Peruvians Oppose CIDA’s Joint CSR Initiative with Barrick Gold and World Vision

Jamie Kneen Communications and Outreach Coordinator responsible for: strategic research, social media, and public engagement; our Africa program, environmental assessment, and uranium mining.

By Rick Arnold

“…I am writing to you to express our concern regarding a new tripartite development policy involving government, mining companies and non-governmental organizations that intends to facilitate mining investments in our southern countries”.

- Miguel Palacin Quispe the General Coordinator of CAOI (Andean Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations)

On September 29, 2011, Canada’s Minister of Cooperation, Bev Oda, announced three pilot projects to reduce poverty in Peru, Ghana, and Burkina Faso. The novel wrinkle in this announcement is a new willingness shown by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to ‘partner’ with Canadian mining firms and with International Development NGOs to deliver ‘development’ projects to communities affected by Canadian mining activities overseas.

In the case of the new million dollar World Vision Canada-led project in Peru, CIDA is providing a 50/50 match for funding from Toronto-based Barrick Gold. "World Vision is grateful for the generous support the Government of Canada is offering for this project," said Dave Toycen, President and CEO of World Vision Canada. "It will help residents of Quirulvilca, Peru, especially women, youth, and people with disabilities, become more involved and influential in their own community planning. In addition to providing loans for people to start small businesses, there will be capacity-building for local leaders to ensure Quirulvilca follows a path of sustainable development in the long-term."  However, public and private monies being channeled through agreeable NGOs is a controversial move and is being much discussed internally by Canada’s international development community.

The troika members behind the pilot project in Peru have avoided publicly going into any detail about this ‘development’ initiative - perhaps with good reason. Conflict over Barrick Gold’s presence in the district of Quiruvilca in the department of La Libertad dates back several years. For example, on February 9th 2007, local press reported a protest of some 3,000 people from Quirulvilca who claimed Barrick failed to produce promised jobs for local residents and that the district had become isolated as a result of a new turn-off the company built along a local roadway.

Barrick is now currently seeking to develop a new open-pit mine in the area known as Laguna Sur. In 2011 the company carried out 366 perforations in a wet zone close to five small lakes, which provide clean water for some eight thousand farmers downstream. In response to these developments, the Municipality of Santiago de Chuco passed an ordinance in June 2011 providing for a conservation zone for the catchment area. Barrick has contested the municipal decision through an appeal to the Third Constitutional Court in Lima.

Meanwhile, opposition to Barrick’s project in Quiruvilca continues to mount. On February 3rd, 2012 a contingent of farmers traveled 557 kilometres and arrived in Lima on February 9th to join thousands of others from across Peru in the National March for Water. The demands of the national march included a new Peruvian mining law that would ensure protection for headwaters to replace the previous law instituted by the corrupt Fujimori regime. Quiruvilca area farmers had their own chant prepared for the mega-march, "Water is life, and we are going to defend our lakes."

Having recently caught wind of the World Vision-led project to be financed jointly by CIDA and Barrick Gold, Miguel Palacin Quispe the General Coordinator of CAOI [1] sent a strongly worded letter to World Vision-Canada and Barrick Gold headquarters in Toronto, as well as to the Minister of International Cooperation responsible for CIDA.

This letter, in part, makes the following points:

"Unfortunately, Canadian mining companies have a bad track record in our countries, where companies such as Barrick Gold are the source of many conflicts because of the dispossession of lands, destruction of water sources, and the ignoring of international rights (ILO Convention 169, the UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples, among others), that lead to multiple environmental and social impacts on our communities.

The solution is not to mediate and negotiate based on what has already been done, and no ‘social works’ carried out with the mining companies can compensate for the damage done, particularly in the face of rights having been violated.

So for these reasons we ask that you, World Vision Canada/Barrick Gold/CIDA, refuse to take any part in this development policy, and instead that you take responsibility to ensure that Canadian companies respect, and demand that States respect, the rights of the indigenous peoples affected before anyone seeks mining concessions in our countries."

A study [2] by CAOI found that Barrick has avoided paying royalties to Peru for its mining activities. This study also points out that the Peruvian National Superintendency of Tax Administration calculated that Barrick owed the nation’s coffers $141 million from the take-over of another company. However, the gold miner miraculously dodged the bullet when a more senior government ministry intervened to put the case on ice in 2004. Proper payment of royalties and taxes by foreign companies operating in a country like Peru is what could allow the government to carry out far reaching social programs, obviating the need for foreign charity.

In February 2012, the newly formed National Tribunal on Water Justice heard from Peru’s mining affected communities. It marked one of the few times that community concerns about mining’s threat to vital water sources had received national attention. Following these hearings the tribunal found five mining companies guilty of endangering water sources due to their exploratory or extractive activities. Number two on that list was Canada’s Barrick Gold and its Laguna Sur project.

Should this ‘development’ project go ahead now in Quiruvilca – given concerted opposition locally and nationally and the added legitimacy that CIDA’s involvement aims to provide – it would be tantamount to running a pacification program, not a development project. The outcome would be the eventual destruction of a peoples’ way of life - all for gold.

In its September 29, 2011 announcement, CIDA indicated that the three initiatives in South America and Africa were ‘pilot projects’. Along with Peru [3] there are numerous countries in Latin America where Canadian mining companies are embroiled in conflictive situations with the communities living in the immediate mine site area. If this is the new pattern of Canadian government support to help suppress such conflicts, then we can anticipate similar arrangements springing up in Mexico [4], Argentina, Ecuador, Colombia and elsewhere in Latin America.

Rick Arnold recently retired as coordinator of Common Frontiers Canada. This article first appeared in a slightly modified form in Embassy Magazine on March 5th 2012.

References:

[1] The Andean Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations (CAOI) is the coordination nexus for the indigenous organizations of Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru, with a mandate to work to promote and defend the rights of indigenous peoples internationally. CAOI’s head office is in Lima, Peru.

[2] Canadian Mining in Peru: Violating Rights and Social Conflict. Barrick in Ancash. To view this document please go to www.coordinadoracaoi.org and then click on CAOI Informa. Once in, then click on Articulos de Interes. Scroll down from the top to find the article in question.

[3] In January 2012, Peru's National Ombudsman’s office reported more than 150 active conflicts in the country, the majority socio-environmental.

[4] Note that mining companies have been taking out double the volume of gold from Mexico in the past ten years compared to what the Spaniards were withdrawing during 300 years of occupation. Source: La Jornada, Carlos Fernández Veja, "México SA," 16 febrero 2012