The Environmental Disaster That is the Gold Industry (Smithsonian Magazine – February 14, 2014)

The mining industry has had a devastating impact on ecosystems worldwide. Is there any hope in sight?

A global campaign to boycott what activists are calling “dirty gold” gained its 100th official follower three days before Valentine’s Day.

The pledge was launched in 2004 by the environmental group Earthworks, which has asked retail companies not to carry gold that was produced through environmentally and socially destructive mining practices. Eight of the ten largest jewelry retailers in the United States have now made the pledge, including Tiffany & Co., Target and Helzberg Diamonds. The No Dirty Gold campaign is anchored in its “golden rules,” a set of criteria encouraging the metal mining industry to respect human rights and the natural environment.

While the list of retailers aligned in their opposition to dirty gold continues to grow longer, most gold remains quite filthy. The majority of the world’s gold is extracted from open pit mines, where huge volumes of earth are scoured away and processed for trace elements. Earthworks estimates that, to produce enough raw gold to make a single ring, 20 tons of rock and soil are dislodged and discarded.

Much of this waste carries with it mercury and cyanide, which are used to extract the gold from the rock. The resulting erosion clogs streams and rivers and can eventually taint marine ecosystems far downstream of the mine site.

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Mining critics barred from Canada – by Jason Warick (Saskatoon StarPhoenix – March 20, 2015)

A group of farmers critical of Canadian mining interests in their native Dominican Republic has been blocked from travelling to Saskatoon, Toronto and other cities. “It’s so preposterous,” said Irena Smith of St. Thomas More College at the University of Saskatchewan. The three farmers, representing La Federación de Campesinos Hacia el Progreso, were due to arrive in Toronto Wednesday and travel to Saskatoon on Saturday to speak at various events.

Smith, an organizer for the Saskatoon leg of the speaking tour, said the farmers planned to speak about their work forming co-operatives and implementing environmentally-friendly innovations such as shadegrown coffee.

The farmers also planned to speak critically about Canadian mining companies and their multi-billion dollar operations in that country. The cross-Canada speaking tour has been in the works for a year, Smith said.

The farmers went to the Canadian embassy in the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo this month, bringing letters of support from the University of Saskatchewan, the University of Toronto, the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace and its youth wing, Just Youth, as well as other groups.

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Latin American Bishops Petition Inter-American Commission On Human Rights To Hold Mining Companies Accountable For Economic And Environmental Harm

March 19, 2015 – WASHINGTON—The U.S. and Canadian governments must hold mining companies from their countries that operate in Latin America to laws and standards that protect indigenous communities and vulnerable groups, as well as local economies and the environment, said representatives of the bishops of Latin America in a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), March 19. The hearing was held in response to a petition filed by the Consejo Episcopal Latinoamericano (CELAM) and other member institutions of the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network, which represents bishops’ conferences, religious men and women and Catholic relief agencies throughout Latin America.

Archbishop Pedro Barreto of Peru and Bishop Alvaro Ramazzini of Guatemala represented CELAM, along with Father Peter Hughes and Enrique Pinilla of its Department of Justice and Solidarity. Bishop Donald Bolen, who heads the Peace and Justice Commission at the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), as well as Archbishop Timothy Broglio, archbishop for the Military Services, were present at the hearing to express support.

A petition provided an overview of the issues pertaining to extractives in a number of Latin American countries, outlining calamitous public health and environmental consequences of mining operations by U.S. and Canadian multinationals. The testimony at the hearing focused on six countries, Brazil ,Guatemala, Peru, Ecuador, Honduras and Mexico, and focused on key themes including violence and criminalization of human rights defenders and the need for a new model of sustainable development.

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Here’s What Coal Mining Is Doing to Communities in the Navajo Nation – by Laura Dattaro (Vice News – March 18, 2015)

For sixty years, the billions of tons of coal found beneath Arizona’s Black Mesa have powered the cities of the Southwest. But getting at all that coal has meant the displacement of more than 12,000 people of the Navajo Nation, one of the largest removals of Native Americans since the 19th century. For those that have remained, the mining process has compromised their health and their environment.

The mesa rises up from the dry Arizona landscape a few miles south of Kayenta Township, where Peabody Energy operates a mine that in 2013 produced nearly eight million tons of coal. The company proposed in May 2012 to expand its excavation, a plan that needs approval from the Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation, and Enforcement (OSMRE). Locals are concerned because that would add 841 acres of land to the Kayenta Mine complex — which would displace even more Navajo and ensure continued air and water contamination for decades to come.

A VICE News crew traveled to the Black Mesa area to document the effects of coal mining on their health, the environment, and the local economy.

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Canadian’s trust in corporate leaders drops to lowest level since 2008, report says – by Theresa Tedesco (National Post – February 3, 2015)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

Canadians want more government regulation of the food and beverage, banking and health industries at a time when public confidence in business and corporate leaders is waning, according to global research released by public relations giant Edelman.

Trust levels declined dramatically in the past year in Canada to thresholds not seen in this country since the financial crisis in 2008, according to the annual Edelman Trust Barometer. Only 47% of Canadian respondents said they trusted business, down significantly from 62% in 2014, while confidence levels for chief executive officers dropped to 28% in Canada in early 2015, down from 33% in 2014.

“These numbers signal the economic recovery may be over,” said Richard Edelman, chief executive of Edelman, which publishes the survey results. “Certainly Canada’s economy is softer this year than it was last year.”

In total, 33,000 people were surveyed in 27 countries and, overall, 57% of the respondents said they trusted business, slightly down from 59% in 2014. However, businesses’ credibility slide below the 50% threshold on a global scale was registered in more than half of the countries surveyed by Edelman– the worst reading since 2008. The largest double-digit declines of 10 percentage points or more were found in Canada, Germany, Australia, and Singapore.

The opposite was true in the U.S., where confidence in business rose to 60% from 58% in 2014, as the American economy continues its recovery.

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NEWS RELEASE: [Edelman Trust Barometer] Trust in Institutions Drops to Level of Great Recession

2015 Edelman Trust Barometer Finds Overly Rapid Pace of Change in Business Innovation


The 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals an alarming evaporation of trust across all institutions, reaching the lows of the Great Recession in 2009. Trust in government, business, media and NGOs in the general population is below 50 percent in two-thirds of countries, including the U.S., U.K., Germany and Japan. Informed public respondents are nearly as distrustful, registering trust levels below 50 percent in half of the countries surveyed.

“There has been a startling decrease in trust across all institutions driven by the unpredictable and unimaginable events of 2014,” said Richard Edelman, president and CEO, Edelman. “The spread of Ebola in West Africa; the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, plus two subsequent air disasters; the arrests of top Chinese Government officials; the foreign exchange rate rigging by six global banks; and numerous data breaches, most recently at Sony Pictures by a sovereign nation, have shaken confidence.”

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Our Tarnished Maple Leaf – by Tom Sandborn (The – December 15, 2014)

Why the world sees an ugly Canada, and how to restore our image.

Remember when everyone seemed to love Canada? Travellers who displayed a maple leaf emblem on their shirts or backpacks could count on a friendly welcome in most countries in the world. Now, not so much.

We are perceived as ugly Canadians for reasons that include environmental foot dragging at home and complicity in death and destruction overseas.

Stare, for example, into the mirror submitted in October to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. A scathing document accuses Canada of failing to hold the many mining firms with head offices here accountable for the deaths and human rights abuses associated with their mines in Latin America.

”Canada has a very strong presence in the globalized mining industry with almost 1,500 projects in the region, and we’re aware of a great deal of conflict,” said Shin Imai, a lawyer with the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project (JCAP), commenting on a submission from the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability.

”Our preliminary count shows that at least 50 people have been killed and some 300 wounded in connection with mining conflicts involving Canadian companies in recent years, for which there has been little to no accountability.”

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Ottawa vows to protect ‘Canada brand’ with social responsibility policy – by Shawn McCarthy (Globe and Mail – November 14, 2014)

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.

OTTAWA — The federal government plans to punish mining and energy companies that run afoul of its new corporate social responsibility policy by withdrawing support they receive from agencies such as Export Development Canada and embassies abroad.

International Trade Minister Ed Fast is to announce the measure in a speech in Vancouver Friday, saying it is important to protect Canada’s “brand” as a global heavyweight in the resource industries.

“Let there be no mistake,” the minister says in a draft copy of the speech provided to The Globe and Mail, “Canada’s expertise in the extractive sector is second to none; Canada is a world leader in sustainable technology, and in environmentally, ethnically and socially responsible business practices. That is the ‘Canada brand’ – it is how we are known throughout the world.”

The government is launching a corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy as part of its broader effort to enhance the business prospects for resource companies abroad. Toronto is a global centre for mining finance and Canadian-based companies are particularly prominent in Africa and South America, where more than 250 companies controlled $81-billion in assets in 2011.

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‘Please tell people about this:’ London students’ horror at Dominican Republic mines – by Mark Spowart (Metro News – October 27, 2014)

Three London students were shocked by what they found last winter during a trip to the Dominican Republic. Canadian mining companies, they say, are destroying lives in the country.

“We visited the Barrick Gold mine, and while we were there, we spoke with a woman named Juliana (Rodriguez). She is 82 years old and has lived in the area for all of her life,” Klaire Gain said. “She told us the last four years, which (has seen) Barrick Gold mining in the region, have been the worst years of her life.”

Now, Gain, Claire Morrow and Natasha Jimenez — all recent graduates of the social justice and peace program at King’s University College — are working to show the world what they witnessed. Using their own money, and some brought in through fundraisers, the trio travelled back to the region this summer.

They spent two months living in the area, working on farming co-ops, meeting and talking with as many residents, along with environmental and academic experts, as they could. They also hired former CBC cameraman Mark Visser, and flew him to the region where he filmed more than 100 hours of footage for a documentary expected to be ready by spring 2015.

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Miner Opposition [Canadian Global Mining Sector’s Reputation] – by James Munson ( – October 1, 2014)

Where mining and violence meet

James Munson ( traveled to Guatemala in July to explore the stories of mines caught up in a global debate over the responsibilities of Canadian-owned mining firms in developing countries. With Canada moving toward a new policy for the sector, Munson explores how the Fenix nickel mine in eastern Guatemala became the test case for bringing allegations of murder, rape and assault tied to the mine to an Ontario court room. Meanwhile, Goldcorp Inc.’s Marlin mine in the western part of the country has been the subject of protests and findings that its operations broke human rights standards. The stories of these mines, and the people who live beside them are the starting point for Miner Opposition — (Produced with support of the Ford Foundation)

EL ESTOR, GUATEMALA— One night this past April, while poring over legal documents at around four in the morning, Manuel Xo Cu drifted to sleep and had the dream that would save his life.

The dream involved him grabbing onto the roots of two trees to keep from sliding into a dark hole. During a bus ride the next day, he was confronted by three armed men who asked him to move to the back of the bus. He refused, recognizing the back of the bus as the dark hole, and sat beside a woman who he would later use as an excuse to get off at an earlier stop, thinking the would-be assassins could identify him with more certainty if he were to get off at his regular destination.

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Philanthropies, including Rockefellers, and investors pledge $50 billion fossil fuel divestment (Reuters India – September 22, 2014)

WASHINGTON – (Reuters) – The Rockefellers, who made their vast fortune on oil, and other philanthropies and high-wealth individuals on Monday will announce pledges to divest a total of $50 billion from fossil fuel investments.

The Global Divest-Invest coalition will announce new pledges and members one day before 120 heads of state address the United Nations on how their countries will contribute to a global effort to halt a dangerous rise in temperatures.

Since the divestment movement launched three years ago, some 650 individuals and 180 institutions, including 50 new foundations, which hold over $50 billion in total assets, pledged to divest from fossil fuels over five years using a variety of approaches.

One of the signatories is the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Stephen Heintz, an heir of Standard Oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller, said the move to divest away from fossil fuels would be in line with his wishes.

“We are quite convinced that if he were alive today, as an astute businessman looking out to the future, he would be moving out of fossil fuels and investing in clean, renewable energy,” Heintz said in a statement.

Since January 2014, commitments by campuses, churches, cities, states, hospitals, pension funds, and others in the United States and abroad doubled, from 74 to 180, according to philanthropic giving consultancy Arabella Advisors.

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Mining companies must win hearts and minds or face further opposition – by Simon Rees ( – September 19, 2014)

“We know the Ring of Fire’s future will not be determined within the region
itself but in southern Ontario, where the majority of the political ridings
are,” she noted. “Or it will be decided [in Ottawa] to the extent that the
federal government is involved.”

“So we must win the hearts and minds of those people sitting at home because
that’s how your project is going to be approved,” she said, stressing that
meaningful CSR and engagement with locally affected communities was one of
the best methods of doing this. (Kate Lyons)

TORONTO ( – Opposition to the extractive industries continues to grow in Canada, with increasing influence on decisions that surround project approval, delegates at the Canada-Southern Africa Chamber of Business risk mitigation and corporate social responsibility (CSR) seminar were told last week.

“The world of the stakeholder is large. From the comfort of a home heated by natural gas or cooled by electricity, and probably using a device laden with metals, a person can discover whether they are ‘against’ an industry,” Goodmans partner Kate Lyons said.

Opposition can develop among thousands of people living many kilometres away from a mining region, their opinions shaping and influencing project outcomes. Lyons highlighted northern Ontario’s Ring of Fire as an example.

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Alberta riled by Leonardo DiCaprio’s position on oil sands – by Ingrid Peritz (Globe and Mail – August 24, 2014)


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.

Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio is ruffling feathers in Alberta after becoming the latest celebrity to visit the province and shine a critical spotlight on Canada’s oil sands.

Both the Alberta government and the oil industry came to the defence of the oil sands after Mr. DiCaprio travelled Friday to Fort McMurray, the heart of the oil-sands industry, as well as to the small community Fort Chipewyan, which has drawn world attention to health and environmental concerns.

The purpose of the trip was to reportedly research a documentary, but The Wolf of Wall Street actor has already staked a high-profile position as an environmentalist and critic of big oil. A video released last week, narrated by Mr. DiCaprio, warns about climate change and depicts the fossil-fuel industry as a robotic monster stomping over the Earth.

“They drill, they extract, making trillions of dollars,” Mr. DiCaprio says about the industry, in the video titled ‘Carbon’. “We must fight to keep this carbon in the ground.”

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Opinion: Connecting natural resources to our everyday lives – by Lyn Anglin (Vancouver Sun – August 22, 2014)

Many of us forget our reliance on raw materials

Now that the tailings spill earlier this month at the Mount Polley mine is rightly the subject of an investigation by a third-party panel of experts, British Columbians can expect to get some much-needed answers to why the mine’s tailings dam failed. The sooner we have those answers, the better.

But make no mistake; mining — done properly — will continue to be a crucial aspect of our society and our economy. While a tailings dam failure such as we just witnessed is absolutely unacceptable, responsible mining must continue.

I have often said an educational campaign is required to re-connect British Columbians to their natural resource sector and to explain how so many of the products we depend on every day are derived from this sector. It’s for this reason I agreed to chair the advisory council of the non-profit Resource Works Society, an organization dedicated to educating British Columbians about the resource sector and its important role in B.C.’s future.

It is easy to become disconnected from the importance of our natural resources. Most of us have busy lives surrounded by urban environments that appear far removed from the forestry, mining and energy extraction on which our civilization and much of our economy is based.

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Welcome to Guatemala: gold mine protester beaten and burnt alive – by David Hill (The Guardian – August 12, 2014)

Indigenous people speak out against the Marlin mine run by Canadian company Goldcorp

“They took him and poured gasoline all over him. Then they struck a match and lit him.”

Doña A – not her real name, for security reasons – was standing up, arms crossed, lightly leaning against a ladder, and speaking in her language, Maya Mam, while a friend, a relation by marriage, translated into Spanish. There were 20 or so Mams in the room – mostly women, some children, one elderly man – and we were in an adobe-brick house in the highlands of far western Guatemala, not far from the border with Mexico, and just around the corner from an open sky and underground gold- and silver-mine called Marlin.

The Mams had gathered there – at some personal risk – to speak about the mine and how it impacts them. “Her husband was killed by workers of the company,” someone had said suddenly, meaning Doña A, “but she doesn’t speak much Spanish”, although it was quickly suggested she could talk in Mam and a friend would translate for her.

“We heard the screams and the yellings but we didn’t know what was happening,” she continued. Her husband’s two brothers were with him: they had to run away or would be burnt alive too.

“He didn’t want to die,” she said. “It was the rainy season. There was a little bit of water which he tried to jump into and the fire sort of went away.”

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