Mining watchdog agency called ‘bogus PR job’ – CBC Special Report by Wendy Mesley

This is a “must watch” special news cast. It makes the image of the mining sector look bad affecting both juniors and majors inside and outside Canada. – Stan Sudol

For an eleven minute special news report by CBC report Wendy Mesley, go to the CBC website: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2011/10/31/mining-watchdog-agency.html

A mining watchdog agency that was supposed to hold Canadian companies accountable for their actions overseas has done little to protect communities abroad, critics say.

In October 2009, the federal government appointed a corporate social responsibility counsellor to probe complaints about Canadian companies committing abuses in developing countries.

The Toronto-based office, however, has only received two complaints in the past two years — one of which was recently dropped because the mining corporation chose not to undergo the voluntary investigation.

Lawyer Murray Klippenstein is pursuing other avenues to hold Canadian companies accountable. CBC”The whole counsellor position is toothless,” said Toronto-based lawyer Murray Klippenstein who is involved in a case against a Canadian mining company. “It’s basically a whitewash .… It’s a bogus PR job, as a cover for business as usual.”

Canada is home to about 75 per cent of the world’s mining and exploration companies, but is also among the worst offenders abroad, according to a leaked 2009 report commissioned by industry group Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada.

The creation of the Office of the Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor was supposed to help companies act more responsibly.

Probe dropped
The first complaint landed on the desk of the office counsellor, Marketa Evans, in April, when a Mexican mining union and mine workers accused a Canadian company of human rights violations.

Within six months, however, the office’s investigation into allegations against Vancouver-based Excellon Resources Inc.’s La Platosa mine project was closed when the company refused to participate any further in the process.

Excellon accused the process of “legitimizing unfounded allegations against the company.”

Since the process is voluntary, Evans had no recourse but to close the file this month.

The only other review stems from a complaint submitted in August against First Quantum Minerals Ltd. That case is currently in mediation.

Marketa Evans, of the Office of the Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor, says she implements the mandate she has been given. CBC”Two reviews. One starting. Another one, the mine says ‘No thanks.’ It speaks to my issue,” says Liberal MP John McKay.

The MP from the Toronto riding of Scarborough-Guildwood tried unsuccessfully to make Canada-based mining corporations more accountable for their actions abroad.

His private member’s bill would’ve given the federal government the authority to scrutinize the companies’ behaviour and deny them federal funds if they committed abuses.

But the bill was narrowly defeated last October after a strong lobby effort by mining companies who argued legislation would hurt their reputations with frivolous claims and make them less competitive with extra regulations.

The official lobbyist registry shows that lobbyists met nearly 300 times with cabinet ministers, MPs and senior civil servants leading up to the House of Commons vote.

‘Not a policy maker’
The Toronto-based corporate social responsibility office has been allotted an annual $650,000 budget to fulfill its mandate.

Evans defends the office against accusations of being toothless.

“I’ve heard that, but there are different views,” said CSR counsellor Marketa Evans. “My process is voluntary for people who want to resolve through dialogue.”

For the rest of this article, please go to the CBC website: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2011/10/31/mining-watchdog-agency.html

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