OPINION: Canadian mining companies better start behaving, thanks to Nevsun – by Richard Poplak (Globe and Mail – March 7, 2020)


Richard Poplak is a Canadian author and journalist based in Johannesburg. He is currently working on a book about the Canadian mining industry and is co-director of the forthcoming documentary, Influence.

When they hear the word “slavery,” most Canadians are likely reminded of the antebellum American South. But slavery – or, more accurately, the trafficking and selling of living human beings – is a 21st-century recession-proof growth industry. Across the world, organized syndicates and shady governments benefit from the unprecedented movement of people within and across borders.

Take, for instance, the secretive African redoubt of Eritrea, one of the major contributors to the Mediterranean migrant industrial complex. Among other things, its people are fleeing a non-existent economy compounded by compulsory military service that pays conscripts next to nothing, overseen by the continent’s most determinedly dour regime.

According to figures provided by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, almost 10 per cent of Eritrea’s 5.7 million people are on the run, and an astonishing 50,000 sought asylum abroad in 2017 alone. The country ranks behind China, and just ahead of North Korea, in terms of press freedom, while its per capita GDP is the third-worst in the world. As a result, Eritrea is entirely absent of the rule of law or humane governance.

Obviously, no Canadian company would want anything to do with such a place. Where’s the eye-rolling emoji when you most need it? It’s worth pointing out that the list of Canadian corporations is a lengthy one, with a few rogues regularly making the news: Bombardier for alleged corruption in Azerbaijan and South Africa, for instance, or Barrick Gold for alleged gang rapes committed by security guards at the company’s Papua New Guinea mine.

But the mining company Nevsun Resources Ltd. holds a special place in the heart of human-rights violation connoisseurs. The Vancouver-based miner isn’t Canadian-owned any longer – it was purchased by the Chinese outfit Zijin Mining in 2018 for $1.9-billion. But back when it was a local success story, it was infamous for operating the Bisha copper-gold mine in the Eritrean hinterlands.

For the rest of this article: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-canadian-mining-companies-better-start-behaving-thanks-to-nevsun/