Canada Mining Companies Blasted over Rights Abuses

Canadian mining companies continue to face pressure from politicians and human rights advocates to address persistent claims of rights abuses associated with their operations around the world.

Allegations of abuse have been swirling around Canadian mining companies’ operations, which account for 43 percent of all the world’s exploration efforts, for more than a decade. Complaints about environmental degradation, health issues and rights abuses have come from communities in over two dozen countries — including Romania, Bolivia, Tanzania, and India — according to MiningWatch Canada.

A United Nations report (.pdf) on a 2004 incident in which 73 people were killed in the village of Kilwa in the Democratic Republic of Congo charged that the Congolese military used supplies, vehicles and drivers supplied by Canadian-Australian company Anvil Mining. Earlier this year, Ecuadorian villagers launched a lawsuit against Ascendent Copper on charges of hiring paramilitary contractors who attacked local residents protesting company operations.

Canadian parliamentarians are currently debating a bill submitted by Liberal MP John McKay to set mandatory standards of corporate social responsibility. Besides operation standards, the bill proposes the creation of a complaint mechanism for affected communities and possible sanctions for extractive companies that refuse to comply. Public testimony has included allegations of abuses from activists.

“Mining companies do not like having this reputation of being human-rights abusers. So if we get this bill, we can know who is doing good and who is doing bad. We could clear the air,” Simon Child of the Africa Canada Accountability Coalition told Vancouver’s Georgia Straight.

The bill has widespread support from rights groups — including Amnesty International, MiningWatch Canada, Ecojustice and World Vision. Industry representatives have denied many of the allegations against them, and argue that the government cannot enact laws regulating their operations in other countries.

Conservative politicians have vowed to vote the legislation down, and McKay fears many of his fellow Liberal legislators will be loathe to support the controversial bill. Mining is worth $40 billion a year to Canada, or 5 percent of its GDP.

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