Donors closing wallets to Canadian charities who work with CIDA, mining companies – by Rick Westhead (Toronto Star – January 31, 2013)

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Plan Canada, who works with Iamgold, is part of Canadian International Development Agency’s program pairing NGOs with Canadian mining companies.

A leading Canadian charity says it is considering abandoning a controversial development project funded by the federal government and a Canadian mining company because of pressure from its donors.

Plan Canada, one of three NGOs involved in a Canadian International Development Agency project that pairs NGOs and the government with mining companies, says the mining sector’s poor image threatens to tarnish its own reputation. Some Plan donors have complained the mining companies have enough money to fund their own social programs and that Plan shouldn’t be partnering with them.

“Would we try it again? Probably not,” Rosemary McCarney, Plan’s president, said in an interview with the Toronto Star. “It’s upsetting to donors. People are mad. The reality is that working with any mining company is going to be a problem. There are going to be (employee) strikes and spills. Is it worth the headache? Probably not.”

Canadian mining companies operating overseas are perceived as running dirty businesses, which the industry itself acknowledges. It makes headlines for leaky tailings ponds, cyanide spills, and other environmental debacles. According to a report commissioned in 2009 by the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, Canadian mining companies had been involved in 171 incidents since 1999 involving human rights abuses, unethical practices, or environmental degradation in a developing country.

CIDA is giving Plan $5.6 million over five years to run an educational program in Burkina Faso. Iamgold, which operates a gold mine in the West African country, pledged another $1 million per year to the project. Plan has also committed $1 million.

Iamgold senior vice president of corporate relations Ben Little declined to comment, referring questions to the company’s media relations officer Laura Young, who did not return phone calls or reply to emails.

Samantha Nutt, the founder of War Child, a non-profit that operates vocational training programs in countries such as Afghanistan, said that by touting the project as one that helps Canadian private investment, CIDA is losing sight of its mandate of poverty reduction.

“It has the potential to put NGOs in a conflict of interest position,” Nutt said. “Nobody bites the hand that feeds.”

“This is trying to help the needy countries . . . so that we don’t have to continually bail them out with their food issues, their education, their health issues and on it goes,” Fantino said during a conference call with reporters.

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