Canadian mining outfits have come under widespread fire for their practices in Central Asia and elsewhere.
Human rights abuses linked to the operations of Canadian mining businesses abroad took center stage in Geneva in June, when the UN Human Rights Committee addressed a series of concerns over Canada’s extractive industry’s record.
Canada is a global leader in the mining sector, and mining alone contributed $54 billion to Canada’s GDP in 2013. However, complaints about human rights violations and mistreatment of indigenous peoples by Canadian mining companies have accumulated over the years, prompting Amnesty International and the Canadian Human Rights Commission to raise the issue with the UN. Canadian firms have been accused of damaging the environment, with mass protests in South America and Central Asia.
In Guatemala, Toronto-based Hudbay Minerals was criticized for its inability to stop the rape and murder of local environmental activists. The contractors of another Canadian mining giant, Barrick Gold, were allegedly involved in a mass rape of 137 local women aged between 14 and 80 in Papua New Guinea. In Kyrgyzstan, a Centerra Gold-operated mine triggered violent protests against the Canadian firm, which led to allegations that community activists were tortured by government forces and local police.
Across South America, Canadian mining companies have blatantly disregarded the rights of indigenous and tribal communities, says the Working Group on Mining and Human Rights in Latin America. In its report to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights last year, the group claimed that Canada’s mining businesses have been engaged in the consistent “establishment of large-scale mining projects on indigenous peoples’ lands, in communities of persons of African descent, and in rural farming communities, without taking account of the particular quality of those territories, the special protection to which they are subject, and the prohibition against extractive operations in many such areas.”
Similar allegations of misconduct were reported in Central Asia, where Centerra Gold operates the Kumtor mine, one of the biggest open pit projects in the region. In striking resemblance to anti-mining protests in Latin America, local communities in Kyrgyzstan staged acts of public disobedience in the summer and autumn of 2013 to draw attention to urgent social and environmental issues in the villages located near the gold project. And just as in South America, opposition to Canadian mining in Kyrgyzstan was met with a brutal crackdown on the protest movement by the authorities.
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