Hundreds Block Entrances, Surround World’s Largest Mining Convention

Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN)

(Toronto/Tkaronto) Hundreds of people have blocked all entrances to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, where the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) is holding its annual convention. Endorsed by 50 organizations, the protest promotion invited Torontonians to join them to “stand up to the extractive industry's violence, ongoing colonization, and complete disregard for the future of life on this planet.”

“From coast to coast we are rising up in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en nation and against colonial violence and land theft. It’s clear that Canada is a state built on the removal of Indigenous people for resource extraction,” said Vanessa Gray, Anishinaabe Kwe Land Defender from Aamjiwnaang First Nation. “The very companies and people who provide the economic and political support for Coastal Gas Link are inside PDAC this year, and so are representatives from hundreds of other companies that are enacting violence around the world. We’re disrupting this convention in solidarity with every community that has found itself staring down the barrel of a gun for daring to oppose Canada’s ongoing colonial project through resource extraction.” 

As the world’s largest mining convention, PDAC draws some 25,000 people each year from resource extraction companies and their network of funders, suppliers, and legal and diplomatic support. The conference is sponsored by mining giants known for their significant human rights and environmental abuses around the world. 

Vale, a “Patron” sponsor of the event, is just one year removed from the murderous rupture of a tailings dam in Brumadinho, Brazil, which left over 200 dead. Brazil, as a country sponsor of PDAC, will be highlighting itself as a hub for mining just a month after president Jair Bolsonaro tabled a bill to allow commercial mining on previously protected Indigenous lands. Barrick, a “Gold Plus” sponsor, is facing a legal challenge from Tanzanian community members who accuse the mining giant of grave abuses including the death of a nine-year-old girl run over by a mine vehicle, the shooting of her stepmother and other women who had gathered around her body, and an attack on a 16-year-old who was shot in the back and beaten by police employed by the mine. These latest atrocities are but the most recent in a long series of egregious acts committed by Barrick and its subsidiaries.

With over 60% of mining companies worldwide headquartered in Canada, Toronto has long been the global financial hub for the mining industry. The Canadian government provides unconditional support to the industry including tax breaks, exploration subsidies,  a free-entry tenure system in much of Canada,  a climate of corporate impunity, and diplomatic pressure towards the creation of militarized warzones to “secure” the area surrounding extractive projects. On behalf of its mining companies, the Canadian government actively lobbies for free trade agreements and mining codes that diminish labour rights, negate Indigenous consultation requirements, reduce environmental standards, and lower taxes and royalties paid by the company to the government, ensuring that human rights always take a back seat to the rights of capital. 

"We are in a moment of global ecological crisis, and unchecked resource extraction is a major cause” said Kirsten Francescone of MiningWatch Canada. “The extraction and processing of metals and minerals makes up 26 per cent of global carbon emissions. Yet the people who attend PDAC often say that expanding mining is necessary for combating climate change, while avoiding mining's own disastrous role in rendering the planet uninhabitable.”

The cancellation last week of Teck Resources’ application for its controversial Frontier mine has been hailed as a significant win for Indigenous rights and climate justice, and as evidence that the extractive industry’s business as usual is no longer viable. Teck Resources is the PDAC convention’s top sponsor and its Frontier mine would have been the largest-ever proposed tar sands project. 

“The tide is turning. More and more people are seeing the colonial violence all around us for what it is, and recognize that PDAC and everything it stands for is fundamentally incompatible with the world we need to build. From coast to coast people are also recognizing our collective power to fight back.” says Rachel Small of the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network. “We won’t let Canada and the extractive industry at its helm continue to propel us towards a planet that is unlivable! We demand an end to all extractive violence that enables colonization of Indigenous land, forced displacement, violent repression, and wide scale contamination of land, water, and air. And that starts with disrupting PDAC today.”

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Over 50 organizations endorsed the rally’s demands:

  • No more pipelines
  • No fossil fuel extraction
  • No more open pit mines
  • No more land theft and forced displacement
  • No more corporate impunity
  • Status for all, including all those displaced by extractive industries and their destructive impacts
  • Full recognition of Indigenous sovereignty
  • Respect for local self-determination

Over 60% of the world's mining companies are headquartered in Canada. The harms caused by the Canadian mining industry has been extensively documented, including in a leaked internal report commissioned by PDAC. In Latin America alone, conflicts with Canadian companies resulted in more than 400 injuries and 44 deaths reported between 2000 and 2015. Five UN bodies and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have called on Canada to keep its corporate actors accountable.

The extraction and processing of metals and minerals accounts for 26 per cent of global carbon emissions and more than 60 percent of the 100 billion tonnes of materials consumed annually by humans.

The RCMP began enforcing an injunction in support of the Coastal GasLink pipeline project on February 6th. The RCMP violently raided two camps, as well as the Unist’ot’en village, which are on unceded Wet’suwet’en territory for civil violations related to an injunction. Guns were pointed towards Indigenous people, attack dogs and sound cannons brought in, and matriarchs arrested. Since then ports, bridges, rails, offices and roads have been blocked or occupied throughout the country. Thousands of people have marched on the streets of Toronto in solidarity.