News Release: Murder of Young Assistant from Guatemalan Environmental Organization is Evidence of Escalating Risk to Human Rights Defenders

(Ottawa/Toronto/Vancouver/Reno/Washington/Guatemala) North American organizations are dismayed and deeply troubled by the execution-style murder of 22 year-old Jeremy Abraham Barrios Lima, assistant to the director of the Guatemalan Centre for Legal, Environmental and Social Action (CALAS), on Saturday in Guatemala City.

A group of Canadian and US legal, environmental and social justice organizations, and solidarity networks publicly express their condolences for the victim’s mother and two young sisters. In addition, they are profoundly worried about the safety and continued work of CALAS and the mining-affected communities that this organization collaborates with. There is no denying the significance of this brutal murder amidst escalating violence against land and environment defenders, journalists and citizens involved in important environmental and social justice struggles in the country and the region.

Jeremy Barrios was cruelly assassinated by unknown assailants with two bullets to the head while doing errands in zone 4 of Guatemala City. He was responsible for managing sensitive information at CALAS and had not received any prior threat or warning of this attack. None of his personal belongings were stolen. His murder is understood as a direct message to CALAS’ director and other personnel. The precise motive for his murder is not yet known. …

Read the full release here

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Book Review: More than a few bad apples (Jen Moore)

Jen Moore reviews the new book Blood of Extraction by Todd Book & Jeffery R. Webber:

“Militarized neoliberalism” and the Canadian state in Latin America

By Jen Moore

2016-11-01-peru_mining_protest

Military responds to mining protest in Peru. (Photo by Thomas Quirynen and Marijke Deleu, CATAPA)

Stories of bloody, degrading violence associated with Canadian mining operations abroad sporadically land on Canadian news pages. HudBay Minerals, Goldcorp, Barrick Gold, Nevsun and Tahoe Resources are some of the bigger corporate names associated with this activity. Sometimes our attention is held for a moment, sometimes at a stretch. It usually depends on what solidarity networks and under-resourced support groups can sustain in their attempts to raise the issues and amplify the voices of those affected by one of Canada’s most globalized industries. But even they only tell us part of the story, as Todd Gordon and Jeffery Webber make painfully clear in their new book, The Blood of Extraction: Canadian Imperialism in Latin America (Fernwood Publishing, November 2016).

“Rather than a series of isolated incidents carried out by a few bad apples,” they write, “the extraordinary violence and social injustice accompanying the activities of Canadian capital in Latin America are systemic features of Canadian imperialism in the twenty-first century.” While not completely focused on mining, The Blood of Extraction examines a considerable range of mining conflicts in Central America and the northern Andes. Together with a careful review of government documents obtained under access to information requests, Gorden and Webber manage to provide a clear account of Canadian foreign policy at work to “ensure the expansion and protection of Canadian capital at the expense of local populations.”

Fortunately, the book is careful, as it must be in a region rich with creative community resistance and social movement organizing, not to present people as mere victims. Rather, by providing important context to the political economy in each country studied, and illustrating the truly vigorous social organization that this destructive development model has awoken, the authors are able to demonstrate the “dialectic of expansion and resistance.” With care, they also show how Canadian tactics become differentiated to capitalize on relations with governing regimes considered friendly to Canadian interests or to try to contain changes taking place in countries where the model of “militarized neoliberalism” is in dispute. 

The spectacular expansion of “Canadian interests” in Latin America

We are frequently told Canadian mining investment is necessary to improve living standards in other countries. Gordon and Webber take a moment to spell out which “Canadian interests” are really at stake in Latin America—the principal region for Canadian direct investment abroad (CDIA) in the mining sector—and what it has looked like for at least two decades: “liberalization of capital flows, the rewriting of natural resource and financial sector rules, the privatization of public assets, and so on.”

Cumulative CDIA in the region jumped from $2.58 billion in stock in 1990 to $59.4 billion in 2013. These numbers are considerably underestimated, the authors note, since they do not include Canadian capital routed through tax havens. In comparison, U.S. direct investment in the region increased proportionately about a quarter as much over the same period. Despite having an economy one-tenth the size of the U.S., Canadian investment in Latin America and the Caribbean is about a quarter the value of U.S. investment, and most of it is in mining and banking.

Canadian mining investment abroad

Canadian mining investment abroad

SOURCE: Natural Resources Canada

To cite a few of the statistics from Gordon and Webber’s book, Latin America and the Caribbean now account for over half of Canadian mining assets abroad (worth $72.4 billion in 2014). Whereas Canadian companies operated two mines in the region in 1990, as of 2012 there were 80, with 48 more in stages of advanced development. In 2014, Northern Miner claimed that 62% of all producing mines in the region were owned by a company headquartered in Canada. This does not take into consideration that 90% of the mining companies listed on Canadian stock exchanges do not actually operate any mine, but rather focus their efforts on speculating on possible mineral finds. This means that, even if a mine is eventually controlled by another source of private capital, Canadian companies are very frequently the first face a community will see in the early stages of a mining project…

Read the full post here, in the magazine The Monitor, published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

Posted in Community Resistance, Conflict and Repression, Corporate Impunity, Environment and Health, Goldcorp, Local and Indigenous Rights, Nevsun Resources, Oh, Canada: Canadian policy, Property and Livelihoods, Social Costs, Private Profit | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

News Release: Guatemalans to Appeal Case Against Tahoe Resources in B.C. Court: Reminder that Canada Must Be Open for Justice

On November 1st, the BC Court of Appeals will revisit a procedural motion in the case of seven Guatemalans who have brought a civil suit for battery and negligence against Canadian mining company Tahoe Resources. The suit concerns the company’s role in a violent attack in April 2013 when Tahoe’s private security opened fire on peaceful protesters outside the controversial Escobal silver mine in southeastern Guatemala. Video footage shows that the group of men were shot at close range while attempting to flee the site.

In June 2014, seven men wounded during the violent incident filed the lawsuit in Canada against the company. In November 2015, a BC Supreme Court judge refused jurisdiction and said the case should be heard in Guatemala.

“The November 2015 decision ignored the fact that Guatemala has one of the highest rates of impunity in the world,” stated Jackie McVicar of United for Mining Justice. “The possibility to bring Tahoe’s then chief of security, much less the company itself, to justice in Guatemala for its role in the armed attack is slim, especially considering how State officials have worked to ensure impunity in this case.”

The lead suspect in the criminal case in Guatemala, former head of security for Tahoe, escaped police custody and fled the country just weeks after the BC Supreme Court decision was released in November 2015. Five police officers have been accused of enabling his escape.

“What we are seeing is not a matter of a few ‘bad apple’ companies as the Canadian government has tried to suggest,” commented Jen Moore of MiningWatch Canada. “Rather, communities are facing intensifying repression when they defend themselves and their well being from harms by mining operations throughout the region, while companies enjoy favourable laws and strong backing from Canadian authorities.”

Tens of thousands of area residents have peacefully voiced opposition to Tahoe’s project in Guatemala despite the threat of violence for doing so. A recent report from the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project (JCAP) charts hundreds of murders, injuries, arbitrary arrests and detentions throughout Latin America in the past 15 years associated with Canadian mining projects and the failure of the Canadian government to act to redress or stop the violence being perpetrated.

The suit against Tahoe Resources is one of several cases that have been brought to Canada in hopes of finding justice for communities negatively impacted by Canadian mining operations overseas. In 2010, another group of Guatemalans filed a series of lawsuits in Ontario against Hudbay Minerals for negligence in incidents of murder, rape, and shooting causing serious injury near its Fenix nickel project. In 2014, Eritrean victims filed a civil case in BC against Nevsun over the use of forced labour, crimes against humanity and other abuses at the Bisha mine. Earlier this October, a BC Court ruled that the Nevsun case can proceed in Canada leading dozens more victims to step forward….

Read the full release here.

Posted in Community Resistance, Corporate Impunity, Nevsun Resources, Oh, Canada: Canadian policy, Tahoe Resources, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Oct 18th: Breaking the Silence – 20 Years After Invasion & War in the Congo

Congo Week Event with Maurice Carney, Friends of the Congo

Tuesday October 18th @ 6:30 pm

1803 E 1st Ave, Vancouver

Grandview Calvary Baptist Church

unceded xʷməθkwəy̓əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, and səlil̓wətaʔɬ territories

On Facebook: http://bit.ly/2daWVtI

** This is a free event. The event is child friendly. Side entrance is street level and wheelchair accessible. Washroom has a stall that can accommodate a wheelchair (washroom door is 86 cm, the stall door is 61 cm). Sign language interpretation will also be a part of the program.

This year marks the 20 Year Anniversary of the invasion of the Democratic Republic of Congo by Uganda and Rwanda in 1996 that resulted in what is commonly described as the bloodiest war since World War 2. The conflict has torn apart the region. It is responsible for more than 5 million lives lost, many of them children. Rape has widely been used as a tool of war.  While western governments have been complicit in supporting the war, the occupation of the eastern Congo and the plunder of the resources for multinational corporations, the conflict and region have been largely ignored. Vancouver is also headquarters to mining companies operating in the Eastern Congo and benefiting from the war as well as imperial strategies in the region.

Congo week events are being held in various communities to help educate and encourage activism. In Vancouver this event hopes to help provide a deeper understanding of the conflict, the geopolitical struggle for power, industrial interests, the human costs and the role of solidarity campaigns.

PROGRAM:

Maurice Carney – Co-founder and Executive Director of the Friends of the Congo. He has worked with Congolese for over fifteen years in their struggle for peace, justice and human dignity. Friends of the Congo works to educate people about the challenge of the Congo, mobilize a global movement in support of the people of the Congo and support local Congolese institutions working in the interest of the people. Maurice has also been involved in organizing around Congo Week and conflict minerals campaigns.

Kim Haxton – Is involved in community healing work as co founder of Indigeneyez, emphasizing leadership development, embodied awareness and ‘betrayal-to-trust’ rites of passage, de-escalation, de-colonization, diversity and anti-oppression training using the arts and the natural world.  Currently, Kim volunteers her services in the Democratic Republic of Congo, developing training programs for Peace and Conflict Resolution, where Ms Haxton is training local Congolese women who have been affected by civil war, poverty and sexual violence as trainers to work with others in their communities.

A speaker from the former United Congolese Community of BC organization. The United Congolese Community of BC organization has formally disbanded but a member of the community network will be presenting.

Territorial welcome and words from Cease Wyss, a Skwxwu7mesh/Sto:Lo/ Hawaiian/Swiss media artist, community organizer and activist. She has produced various formats of media art, as well as being a mentor in her field for close to 15 years. She is also an ethno-botanist, traditionally trained in this field by Indigenous Elders. Her work involves site-specific and culturally focused teaching with storytelling as her means to sharing knowledge.

The event is being organized in partnership with Friends of the Congo. Friends of the Congo is “a majority Congolese institution made up of members of the Congolese diaspora in Africa, US, Canada, Europe.” Friends of the Congo: http://www.friendsofthecongo.org/

Events around the world are being organized in response to the call for global solidarity and mobilization towards Congo Week IX events called for by Friends of the Congo, a majority Congolese institution. The local event is supported by Friends of the Congo, members of the former United Congolese Community of BC, SFU’s Institute of Humanities, Mining Justice Alliance, Streams of Justice, South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy, Stop the War Coalition.

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Press Release – Vancouver Court Clears Way for Slave Labour Lawsuit Against Canadian Mining Company To Go To Trial

Friends of MiningWatch

(Vancouver) The Supreme Court of British Columbia today rejected efforts by Vancouver-based Nevsun Resources Limited (TSX: NSU/NYSE MKT: NSU) to dismiss a lawsuit brought by three Eritrean men who allege they were forced to work at Nevsun’s Bisha Mine.

This marks the first time that a mass tort claim for modern slavery will go forward in a Canadian court, and the first time a case against a mining company for alleged abuses in overseas operations has been allowed to proceed in British Columbia.

Mr. Justice Patrice Abrioux rejected Nevsun’s position that the case should be dismissed in Canada and instead heard in Eritrea. Justice Abrioux ruled, “There is sufficient cogent evidence from which I can conclude that there is a real risk that the plaintiffs could not be provided with justice in Eritrea.” Justice Abrioux continued, “This is particularly the case if they then chose to commence legal proceedings in which they … call into question the actions of a commercial enterprise which is the primary economic generator in one of the poorest countries in the world.”

In prevailing on this issue, the plaintiffs overcame an argument that has permitted other companies accused of abuses to have Canadian cases dismissed in favour of foreign courts.

In another groundbreaking decision, Justice Abrioux determined that claims of crimes against humanity, slavery, forced labour and torture can go forward against Nevsun. It is the first time that a Canadian court has recognized that a corporation can be taken to trial for alleged violations of customary international law.

“Today’s historic judgment allows the case to move forward to a trial on the merits,” said Joe Fiorante, Q.C., of Camp Fiorante Matthews Mogerman, lead counsel for the plaintiffs. “We now intend to use the court’s discovery processes to conduct an exhaustive investigation into the truth of what Nevsun really knew about the human rights situation at the mine.”…

Read the full release here, on the MiningWatch website

 

Posted in Corporate Impunity, Local and Indigenous Rights, Nevsun Resources, Oh, Canada: Canadian policy | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Mining Offshore – Jurisdictions, That Is

By Jamie Kneen, Communications and Outreach Coordinator, Miningwatch Canada

Source: MiningWatch.ca  13 May 2016

Canadian tax havens

Top 10 Canadian tax havens – via Canadians for Tax Fairness

“The scandal is what’s legal.” – Edward Snowden

The massive leak of secret banking information tagged “The Panama Papers” has made a lot of waves in the weeks since its contents started being made public, and they were renewed this week with the release of a searchable database of leaked material.

Those waves may yet prove strong enough to overcome the sandbag redoubts created by banks and wealth individuals and corporations (who are also legally people, right?) to protect their wealth from marauding tax collectors.

If they do, it will be because the public decides that it has finally had enough of those who are pleased to benefit from public services and public goods (like mineral deposits) – but will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid contributing to those public services.

The leak of client information from the Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca shines a very bright light on the unfairness of an international system that creates shrouds of secrecy around the movement of money and facilitates the spread of tax evasion (illegal) and tax avoidance (legal, but reprehensible). The more people find out, the less they like it.

Where’s Canada?

Some Canadians – both individuals and corporates – do appear in the database, but not many. Initially, CBC said it would not publish the names of some 350 Canadians exposed through the leaks, not out of concern for their reputations, but because they weren’t famous enough. CBC did confirm that they included mining and oil and gas executives, lawyers, and even known fraudsters.

ICIJ – the International Coalition of Investigative Journalists, who received the leaked documents and controlled the media coverage – did publish a partial database of leaked information just this week. They are revealing only names and locations, and will only release other details from the leaked documents (e-mails, transactions etc.) as they see fit.

One Canadian company that did jump out of the database was Ivanhoe Mines, led by mining promoter Robert Friedland. The leaks show the structure that Ivanhoe used to operate in Burma (Myanmar) for many years in violation of international sanctions against that country’s military dictatorship, and how Friedland eventually sold the property to Rio Tinto.

Ivanhoe Mines offshore holdings

Ivanhoe MyanmarBearing in mind that Mossack Fonseca is only one of a number of law firms that specialise in secret accounts – and far from the largest, apparently – even this huge data leak still only represents a small portion of the world of secret offshore investment. Even so, it seems curious that Canada and the US are so underrepresented. There are good explanations, however – as the Tax Justice Network has pointed out, there are good reasons that US money would not hide in Panama, including the fact that states like Delaware and Nevada are major, and more accessible, secrecy jurisdictions.

Panama is not the main destination for Canadian dollars seeking to avoid community service work, either. Business in Vancouver’s Jen St. Denis explains nicely how Barbados gets the lion’s share, followed by the Cayman Islands and Luxembourg. Canadians for Tax Fairness notes that the amounts are growing rapidly, now over $40 billion a year, and lately more has been going to the Cayman Islands (see graphic).

Canada does have a significant interest in Panama, however – in mining. First Quantum Minerals’ multibillion dollar “Cobre Panama” is the only operating mine, but several more are at different stages of development. Their investments are protected by the Canada-Panama Free Trade Agreement, which, like most modern free trade agreements, has precious little to do with free trade – or in this case, any trade at all – and more to do with investment protection.

We were one of few groups to raise the alarm when the Canada-Panama FTA was debated in Parliament in 2012. We warned that Panamanians, especially the peasant farmers and indigenous peoples with the most to lose, would lose any possibility of pressing their government to put their interests ahead of international investors, thanks to the agreement’s NAFTA-like investment protection provisions.

There was a link to financial secrecy and corruption, too, of course. Todd Tucker of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch warned that the pact “would give new rights to the Government of Panama, and to the hundreds of thousands of offshore corporations located there, to challenge Canadian anti-tax-haven initiatives outside of the Canadian judicial system.”

Justin Trudeau and the Liberals joined the Conservative government of the day in supporting ratification of the deal; the NDP, Bloc Québécois, and Greens opposed it.

Beyond Panama

Pressure to end secrecy around “beneficial ownership” (the actual owners of these accounts and businesses) and to impose transparency on payments to governments are vital steps toward exposing corruption in the hope that once exposed, it will be too embarrassing to continue. However, the crucial issue in the mining sector (as opposed to, say narcotics trafficking) is corporations’ ability to move money around to take advantage of the most favourable legal tax applications. There is certainly fraud and corruption, but it is actually less important than what is pillaged legally or semi-legally, and what corporations legally avoid contributing to the countries where they actually operate – and incur massive public liabilities, for damage to workers’ health, water supplies, etc.

Global Financial Integrity outlines illicit financial flows in a fairly easy to understand way, estimating that in 2013 $1.1 trillion left developing countries. GFI says this is a conservative estimate, which is quite an understatement as it doesn’t include huge but even harder to quantify flows in money laundering or mispricing of services. GFI has found that illicit flows out of Africa are probably significantly greater than development aid and foreign direct investment combined.

Crucially, complex subsidiary structures also allow corporations to avoid liability. Nevsun, for example, is being sued over allegations that the company was complicit in the Eritrean government’s use of conscripted labour and other human rights abuses at the company’s Bisha mine. As Business in Vancouver recently noted:

Nevsun…owns the Bisha mine in Eritrea indirectly through a complex link of subsidiaries. Nevsun Resources (Canada) owns 100% of Nevsun (Barbados) Holdings Ltd., which owns Nevsun Africa (Barbados) Ltd., which owns 100% of Nevsun Resources (Eritrea) Ltd., which owns 60% of the Bisha Mine Co. The Eritrean National Mining Corp. owns the remaining 40% of the Bisha Mine Co.

This isn’t even secret; like Nevsun, many companies lay out their subsidiary structures in their annual reports and regulatory filings. But they don’t publicise the financial flows between those subsidiaries, which is where profits are shifted from one shell company to another to avoid taxation – and even show losses to take advantage of subsidies and tax credits.

What needs to happen is as simple as it is politically difficult, given the confluence of powerful interests with a lot of money at stake. Bruce Livesey has outlined in the National Observer how difficult it will be to change this.

Full transparency is essential, revealing the actual owners of secret accounts, but it is only a first step. There needs to be a legitimacy test, to ensure that corporate subsidiaries have a legitimate business purpose or economically substantial role. Canada should simply not allow corporations to route money through shell companies or “mailbox” subsidiaries in tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions. Other than tax avoidance and evasion – or money laundering – there is no legitimate reason for it. NDP MP Murray Rankin tried to introduce such a test to the Income Tax Act with a private member’s bill (C-621) in 2014, but why not apply it to corporations?

As the Tax Justice Network commented with respect to individuals, “We are unaware of any legitimate reason as to why individuals need to incorporate companies in secrecy jurisdictions. It is now time for that practice to end.”

Posted in First Quantum, Nevsun Resources, Oh, Canada: Canadian policy, Social Costs, Private Profit, Turquoise Hill Resources (Ivanhoe) | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Report – Mining, Corporate Social Responsibility, and Conflict: OceanaGold and the El Dorado Foundation in El Salvador

The full report, executive summary, and a print version are available for download here, at MiningWatch’s website.

This report documents the current activities of the El Dorado Foundation, which was originally established by Pacific Rim Mining in El Salvador in 2005, and is now operated by its successor company, OceanaGold. The two companies have sought to develop a disputed gold mining project, which is currently stalled in the exploration phase, in the department of Cabañas in northeastern El Salvador. The project, which has not advanced in roughly ten years, is the subject of a controversial international arbitration process at the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in Washington, D.C.

This report was produced in collaboration with the National Roundtable against Metal Mining in El Salvador and organizations in the department of Cabañas, El Salvador in response to their concerns about the Foundation’s activities. A three-person research team was formed to investigate and write the report, including Stuart Kirsch (University of Michigan), an anthropologist with extensive research experience on mining conflicts; Jen Moore, Latin America Program Coordinator for MiningWatch Canada; and Jan Morrill, the former US/El Salvador Sister Cities Coordinator and former Coordinator of the International Allies against Metallic Mining in El Salvador.

The research and analysis presented in the report is based on a review of company reports, documents obtained from Salvadoran government ministries, and interviews. The research team spoke with local residents, current members and the former legal representative of the National Roundtable against Metal Mining, and government officials in Cabañas and San Salvador during visits to El Salvador in February and August 2015. Excerpts from interviews with local residents and organizations are presented anonymously given concerns about their personal safety. Attempts to speak with representatives of the Foundation El Dorado were unsuccessful.

Posted in Conflict and Repression, Local and Indigenous Rights, OceanaGold, Pacific Rim | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment