This week, while an anticipated 20,000+ people wine and dine, discussing multi-million dollar deals and dreams during the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada mining convention (PDAC 2017) at the Toronto Metro Convention Centre, affected communities continue to pay a high price with their lives and lands around the world.
On Sunday, the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN) toured about 100 people through the streets of Toronto's financial district in two buses draped with banners reading: "Toxic Toronto - belly of the beast for the global mining industry". They performed a dramatic reading during the busride, informing participants about the way that mineral extraction and the quest for super-profits has long been interwoven into the life and architecture of the city. They pointed out downtown offices of mining companies, banks and law firms, linking them with mining abuses in Canada and around the world. The Toronto Stock Exchange earned special mention for its lax listing rules, ensuring that it has a regular roster of 50 to 60% of the world's mining companies at any given time. MISN members also highlighted how mining companies have entered the halls of academe and civil society, underscoring Barrick Gold's founder's role in the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto and the cozy partnerships being forged between industry and NGOs through the Devonshire Initiative that was established to undermine a national roundtable process on the impacts of Canada's extractive industry abroad ten years ago.
The tour ended with a rally in front of the Convention Centre at which time statements were read from affected communities and organizations that work with them in Latin America, who are concerned about how their countries and territories are being mis-represented at PDAC 2017. Below, is the public declaration that we read out at Sunday's rally from the Latin American Observatory of Mining Conflicts and member organizations, which speaks to how communities bear the brunt of mineral extraction, as well as how they are equipping themselves with information and responding with ever greater resistance to defend their well-being and ways of life.
Considering the PDAC 2017 mining fair, the below-signed organizations state that:
1. The pressure exerted by mining companies, majority of Latin American governments and governments from companies’ country of origin has given rise to powerful community opposition in the region, due to the negative impacts of mining expansion in their territories and on their ways of life, and the ecological threat that it poses.
For every new mining project there is more community opposition and more mining conflicts throughout the region. This is an indicator of how communities have learned about the problems that arise when they accept that an extractive model of development be imposed in their territories.
2. Despite the drop in mineral prices in international markets, Latin America continues to be the principal destination for mining investment. This is ocurring despite diminished economic benefits for host countries and that some countries are even subsidizing foreign mining activities.
In boom periods, windfall profits enable mining companies to obtain favours from national political actors, despite their meager contributions in royalties and taxes. When mineral prices go bust, they lobby for weaker social and environmental standards and for state subsidies through exemptions from taxes and other obligations that every economic activity should normally meet.
3. We are deeply concerned about the increasing trend of criminalization of social protest in connection with mineral extraction activities leading to serious human rights violations of those leading efforts to protect territories and defend the rights of mining-affected communities.
The number of people being persecuted, charged, jailed or killed for opposing mining destruction in Latin America is rising in a troubling way, while those responsible are not punished, especially those who ordered the abuses to take place and who enjoy complete impunity.
4. Countries such as Brazil, Colombia and Peru in South America, as well as Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua in Central America, together with Mexico, currently top the list of the most dangerous countries in which to defend human rights and the environment.
Throughout the region, however, through the criminalization of social protest, we see efforts to silence the demands of mining-affected communities who are clamouring for justice, respect, equality, peace and democracy.
5. Despite the ongoing petitions and complaints that communities have brought to the home countries of transnational mining companies to enact legislation and regulations that would ensure corporate accountability for human rights violations and environmental destruction beyond their borders, we do not see adequate political will for this to happen. This contributes to the state of impunity for the serious crimes taking place in connection with company operations.
In particular, we denounce the lack of political will on the part of the Canadian government, in whose country the majority of mining companies incorporate or raise financing. The Canadian government continues to protect and promote this destructive model of development as a central focus of its foreign policy. A year ago, 180 Latin American organizations wrote to the Canadian Prime Minister demanding fundamental changes in this policy. A response has yet to be received.
As a result of the lack of justice, international bodies such as the Inter American Commission on Human Rights have had to intervene, demanding respect for community rights, protection measures for victims, but as of yet without the needed results to effectively protect those fighting for their rights.
6. We denounce international events, like the PDAC mining fair, which promote an extractive activity that has devastating results for local communities and destroys territories and ecosystems, especially given the lack of responsibility being taken for the above-mentioned issues.
7. We believe that it is vitally important for a profound examination of extractivist policies and their consequences in order to make it possible for the concept of “living well” or "buen vivir" to be given centre place among the livelihood options that Latin American communities have available to them.
8. We reaffirm our commitment to continue working with affected communities to bring an end to the impunity for human rights violations and environmental abuses of mining companies. As long as these destructive practices persist to enable mineral extraction, they will continue to provoke powerful resistance from affected territories in Latin America.
Acción Ecológica, Ecuador
Asamblea de los Pueblos del Sur, Ecuador
Centro de Investigación sobre Inversión y Comercio (CEICOM), El Salvador
Centro de Documentación e Información Bolivia (CEDIB), Bolivia
Centro Hondureño de Promoción para el Desarrollo Comunitario (CEHPRODEC), Honduras
Colectivo CASA, Bolivia
Colectivo Voces Ecológicas (COVEC), Panama
Fundación Ecuménica para el Desarrollo y la Paz (FEDEPAZ), Perú
Observatorio de Conflictos Ambientales de América Latina (OLCA), Chile
Observatorio de Conflictos Mineros de América Latina (OCMAL), Regional
Oficina de Justicia Paz e Integridad de la Creación, Sociedad Misionera de San Columbano, Chile
Pastoral Social del Vicariato Apostólico San Francisco Javier – Jaén, Perú
Red Muqui, Perú
Uruguay Libre de Minería