The New York Times recently published a story on Canadian mining firms’ abroad and focused on the Guatemalan village of Lote Oche, where Margarita Caal Caal along with 10 other women have launched a negligence suit in Canada against Hudbay Minerals Inc. after she and 10 other women claimed that in 2007 “truckloads of soldiers, police officers and mining security officials and men, who said belonged to a Canadian mining company” came to their village to evict them from their land, took turns raping the women, and set their homes on fire. Hudbay, which was not the owner of the mine at the time, and does not own the mine anymore, denies any wrongdoing, saying no mining security officials were at the Lote Ocho evictions and that no rapes took place. It is also facing claims over the death of a local leader and the shooting and paralysis of a bystander during protests in the nearby town of El Estor in 2009, reported The New York Times. Hudbay says no negligence took place in 2009 when it owned the mine and that security guards were defending themselves from armed protesters.
According to Global Affairs Canada, more than 50 per cent of the world’s publicly-listed exploration and mining companies were headquartered in Canada in 2013, including 1,500 companies with an interest in 8,000 properties in more than 100 countries around the world.
The Council on Hemispheric Affairs, based in Washington, D.C., released a report in 2014 revealing that Canadian companies control approximately 50 to 70 per cent of Latin America mining industries, but the consequences of large-scale mining production by Canadian firms also involves “extensive collateral damage to the environment. Metal mining can lead to erosion and sedimentation, the formation of sinkholes, and the contamination of waters and rivers by chemicals such as arsenic, aluminum, magnesium, iron, and mercury.” As well,“Canadian mining corporations have demonstrated a disregard for registered nature reserves and protected zones.” The report also said,“each year, a number of protesters who raise concerns against mining activities are seriously injured, persecuted, or even killed.”
Here in Canada, the new federal Liberal government is not saying much about calling for stronger mechanisms for holding mining companies accountable. As The Hill Times reported recently, several cabinet ministers with related files either dodged or declined questions from reporter Peter Mazereeuw, or declined to say whether change to existing government mining accountability policy was needed.
The new federal Liberal government should establish a code of conduct in the mining and exploration industries abroad and it should move on Liberal MP John McKay’s former private member’s bill from the last Parliament to create an ombudsman to investigate complaints of violations of human rights, international criminal law, and environmental degradation. The Liberals pushed it in opposition and during the campaign, they should lead on it in government.