This week, in a letter to the editor of Corporate Knights magazine, the Executive Director of the Panama's Environmental Advocacy Centre says that Toronto-based Inmet is using its inclusion on Corporate Knight's 2011 list of "Canada's Best 50 Corporate Citizens" as part of "a misleading public relations campaign." Although the award was purportedly designed to encourage Corporate Social Responsibility, he says that in this case, "[listing Inmet] has served to hinder best practices rather than promote them."
Sent: October 3, 2011
It is my understanding that Corporate Knights' objective is to promote clean capitalism and to humanize the marketplace. As such, you may be interested to know that Toronto-based Inmet Mining, listed in your magazine as one of Canada's Best 50 Corporate Citizens, is behind a misleading public relations campaign in Panama.
I am Executive Director of the Centro de Incidencia Ambiental (English: Environmental Advocacy Centre), a Panamanian non-profit that litigates on behalf of the environment and works to increase governmental and public awareness of environmental issues. I have observed first-hand how Inmet's practices run counter to good faith corporate policy.
Using the slogan "Porque es importante hacerlo bien (Because it is important to do it well)," the company is touting Corporate Knights' listing to galvanize public support for the development of a massive open-pit copper mine in a region of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor that includes primary rainforest. The company continues to gloss over the potentially devastating impacts of such a project.
To carry out its plans, the company is seeking a Supreme Court injunction against the area's protected status. The area has been protected from further development since a study financed by the World Bank justified the need. In other words, rather than abide by strict environmental laws, Inmet Mining is seeking to overturn protections in order to advance its financial interests.
If the proposed mine comes to fruition, an area roughly the size of 5,700 soccer fields would be cleared and an estimated 15.6 million cubic metres of waste would be generated. The mine would pollute the water quality of thousands of species of plants and animals, many of which are endemic to Panama and/or currently threatened with extinction. The mine site accumulates an average rainfall of five metres per year, and that amount is expected to increase over time due to climate change.
A smaller open-pit mining project, near the proposed location for the Inmet Mining site, was unable to operate without contaminating the local environment to an illegal degree. Thus, it is difficult to imagine how Inmet Mining's much larger project will be able to successfully avoid causing devastating environmental damage.
The environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the Inmet Mining project was presented almost a year ago, and it is still being considered by environmental authorities. It lacks a complete technical analysis that addresses the potential environmental impact of the project. For example, the study omits discussion of potential environmental losses that would directly affect local residents. In fact, it does not evaluate residual impacts at all, and such negative impacts would persist long after mitigation measures are implemented.
Furthermore, while Inmet Mining states that it recognizes the right of indigenous peoples to free, prior, and informed consent, it is not clear that it respects this principle. The company has consulted the community when considering how the project might move forward, but it is not seeking prior approval for the project from the local indigenous Ngäbe Buglé communities who will be displaced from their homes. The EIA also fails to even mention one of the communities living in its area of impact.
We are concerned that the company's current public relations campaign, which benefits from the support of your publication, is dangerously manipulating the current public debate over open-pit mining in Panama. We hope that Corporate Knights will more carefully consider the criteria it uses to list companies. In Inmet Mining's case, your listing has served to hinder best practices rather than promote them.
Félix Wing Solís
Centro de Incidencia Ambiental (CIAM)
Environmental Advocacy Center - Panama
Urbanización Los Ángeles, Ave. de los Periodistas, casa G14, primer alto
Apartado 0835-00529, Panamá, Rep. de Panamá
Tel. (507) 236-0866 - Fax (507) 236-0872
"Panamá NO se vende."/"Panama is NOT for sale."