cyanide use in open pit mines and mercury in metal mining
- El Salvador 2008— the government suspends all hard rock mining in their country then Guatemala turns around and approves a mine upstream that will inevitably contaminate Lake Guija, which feeds the Lempa River, El Salvador’s main source of drinking water
- Guatemala 2013— violation of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Free Prior and Informed Consent which leads to Xinca Indians rightful objections being met and expressed with violence
- Peru 2013— farmers fight for their water safety while Canadian taxpayers foot the bill for Canadian mining companies’ human rights violations
- Chile 2013— indigenous groups argue that the mining project threatens their water supply and pollutes glaciers
- Turkey 2007— blood samples confirm community cyanide poisonings with 1000 sick
- Columbia 2013— tens of thousands of Columbians defend their water supply
- Mexico 2012— murder. ”One of the first impacts of mining,” Jen Moore, Latin America program coordinator at MiningWatch Canada, observes, “is the loss of peace within communities. [Mining] companies go in and make pacts with local authorities to see that their interests are protected above and beyond the rights of local people. [That is] often at the root of the kind of conflicts that then are created.”
- Greece 2013— mass protests and objections from the sweeping majority of residents in Halkidiki and Thrace on unwanted mine expansion coupled with bribes and political pressure to conform. The video appeal from the mayor of Alexandroupoli’s visit to Canada is worth the watch.
- Guyana 1995— 50-mile stretch of the Essequibo river declared an environmental disaster zone
- Kyrgyzstan 1998— An estimated 3,400 pounds of sodium cyanide pollutes Lake Issyk Kul. 600 sickened, 1 killed
- Zambia, Congo, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso, Botswana, Mauritania, South Africa, Eritrea, Senegal, Mali, Madagascar, Niger, Ivory Coast, Tanzania, Guinea, Namibia, Lesotho,…— 155 Canadian companies are operating in 39 African countries. Their combined assets totaled more than $30.8 billion in 2011 ( Here is a cool interactive map)
- and many more
The Canadian mining vampire even heads to the land of its ancestors, Transylvania where Romanians take to the streets in protest as well.
If you have more to add to this list please comment below. I would be interested in knowing what the global water impact is as well, so if you have any insights on that I’d love to hear from you.
Now a deep breath in…and then out.
There is so much greatness in being Canadian but sometimes I think we should mine our own business.
Let’s mine the inspiration that lays dormant in our minds instead so that we can create a world where all can thrive. I am not waiting to dip into that pot of gold.