MiningWatch hosts workshop for communities affected by large scale mining

Jamie Kneen

National Program Co-Lead

On April 14-16, 2000, MiningWatch Canada hosted thirty participants from eleven different countries at a participatory workshop to look at the research needs of communities affected by mining. We had local community representatives and on-the-ground NGOs from Indonesia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Colombia, Suriname, Guyana, Mexico, Peru, Ghana, the United States and Canada.

The participants agreed that Canadian mining companies were having many devastating impacts on their communities. For the first day and a half of the workshop, participants told stories from their communities: about the affects of exploration by Golden Star and Cambior in Suriname and Vannessa Resources in the Guyana rain forest, on the way of life of the community and on the environment; about the toxic legacy of mining in Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, the Western Shoshone lands of the United States, and Canada's North; and about the effects of uranium mining in northern Saskatchewan and Arizona.

We talked about how Canadian companies distort and influence the laws of the countries where they mine, or want to mine. In Colombia, for example, attempts have been made by Corona Goldfields to distort mining regulations to their favour. We heard about the rise of paramilitary organisations and private security firms, working in the mining companies' interests against displaced small scale miners and communities in Colombia, Ghana and the Philippines.

Participants told about their efforts to negotiate just compensation and protection of community health and economies from companies like Placer Dome, Inco and Cominco, and their frustration as the negotiations usually lead nowhere.

There were also stories of how communities have organised and strategised to protect their interests, and many moments of excitement as we saw places for collaboration and future work together.

There will be four concrete results from this workshop:

* A network of communities affected by mining that can share information, ideas and campaigns
* A report with the stories, analysis and conclusions of the workshop (ready mid-June)
* A video of the workshop (ready end of June)
* A Research Agenda for funders identifying the research needs of communities affected by large-scale mining (ready in October)

The Canadian Consortium for International Social Development ( helped organise this workshop and will continue to be involved in the follow-up.