Campus talk raises ethical concerns about UBC’s role in new mining institute – by Vinicius Cid (The Ubyssey – November 12, 2013)

On Thursday, Nov. 7, the Social Justice Centre hosted a talk debating UBC’s role in a new mining institute, as well as broader ethical implications associated with the mining industry.

The Canadian International Institute for Extractive Industries and Development (CIIEID) will be funded by a $24.6 million grant from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) which will go to both UBC and SFU. The institution is intended to help educate people in developing countries about the best practices for mining.

Yves Engler, a Montreal-based writer and political activist who has written several books critical of Canadian foreign policy, led the talk. Sam Stime, a UBC civil engineering graduate student involved with “Not From My Campus,” a blog critical of the CIIEID, opened the talk. He introduced the audience to the moral and ethical concerns surrounding overseas mining by Canadian companies and the implications of establishing the CIIEID at UBC.

“This is our time to ask tough questions to our government and universities,” Stime said. “Through this institute, there is now a link between us and the federal government’s agenda of imposition.

“This development intervention [the CIIEID] is poorly thought through. I say, hold on until consultations are made and the right people are guided.”

Engler then took the stage, talking about human rights abuses by Canadian mining companies abroad, the pro-company foreign policy of Stephen Harper’s government and the rerouting of development aid to corporate projects.

Engler highlighted the example of the Porgera Gold Mine in Papua New Guinea, which is administrated by Toronto-based Barrick Gold and headed by magnate Peter Munk.

Engler said mine security personnel gang raping locals was brushed off by Munk as “a cultural habit,” and severe ecological damage caused by the mine led the Norwegian government to divest its stake in the project.

Engler followed up by elaborating on the intrinsic ties between Canadian mining companies, the various Canadian federal agencies such as the Canadian International CIDA and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and Canada’s foreign policy.

“I would assume the majority of students at UBC, when shown the facts about what Canadian companies and Harper’s governments are doing — they will not be particularly fond of the idea of UBC enabling the process,” said Engler.

The Q&A session focused on the role the CIIEID would play in the mining industry, in Canadian foreign policy and in developmental efforts abroad.

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