Part 15 – April 2014

Mining:  A Turning Point Needed (Part I)

Perhaps you grew up in a mining town, or in a family who has history of links with mining. For many Canadians over the last century the link was with actual mines. We saw directly both the negative impacts on the environment and the benefits to families. For many Canadians today, the link is with investment and the stock market. We do not easily see how mining impacts the people, the environment or the well-being of the planet and its waters unless we seek out those answers. What we hear most is that mining benefits the economy. We live in a society that ranks economic benefit both as its bottom line and as the ideal in which corporations have more rights than individuals or communities of peoples. As long ago as 2007, Mining Watch Canada stated the following: 

Across Canada, communities and Aboriginal governments are saying they have had enough when it comes to the privileged access mining has to land under the existing system, which grants “free entry” to prospectors and mining companies under the assumption the mining is the “highest and best” use of land. Globally, communities are demanding a say in their own futures, and Indigenous peoples in particular are increasingly demanding free, prior, informed consent for development projects that will affect them. (www.miningwatch.ca)

Canada has the highest number of mining companies in the world listed on our stock market. Canadian mining companies are increasingly accused of violations of human rights and violations of ecological integrity around the world. Development and Peace (www.devp.org) as well as Kairos (kairoscanada.org) and now, the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (http://cnca-rcrce.ca), continue to call for an ombudsman for the extractive industry sector who could insist on responsible mining at home and abroad. They also seek legislation making Canadian companies liable in Canadian courts for injustices in other countries.

Some of the ecological devastation that has resulted from mining is documented in videos, photos and personal stories on the above websites. You can also type “impacts of mining” into your browser and find hundreds of pictures, some very disturbing.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Currently there is much exploration in Northern Ontario, in what is called The Ring of Fire. I recently heard Bob Rae, the negotiator for the Matawa Tribal Council which represents the nine First Nations in whose territory the mineral deposits lie. He has heard a wide range of concerns. It has moved him to say there is a triple bottom line to which we must attend, if we want the kind of new relationship with the Indigenous people and the land that is needed.  The triple bottom line is: environmental, social and economic. Such a triple bottom line, so essential, can restore our relationship to the environment as well as the relationship with Indigenous Peoples and create a right relationship with the economy as well. New legislation, an ombudsman and the above tri-fold criterion for mining would indeed be a turning point.

(This is Part l of the Green Window on Mining, in the next issue Part ll of Mining will follow on Fracking)