(Ottawa) Once again, a Canadian mining company has turned its back on efforts to mediate a dispute with local community groups. Silver Standard Resources Inc. has refused to participate in a mediation process with Canada’s Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor for the Extractive Sector (the “CSR Counsellor”).
Silver Standard’s 100%-owned Pirquitas project in Jujuy, Northern Argentina has come under fire by indigenous and community representatives from three communities who claim the mine is polluting their rivers with toxic waste and failing to engage with them on the issue. Affected community members sought the assistance of the CSR Counsellor after first approaching the company’s local stakeholder engagement mechanism, which was unresponsive. The CSR Counsellor’s efforts to initiate informal mediation and “trust-building” were thwarted when Silver Standard withdrew from the process.
This latest failure of the Canadian government’s voluntary CSR approach to resolving conflicts comes on the heels of similar failures in cases involving Excellon Resources’ Mexican operations and McEwen Mining’s operations in Argentina. The CSR Counsellor failed to achieve any resolution after these companies walked away from offers to provide mediation. The CSR Counsellor has received six cases since her office opened in 2009; one is pending, and the others have all failed to get to mediation.
“The mandate of the CSR Counsellor’s office is deeply flawed as it does not allow the Counsellor to investigate complaints and report on whether or not the company has breached best practice guidelines set by Canada,” says Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada.
“The Counsellor can only offer mediation, and, as we can see, companies are walking away before mediation occurs, leaving the victims of Canadian mining companies without an effective means to resolve their concerns.”
The CSR Counsellor, Marketa Evans, has repeatedly defended her limited mandate. It is time for her to step down and to speak out about the fundamental flaws in the mandate of the CSR Counsellor’s office. The failure of the CSR Counsellor to meaningfully address the cases that have been brought forward clearly shows that Canada’s voluntary CSR strategy is failing. Victims of Canadian mining companies should have access to Canadian courts and the government needs to create an effective, extractive sector Ombudsman that can investigate complaints and report on findings with or without a company’s cooperation.
For more information contact: Catherine Coumans, MiningWatch Canada (613) 569-3439