Activists infiltrate mining luncheon, distribute a dose of reality
Today, the Canadian Club of Toronto invited major players in Canada’s mining industry to a formal luncheon and panel discussion entitled “The Challenge to Lead.” However, attendees who have ties with communities impacted by these Canadian operations expressed grave concern. Given the poor track record of Canadian mining companies at home and abroad, individuals were left questioning the legitimacy of Canada’s extractive industry claiming leadership in Corporate Social Responsibility.
Pierre Lassonde, Chairman of Franco-Nevada Corporation, moderated a panel that included David Garofalo, President and CEO of HudBay Minerals, Rob McEwen, Chairman and Chief Owner of McEwen Mining, and Piotr Pikul, Partner at McKinsey & Company, on the challenges and opportunities facing the Canadian mining industry.
Rachel Small, an attendee who has worked with Latin American communities near a number of Canadian mines said: “Canadian mining companies have a long track record of committing human rights and environmental abuses at their mines around the world. We’re handing out these fliers that say ‘Corporate Criminals Taking Leadership’ to point out how absurd it is that a company like Hudbay, infamous for its poor social and environmental record, can speak at an event like this about being ‘global leaders’ in the industry.” After the fliers were distributed, event staff scrambled to retrieve and confiscate them.
In fact, HudBay Minerals made headlines last year when it became the first Canadian company to be tried in Canadian courts for crimes committed at mining operations overseas. Plaintiffs are trying to hold HudBay Minerals accountable for the actions of private security employed by the company, who allegedly shot and killed Adolfo Ich Xaman, a teacher and community leader in a town near their Fenix mine in Guatemala. Another lawsuit against the company alleges that private security gang-raped 11 women during a forced eviction from land to which the women and their Mayan communities hold ancestral rights according to a ruling by the Guatemalan Constitutional Court. These cases are proceeding in the Superior Court of Ontario.
McEwen Mining’s reputation is less than stellar. A 2012 complaint that communities near McEwen Mining’s Los Azules project in Argentina filed with Canada’s Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor claims that the company lied about the impact their open-pit copper mine would have on glaciers in the area, and that it violated a number of international standards. McEwen Mining refused to engage with the claim, effectively ending the only government process communities have access to in Canada to bring forward complaints.
Monica Gutierrez, an attendee from the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN) responded after the panel: “These companies do have an international reputation, as they claim, but it’s definitely not one of trust or one that Canadians should take pride in. What does it say about Canada, if these companies, with their terrible records, are claiming leadership in setting the future direction for our country?”. In reference to the question of mining companies adhering to local laws, panelist Piotr Pikul said: “You just have to do it”. Communities near Canadian mines globally are waiting for companies to comply with this imperative.