What happens if the pandas die? – by Russel Noble (Canadian Mining Journal – May 2013)

Russel Noble is the editor for the Canadian Mining Journal, Canada’s first mining publication. 

I’m sure most of you have either read or heard by now that China has loaned Canada two of its Giant Panda bears and whether you’re familiar with this news or not, you’re now probably asking yourself; “What’s the relevance and why is it even being discussed in a mining magazine?”

Well let me explain. First of all, the loan of the bears for the next 10 years (five in Toronto, five in Calgary) is more than a way of China unloading the care and maintenance of two bamboo processors on us. There’s far more to it than that. In fact, feeding and cleaning up (they defecate up to 40 times a day) after the pair is just the start.

The Chinese expect and trust us (meaning Canada) to provide the bears with the right environment (and mood) for them to survive and hopefully, procreate while they’re here.

Even Prime Minister Stephan Harper is so excited by this possibility that he and his wife were at the airport to greet the bears like giddy expectant grandparents. He even signed the FedEx Bill of Lading, thus confirming the safe arrival of these animals. I wonder why the Prime Minister didn’t trust Canada Post to deliver the animals and chose a US-based carrier instead?

Anyway, now that the bears are safely here and the Prime Minister has signed for them, does that mean the federal government has also guaranteed the Chinese government that the bears are now in the safe hands of our government?

If so, good luck on that one because our government hasn’t shown too much compassion lately when it comes to matters involving the care and concerns of the warm blooded. The walkers who covered 1600 kilometres from Whapmogoostui, Quebec to Ottawa in support of the First Nations’ “Idle No More” campaign, comes to mind.

After that grueling walk, the walkers knocked on the Prime Minister’s door to ask for help, and the answer they got was that Mr. and Mrs. Harper were in Toronto greeting foreign dignitaries and were asked could they come back later, or leave a message?

Again, I’m concerned for the bears’ care because of this kind of behaviour.

As we know, the Chinese truly love and revere their Giant Pandas and some may even go so far as to say they care more for their bears than they do for their own countrymen, especially their miners, but that’s a different issue.

The point is, by entrusting Canada with two of it’s most prized possessions, China is showing trust in Canada and that’s a big ‘plus’ for our country, especially when it comes to relations on a broader scale down the road.

As anyone who has, or had, business dealings with the Chinese know, gaining their trust but moreover, showing respect for their beliefs and the ways they work, is paramount to getting their business.

No other country that I know of demands such a degree of respect from its business partners than the Chinese and that’s why the issue of their Giant Pandas is so important to Canada/China relations and good luck to us should anything bad happen to those bears while on our watch here in Canada.

The slightest illness or injury to the animals would send headlines across China faster than it took the Prime Minister to scatch his name on that FedEx receipt and who knows what ramifications there would be to future, and existing relations… including those involving mining?

I know these comments and the scenario I just painted about the Giant Pandas are a bit extreme, but knowing what I know and hear about how delicate deals can be with the Chinese, I just hope the Pandas are treated and guarded accordingly because, should something happen to them while under our government’s care, I have a feeling that Mr. Harper’s signature on that FedEx Bill of Lading will be looked upon as being as ‘meaningless’ as some of the other Bills he has signed.

In this case, however, more than ‘domestic’ issues will be at stake. China will be let down too and eventually, it will find a way of getting compensation for the loss of its cherished exports.

All of this rhetoric may sound a little far-fetched and not worthy of mention in a mining magazine but then again, Corporate Social Responsibility (in this case, the “Corporate” being the government) is one of the hotter topics in mining today and I strongly feel that the Giant Panda issue will do wonders for Canada/China relations provided that everything goes as hoped; especially if the bears have a baby and it goes back to China with them.

Conversely, however, look out should one of the bears chokes on a Tim Horton’s “Tim Bit” thrown into its enclosure, or that Er Shun, the five-year-old female, passes away during or after giving birth.

Anything that goes wrong will hurt relations between the two countries and no amount of talking or visits to China by Prime Ministers will help regain the ‘trust’ we now have during this “Care Bear” episode of Canada/China relations.

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