Mayan families’ quest for justice against Canadian mining company HudBay – by Marina Jimenez (Toronto Star – June 18, 2016) (Part 1 of 2)

EL ESTOR, GUATEMALA—Ribbons of sweat roll down German Chub’s face, as he pushes his wheelchair around his rocky yard, careful not to run over the hens pecking in the dirt or bump into his neighbour’s free-roaming pig.

An illiterate Mayan Q’eqchi’ farmer who grows mangoes and bananas, Chub’s life would be difficult enough in this small, indolent city in eastern Guatemala, where the temperature soars to 38C, even if he weren’t paralyzed, with a bullet lodged in his spine.

Chub maintains a stiff resolve, proudly showing off his ability to saw logs, and even hoist himself into the passenger side of a pickup truck. But life is a struggle. Sometimes he can’t make it to the bathroom in time. Sometimes villagers laugh at his disability. And sometimes he is crying inside, despite the ready smile on his face.

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How a Guatemalan murder trial could forever change Canadian overseas mining – by Marina Jimenez (Toronto Star – June 19, 2016) (Part 2 of 2)

EL ESTOR, GUATEMALA—The murder trial of Mynor Padilla, a former security guard for a mine owned by a then subsidiary of HudBay Minerals Inc., provides a fascinating glimpse into Guatemala’s problematic justice system.

Padilla, 52, is charged with killing Adolfo Ich, a Mayan Q’eqchi’ community leader, and shooting German Chub, a bystander, during a protest on contested land at Fenix nickel mine in El Estor, in eastern Guatemala, on Sept 27, 2009.

These alleged crimes are also at the centre of a series of landmark lawsuits in Ontario Superior Court, where HudBay, a Toronto-based company, faces three negligence claims, launched by Ich, Chub and 12 other Q’eqchi’. The cases are being watched closely by Canada’s mining companies, as it is the first time lawyers are attempting to hold a Canadian company liable for actions of a subsidiary operating overseas.

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Mining chiefs seek the Pope’s blessing – by James Wilson (Financial Times – September 18, 2015)

If the mining industry wants to try to get something done these days, there is a new door to knock on: the Pope’s.

A clutch of mining leaders, including the chief executives of Rio Tinto and Anglo American, will hold talks in Rome with Vatican officials this weekend in an attempt to spread more understanding of their often controversial industry.

As well as being under severe financial pressure as commodity prices slide, resource companies are also facing mounting public hostility amid concerns about climate change and the potential environmental damage caused by mining.

This can make it riskier and more expensive for the industry to develop projects, particularly as the global quest for new mineral deposits takes it into previously unexplored regions.

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John Baird says pushback needed to support mining (Northern Miner – October 8, 2015)

The Northern Miner, first published in 1915, during the Cobalt Silver Rush, is considered Canada’s leading authority on the mining industry.

Former Foreign Minister John Baird says the mining industry and government “must play offence, not defence,” when it comes to defending their interests and combatting anti-mining activism.

“Far too often, the industry, and to some extent government, are playing defence when it comes to anti-mining activists and their close friends in the media,” Baird declared in a keynote address at a mining conference in Toronto. “To a great extent, anti-mining activism has become a bit of an industry in this country, and it takes many, many forms.”

Baird resigned his post as cabinet minister earlier this year and now sits on the advisory board of Barrick Gold Corp., is a global strategic advisor to engineering and development consultancy Hatch Ltd., and is a senior advisor at Bennett Jones, a law firm active in the mining industry.

“You would be absolutely amazed at how many times that we discovered Canadian taxpayers’ dollars going to fight Canadian commercial interests abroad, especially in the extractive sector,” he told the conference, organized by Red Cloud, a capital markets advisory service firm.

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Opinion: Mining meeting of the minds at the Vatican – by Michael McPhie (Vancouver Sun – September 28, 2015)

On September 18 and 19 this year I was fortunate enough to be part of a small group of senior mining industry executives and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) representatives who travelled to the Vatican to meet with senior members of the Catholic Church in what was known as a Day of Reflection.

This followed a similar meeting in September 2013 that I also attended and is in keeping with Pope Francis’s deliberate and, I would argue, constructive efforts to engage with leaders of industry and civil society on the important issues of our time.

The gathering was convened by the Pontifical Council on Peace and Justice and led by his eminence Cardinal Peter Turkson. The meetings provided an opportunity for a wide ranging conversation about the role of mining globally as being fundamental to many sectors of human life and society but also recognition that it is an industry with many challenges given the pressing environmental, social and economic issues of our time.

There was honest and direct input presented from communities that had been impacted negatively by mining as well as a discussion of where mineral development had gone well and what the key factors were in contributing to these more positive outcomes.

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Francis: Mining industry in need of ‘a radical paradigm change’ – by Brian Roewe (National Catholic Reporter – July 17, 2015)

The global mining sector is called to “a radical paradigm change” to make improvements in how the industry impacts the planet and the poor, said Pope Francis ahead of a Vatican meeting on the topic.

The pope’s message was sent Friday to representatives from Africa, Asia and the Americas gathering at the Vatican this weekend to discuss their experiences living within mining communities.

“You come from difficult situations and in various ways you experience the repercussions of mining activities, whether they be conducted by large industrial companies, small enterprises or informal operators,” he said.

Francis described minerals as “a precious gift from God” that humanity has used for thousands of years and that are fundamental to many aspects of human life and activity. He then repeated an appeal from his environmental encyclical, “Laudato Si’: on Care for Our Common Home,” that people collaboratively work toward “countering the dramatic consequences of environmental degradation in the life of the poorest and the excluded.”

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COLUMN-Coal isn’t amazing – how to lose the PR war, and why it may not matter – by Clyde Russell (Reuters U.K. – September 24, 2015)

(Reuters) – – Can the coal industry win a public relations battle, and does it even matter if it can’t?

There’s no shortage of people and organisations claiming that coal is increasingly embattled and is about to go the way of whale oil and wood as a fuel of the past.

Does this mean that the Minerals Council of Australia’s new, and seemingly costly, campaign in support of the fuel is simply raging against the inevitable, or does it herald a new front in the war between coal miners and anti-coal environmentalists?

There’s little doubt that coal has an image problem, increasingly so in developed countries where the fuel’s major contribution to climate change is well-publicised and understood by the majority of the public.

One of the top producers has even gone so far as to say coal is on the losing side, and not just because prices have dropped by almost two-thirds in the current four-year losing streak.

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Forced labour built Canada mine in Eritrea, ex-official says – by Chris Arsenault (Reuters/Globe and Mail – September 18, 2015)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

Hundreds of men drafted into Eritrea’s army were used as forced labour to build a Canadian company’s copper-gold mine in central Eritrea, according to a former construction official, in a case testing the global responsibility of foreign firms to workers.

Claims of forced labour at the Bisha mine, jointly owned by Nevsun Resources Ltd. and state-owned Eritrean National Mining Corp., date back to 2008 but are now the subject of a class-action lawsuit at British Columbia’s Supreme Court.

Eritrean plaintiffs, living in exile in Ethiopia, say in the lawsuit filed last November that they were forced to build the only operating mine in the Horn of Africa country during national service, enduring filthy conditions, little food or scarce payment.

Although Nevsun was not directly responsible for hiring local staff – that was done through local contractor firm Segen – plaintiffs argue the Canadian company was complicit in their servitude, a claim the Vancouver-based company denies.

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Edelman ends work with coal producers and climate change deniers – by Suzanne Goldenberg (The Guardian – September 15, 2015)

World’s biggest PR firm says high risk clients threaten its reputation, following criticism for its work on behalf of fossil fuel companies

The world’s biggest public relations company has decided it will no longer work with coal producers and climate change deniers. Edelman said it believes such clients pose a threat to the company’s legitimacy and its bottom line.

The exclusion of coal and climate denial, as well as fake front groups that oppose action on global warming, is outlined in internal communications obtained by the Guardian and confirmed by company executives. It signals an important shift in a company that reported earnings of $833m (£540m) and has played a critical role in shaping public opinion in the US and globally about climate change.

The new approach follows a two-year review of Edelman’s operations aimed at protecting what the company calls its “licence to lead”, following negative publicity about its work on behalf of the oil lobby and pipeline companies.

The conclusion was that coal producers and climate denial, as well as tactics such as greenwashing, were high-risk.

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UN Considers Canada’s Overseas Mining Record – by Ryskeldi Satke (The Diplomat – September 15, 2015)

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.

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Canadian miner Nevsun defends operations in Eritrea as locals flee to Europe – by Ian Bickis (Canadian Press/Canadian Business Magazine – September 4, 2015)

CALGARY – Canadian mining company Nevsun Resources is defending its operations in Eritrea following a damning report by the United Nations that accused the miner of using forced labour in the North African country.

Nevsun released an updated independent human rights report this week that found no evidence of forced labour or human rights violations at its 60-per-cent-owned Bisha mine in Eritrea, where thousands of people are fleeing on perilous treks to Europe.

The report by LKL International Consulting is in contrast to June’s UN report, which said Nevsun used forced labour at the Bisha mine after the company was required to hire government-owned contractors that included Segen Construction.

The UN commissioners spoke with former Segen workers who said they were forced to work at the mine while in the compulsory national service. “Even though Segen tried to conceal their status, the majority of Segen’s ‘workers’ were in fact conscripts performing their national service,” wrote the commissioners.

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The Observer view on global mining regulation (The Guardian – August 2, 2015)

The suffering of communities in Zambia’s copper mining region highlights the need to create a global regulatory regime

The appalling suffering of villagers living close to the mining town of Chingola, in Zambia’s copperbelt region, whose water supplies have been dangerously polluted by leaks of sulphuric acid and other toxic chemicals, is both avoidable and unacceptable. As we report today, the Chingola pollution and associated environmental damage has led to serious health problems for those affected, such as potential organ failure, cancers and permanent disabilities, as well as failed crops, loss of earnings and livelihoods.

This continuing toll on life and well-being is wholly avoidable, in part because the problems associated with Vedanta Resources’ giant mine at Chingola have been common knowledge for some years.

A scientist whistleblower familiar with company activities claimed operating and maintenance standards were consistently poor from 2005, when the Vedanta-owned subsidiary, KCM, bought the plant. “There have been heavy spillages and massive leakages. Acid has been leaking all over the place… No effort has been made to correct this scenario,” the whistleblower said.

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BHP to open new coal mine in Borneo amid concern for orangutans – by Peter Ker (Sydney Morning Herald – July 22, 2015)

If you thought Shenhua and Adani had raised hackles with their plans to develop new coal mines in controversial parts of Australia, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

In a move likely to enrage environmental campaigners, BHP Billiton quietly flagged on Wednesday that it would soon start production of coal at the Haju mine in Indonesian Borneo. Haju will initially produce about 1 million tonnes of coal a year, which is pretty small compared to the coal mines BHP already operates in Queensland.

But Haju could be the start of a much larger coal project for BHP in Indonesian Borneo known as IndoMet, which is believed to have potential to produce around 5 million tonnes of coal per year, if it is ever fully developed.

That remains a big “if” given the depressed prices for coal, but Wednesday’s confirmation that first production will begin within 12 months will be a blow to environmental campaigners who have lobbied BHP and its joint venture partner Adaro Energy for the best part of a decade to abandon the project.

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Pope Francis says mining sector needs radical paradigm shift (Vatican Radio – July 17, 2015)

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday (July 17th) sent a message to the organizers and participants of a Vatican meeting that is looking at the often highly negative impact of mining operations on local communities. Organized by the Pontifical Council for Justice and peace, the 3-day meeting is being attended by representatives from communities impacted by mining operations across the world.

In his message sent to the Council’s President, Cardinal Peter Turkson, the Pope spoke of the cry for justice coming from these communities for their lost lands, the violence, threats, corruption, the trampled human rights, the dire working conditions, and sometimes the slavery and human trafficking as well as the pollution of water, air and soil.

The Pope urged the entire mining sector to carry out a radical paradigm shift to improve the situation in many countries. He said all parties needed to adopt a behaviour that is inspired by the fact that we make up one human family and engage in a sincere and respectful dialogue to deal with this crisis.

A press conference was held in the Vatican earlier on Friday to illustrate the theme of this meeting on the impact of mining operations which is “United with God listen to the cry.”

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An iron ore civil war plays out on social media in Australia – by James Wilson and Neil Hume (Financial Times – July 16, 2015)

“Our family. Our jobs. Our future,” is the message conveyed on the Facebook page and Twitter feed. Gazing out from the screen are a blonde woman, two blonde children, a pair of sheepdogs — and a miner wearing overalls.

This is the all-Australian family, with the mining sector at its heart, as envisaged by a campaign called “Our Iron Ore”. It is one of two competing public relations initiatives embroiled in bitter argument in Australia over this abundant commodity.

As the patriotic element of the “Our” campaign suggests, iron ore is anything but prosaic in Australia, whose economy relies heavily on the hundreds of millions of tonnes sucked in annually by China’s steelmaking industry. In Western Australia’s Pilbara region, the iron ore heartland, its price movements are part of everyday conversation.

In 2011, the price of iron ore scaled the heights of $190 per tonne and brought a bonanza for Australia. Four years later, the price has slumped by about 75 per cent: this month it fell below $45/t. Thousands of jobs are being cut and smaller, domestic miners are under pressure.

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