Community Leaders from Indonesia, Guatemala, New Caledonia, and Canada Discuss Struggles Against Inco

Jamie Kneen

National Program Co-Lead

A unique opportunity presented itself as a result of the Roundtables on Corporate Social Responsibility and the Extractive Sector in Developing Countries. On November 13th, 2006, MiningWatch Canada brought together a panel in Montreal made up of community leaders from Indonesia, Guatemala, New Caledonia, and Canada who discussed their struggles against Inco (now CVRD-Inco, having been acquired by the Brazilian firm CVRD-Companhia Vale do Rio Doce).

Jacques Boengkih from Kanaky-New Caledonia was in Montreal as an invited expert of the Government of Canada. He spoke about the struggle of the indigenous Kanak people of Kanaky-New Caledonia who have blockaded and halted construction on Inco’s Goro project site three times over the past two years. They have taken legal action against the company that has led to the revocation of Inco’s mining permit and more recently an order for Inco to halt construction of a waste dump in a biologically sensitive area.

Inda Fatinaware and Werima Mananta from Indonesia came to Montreal to make a public presentation before the government committee of the roundtables. Werima is a member of the indigenous Karonsi’e Dongi community which lost their most productive agricultural land when the PT Inco mine was built, and they received paltry compensation in return. They later lost more of their land for a golf course Inco built, and now Inco plans to move them again to make way for a hotel.

Diana Wiggins from Port Colborne, Ontario discussed the struggle for justice of citizens in that Ontario community. Residents of Port Colborne have struggled to raise awareness of health concerns and environmental contamination in their community as a result of soil contamination from Inco Ltd.’s refinery. Citizens have started legal action against Inco and are also involved in a Public Liaison Committee for a Community Based Risk Assessment.

Amanda Quiche, originally from Guatemala described the struggle of the Mayan people to defend their land from mining. In Guatemala, both the government and Skye Resources, in which Inco retains an interest, have refused to consult with the Q’eqchi’ Mayan people about mining leases, with the result that the Q’eqchi’ people have recently occupied the land that is rightfully theirs, having originally been taken illegitimately from their grandparents for Inco’s benefit. The “reoccupiers” were violently removed by Guatemalan police and military in early January, 2007.