Not-so-innocent abroad

Listed Magazine

Like it or not, Canadian mining companies have a growing reputation in the developing world as bad actors who commit and condone environmental and human rights abuse. Would the appointment of an independent federal ombudsman help us clean up our act?

By Kerry Banks


It’s no secret to anyone managing or sitting on the board of a Canadian mining company: in recent years, a startling litany of accusations of human rights abuses, including such serious crimes as murder, rape, slave labour and environmental destruction, have been leveled at Canadian miners operating in foreign countries.

Some of the highest-profile incidents have sparked precedent-setting court rulings permitting lawsuits to be brought against the companies in Canada even though the events took place in Africa or Latin America. The latest of these was a January decision by the British Columbia Court of Appeal. It overturned a ruling by the B.C. Supreme Court and declared that seven Guatemalan men who had filed a lawsuit against Tahoe Resources Inc. (TSX:THO) for injuries inflicted by security staff at a mine owned by a subsidiary of Tahoe, could pursue their case here.

While no charges have yet been proven in court, dozens of companies have been cited for incidents in the last 10 to 15 years, and the entire mining industry, along with Canada’s federal regulatory oversight, has been strongly criticized. The latter includes calls by four United Nations bodies for the government to hold Canadian companies accountable for abuses overseas.

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