Press Release from the Mining Injustice Conference:
From Tanzania to Guatemala, Barriere Lake to Sarnia, community leaders demand greater accountability in the Canadian mining sector
May 7, 2012
This past weekend community leaders from across Canada and around the globe gathered at the University of Toronto to share their experiences of resistance to the Canadian mining industry. This fourth annual conference, organized by the Toronto-based Mining Injustice Solidarity Network, was called "Resistance" and represented a rare opportunity to hear directly from representatives of impacted communities.
Over the course of the weekend, over 500 participants attended 15 panels and other sessions on such diverse topics as, developments in mining laws, indigenous sovereignty, Free trade, Labour and mining, refugees, displacement and migration.
Over 75 percent of the world's exploration and mining companies are headquartered in Canada.
Premier Stephen Harper recently extolled the virtues of the industry for the America's at the Summit of the Americas"Looking to the future, we see increased Canadian mining investment throughout the Americas, something that will be good for our mutual prosperity and is therefore a priority of our Government."
Community leaders at the conference challenged the industry's propaganda and denounced the negative impacts of Canadian mining companies on their communities, livelihoods, and environments. Rene Chimbo, a Quicha leader of Central Amazon expressed concern about encroaching mining operations."Mining would seriously affect our community because all of our water sources, our lakes, our rivers will be contaminated. . . also our language, our culture, our way of life, our cosmovision will be threatened."
Participants also shared resistance strategies and heard success stories, such as communities in the Riojas region of Argentina that managed to block Barrick Gold, the world's largest gold producer, and protect their land from destructive mega-mining projects.
The keynote speakers, activist and academic Avi Chomsky and Colombian union activist Francisco Ramirez, challenged participants to reflect on how we can bring about change in the mining sector in a way that is effective and does not cause harm to local communities. Avi encouraged attendees to take their directions from active boycotts carried out on the initiative of the communities in the production of the boycotted products and other actions from unions and impacted communities.
Francisco pointed out how Canadians are often unwittingly investing in Colombian mining projects with devastating consequences through their pension plans and even through religious institutions.
Many of the panels addressed the mining industry and mining laws in Canada. Mark Rowlinson, a lawyer for United Steelworkers, explained how Bill C-323, an Act currently before Parliament, would allow anyone in the world to bring civil action against Canadian companies for human rights abuses committed abroad.
Speakers like Amani Mhinda from Tanzania, Aniseto Lopez from Guatemala and Bodia Macharia from the DR Congo provided numerous examples of human rights abuses committed by companies against local communities, including forced displacement, rape, and murder, that without such legislation have gone unpunished. Bill C-323 is just one example of how Canadians can affect change in the Canadian mining sector through solidarity organizing and political engagement.
About the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network
The Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN) works to bring the voices and experiences of communities impacted by Canadian extractive industries to Toronto, where much of this industry is based. We recognize the pressing need for a movement within Canada to demand accountability in this sector. We also recognize that any activism related to these industries must take its direction from the impacted communities themselves. As such, MISN works in alliance with affected communities and aims to be responsive to their calls for support.
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