Citizen’s groups in at least 10 countries complaining about gold and silver miners’ environmental practices
Tens of thousands of Colombians took to the streets of Bucaramanga, the country’s sixth-largest city, last month to defend their water supply from a Canadian-owned gold-mining project.
The chief target of their protest was Vancouver-based Eco Oro Minerals Corp. The company is exploring for gold and silver in a high-altitude, environmentally sensitive area that is the main source of water for Bucaramanga’s one million inhabitants.
This was the fourth anti-gold-mining demonstration in the area since 2010, and one of the biggest. But Eco Oro shouldn’t feel singled out. It is only one in a string of Canadian mining and exploration companies that have drawn the ire of local communities around the world.
On March 12, for example, more than 10,000 Greeks protested in Thessaloniki against several gold mining projects owned by Vancouver-based Eldorado Gold.
Then on March 21, Catholic priests marched with 5,000 locals in Matagalpa, Nicaragua, against a project owned by Vancouver-based B2Gold Corp.
Canadian companies have also been targeted in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Dominican Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Israel.
“Canada is very well represented in global mining conflicts because, in large part, Canada is the home of most of the junior mining companies of the world,” says Ramsey Hart, the Canada program co-ordinator at Mining Watch, an Ottawa-based advocacy group.
The reason for this, he says, is that Canada has a favourable environment for high-risk, speculative investments, the kind that drives international mineral exploration.
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Unlike the U.S. Alien Tort Statute, which allows foreign citizens to bring American companies to U.S. courts for abuses committed in a foreign country, there are no mechanisms to hold Canadian companies overseas accountable for their social and environmental policies. “We’ve just completely dropped that ball,” Ramsey says.
The last attempt to impose minimum standards on Canadian companies was a bill sponsored by the opposition Liberals that would have set international standards for human rights and the environment for oil, gas and mining companies operating abroad, and would have made government political and financial support contingent on compliance.
Bill C-300, however, was defeated by six votes in a minority parliament two and a half years ago.
The people of Bucaramanga see the issue on their doorstep as a choice between water and gold.
They are worried that Eco Oro and two other multinational companies, AUX Colombia (part of the Brazilian EMX Group) and Leyhat (owned by Vancouver-based CB Gold Inc), will cause irreparable damage to the local ecosystem.
For the rest of this article, please go to the CBC News website: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2013/04/02/f-mining-protests-canada-abroad.html