Dr. Dawg

Mining, at home and abroad

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Big Mining is at it again.

In Ontario, you’d think that Dalton McGuinty had learned his lesson by now. In 2008 the provincial government was offering carte blanche to mining companies to dig up First Nations land, the OPP was sent in to protect their interests, and judges fell into line by sending non-violent Native mining opponents to jail and hitting them with crippling fines.

Big Mining owns people.

Uranium mining interests prevailed over Ardoch Algonquin First Nation, located just north of Sharbot Lake. In a nutshell, private landowners and the bands worked together to stop staking and drilling by Frontenac Ventures, but were hammered by the government, the courts and Frontenac with jail, fines and a $77 million lawsuit. Frontenac got exploration rights to the land in 2010. Ardoch Chief Paula Sherman tells much of the story in her book, The Dishonour of the Crown.

The same vicious combination of interests was at work in northern Ontario, arrayed against the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI). This time the mining company was Platinex. KI fared better, fighting back hard and raising a public storm of protest. McGuinty evidently didn’t want another Ipperwash on his hands, and his government passed the Far North Act shortly afterwards, a law that is supposed to ensure that Native consent is mandatory if any new mines are to be opened on their lands.

The Ontario Mining Act still permits mining exploration, however, and once again KI is under attack:

Without consent or consultation, God’s Lake Resources, a junior gold exploration company, trespassed by exploring on Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) lands. God’s Lake is now threatening to drill on sacred KI burial area. KI is saying NO to God’s Lake Resources, just as the community opposed mining exploration by Platinex in 2008 and De Beers in 2010.

This one bears watching.

Meanwhile, in Panama, Canadian mining companies are up to no good, Inmet Mining Corporation in particular.*

A massive open-pit copper mining project was given the go-ahead from the Panamanian government last month. The company involved, Inmet, is naturally pleased.

The indigenous Ngäbe Buglé people in the area,[not so much], meanwhile, are is open revolt elsewhere in the country, and are paying the price. The Canadian company Corriente Resources is one of the companies involved in exploiting Ngäbe Buglé lands.

Once again, foreign investors team up with a local comprador government to extract resources and cheap labour from a Third World country. And once again, indigenous people—sometimes referred to as the Fourth World—are the ones effectively organizing, rising up and resisting.

But not, as noted, without a cost.

How do our mining companies get away with this sort of thing? Because we have no legal standards in place to impose upon them—the Liberals joined hands with the Harper government in 2010 to ensure that this would remain the case. Canadian mining interests always win out with the two wings of our big business parties: they had already prevailed in another Librocon move in 2009—our free trade deal with the genocidal narco-state of Colombia.

So it’s business as usual, bringing with it environmental degradation, the despoliation of aboriginal land, and the ruthless suppression of protest. That’s how Big Mining rolls.

* CORRIGENDUM: The excellent Mining Watch NGO informs me that more than one set of protests are occurring in Panama at present. The indigenous Ngäbe Buglé are engaged in a major struggle, but Inmet is not involved:

Two indigenous Ngöbe-Buglé men were killed and dozens more injured in connection with a police crackdown on dissent over mining and hydroelectric developments in Panama, where Canadian mining companies have a significant presence.

Since January 30, thousands of Ngöbe-Buglé blocked the Inter-American Highway at San Felix in western Panama, demanding that the government approve legislation that would annul existing mining and hydroelectric concessions granted in their territory.

Despite calls for peaceful dialogue, the Martinelli government responded with police force on Sunday in an attempt to suppress protests and clear the highway for transit. Jerónimo Rodríguez Tugri was killed on Sunday when police opened fire against indigenous demonstrators. Mauricio Méndez died Monday.

The Ngöbe-Buglé territory is home to Cerro Colorado, one of the world’s largest remaining copper deposits. In recent years, Canadian consulting agency, Kokopelli, recognized locally as working on behalf of Vancouver-based Corriente Resources, has maintained a controversial presence on indigenous lands carrying out activities to promote mining that local indigenous leadership have criticized.

Inmet does stand to benefit from lax Panamanian government policies and legislation that favour foreign mining companies over local interests and the environment. But their operations are not affecting Ngöbe-Buglé territory.

I have removed the photo originally placed in that part of the post, as it appears to have been mis-captioned.

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on February 9, 2012 3:40 PM.

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