Canadian mining firms dominate in Peru with $9.9 billion in total assets
By Yves Engler, Canadian Dimension
Seven weeks after Pedro Castillo was ousted as Peru’s democratically elected president, protests and blockades continue across the country. Nearly 60 protesters have been killed amid the unrest since Castillo was impeached and later arrested on December 7, a move Canada immediately endorsed.
Canada’s Ambassador to Peru, Louis Marcotte, has worked hard to shore up support for Dina Boluarte’s replacement ‘usurper’ government. Since mid-December Marcotte has met with President Boluarte, as well as Peru’s foreign minister, vulnerable populations minister, and mining minister.
It is rare for a Canadian ambassador to have so much contact with top officials of any government. The diplomatic activity highlights Ottawa’s commitment to consolidating the shaky coup regime, which has been rejected by many regional governments and has seen multiple ministers resign. The diplomatic encounters are also an indirect endorsement of Boluarte’s repression. Security forces have shot hundreds and detained many more.
The Canadian ambassador’s diplomatic visits are also an affront to the demands of the protesters who want Boluarte to resign. The Indigenous-led popular uprising has also been calling for immediate elections, Castillo’s release from jail, and a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution.
Alongside supporting the US in shoring up the Boluarte regime, Canada has massive mining interests in Peru. After meeting the coup government’s mining minister, Marcotte tweeted, “with Minister Oscar Vera Gargurevich, we talked about modern mining investments that benefit communities and all of Peru. Ready to support the Peru delegation at PDAC [Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada] 2023, the most important mining exploration convention in the world, March 5-8 in Canada.”
Canadian mining companies dominate in Peru. According to the former Latin America coordinator for MiningWatch Canada, Kirsten Francescone, 71 Canadian firms operate there. They have $9.9 billion in assets, which was equivalent to 4.5 percent of Peru’s GDP in 2021.
As an illustration of the size of Canadian mining investment in Peru, Canadian banks have moved into the country to finance their activity. In 2006 Scotiabank announced it was expanding operations there to do more business with mining clients.
During his election campaign Castillo criticized foreign mining companies. He promised stronger environmental regulations and that some profits would go to communities in mining regions. His largely dysfunctional government failed to adopt any major reform though he may have emboldened protesters who targeted foreign companies with long strikes and blockades, which paralyzed mining production.
Corporate Canada is constantly expressing concern about resource nationalism internationally. Executives of Canadian mining companies have repeatedly criticized efforts by Venezuela, Bolivia, Mexico and other countries in the region to gain a greater share of the profits from mining.
Largely a product of neoliberal reforms, the legitimacy of Canadian firms is tenuous. Before 1990 no Canadian mining company operated in Peru. They’ve also spurred significant violence. Long opposed by locals, Toronto-based Hudbay Minerals was targeted after Castillo’s ouster. Protesters burnt and damaged their machinery and vehicles in the south of Peru.
When MiningWatch employee Jen Moore was detained by Peruvian police for supporting communities harmed by Hudbay, the Trudeau government failed to follow its recently introduced policy on protecting environment and human rights defenders facing repression abroad. A Justice and Corporate Accountability Project report released last month titled The Two Faces of Canadian Diplomacy details Canadian officials’ indifference to Moore’s 2017 detention. Ottawa’s unwillingness to defend a prominent Canadian activist reflects the deference of the diplomatic apparatus to mining interests in Peru.
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