What lawsuits claiming rape and murder in a Guatemalan jungle mean for Canadian companies abroad
Rosa Elbira Coc Ich was warming tortillas when the men came. Their trucks rumbled down the dirt road toward her home, a shack she’d rebuilt in eastern Guatemala after a forced eviction 12 days earlier. It was Jan. 17, 2007, and as hundreds of police, military and private security workers returned, she heard their voices pierce the thick tropical brush as they called out for the leaders of the community.
Nine of the men pushed their way into her home.
“Where’s your husband?” a policeman asked, pressing a gun to her temple, according to documents filed as part of a lawsuit in an Ontario court. When she couldn’t answer, the officer said he was going to kill her. Then the men pushed her to the floor, ripped off her clothes and covered her mouth. Ich claims all nine of them raped her.
Nearby 10 other women from the Mayan Q’eqchi’ community say they experienced the same ordeal—gang rapes at the hands of police, military and private security from the Fenix nickel mine, 300 km northeast of Guatemala City—during evictions from the homes they’d built on the mine’s property. Read the rest of this entry »
Tsilhqot’in Nation says company is in denial about central-B.C. project, mine is dead
A Supreme Court of Canada decision may have opened the door to a twice rejected gold and copper mine mired in a legal battle.
That’s because the $1.1-billion New Prosperity mine falls outside the 1,750 square kilometres of territory in central B.C. for which the Tsilhqot’in now has title and where consent is needed for industrial projects, says Taseko Mines Ltd.
The aboriginal title question always hung over the project, and now it’s settled, says the company. “It’s the only mine development deposit (in British Columbia) that people now know for sure is not in aboriginal title area,” says Brian Battison, vice-president of corporate affairs for Taseko.
The Tsilhqot’in continue to oppose the project, citing hunting and trapping rights, and admonish the company for continuing to push a project unwanted by First Nations. “I think Taseko has a very twisted view of things. I think it’s very, very irresponsible,” said chief Joe Alphonse, tribal chairman of the Tsilhqot’in.
The continuing dispute over New Prosperity shows how the complex nature of resource development in British Columbia — where aboriginal, industrial, government and local non-native interests often overlap — will continue to pose a challenge despite the landmark Supreme Court of Canada decision. Read the rest of this entry »
Less than 2 miles from the heart of one of the most popular outdoor recreation spots in Washington, a Canadian company plans to drill holes to hunt for copper. The Forest Service says it doesn’t have the authority to stop the project.
MAZAMA, Okanogan County — Behind the general store and the outdoor gear shop — above the inn and horse corral — granite walls and pine-covered hills rise thousands of feet to form a towering nob called Goat Peak.
This fixture overlooking the North Cascades’ upper Methow Valley — one of the most popular outdoor playgrounds in the state — is where residents and visitors, including many from Seattle, walk dogs, run trails, cross-country ski, snowmobile, hike, bike and even paraglide.
Now a Canadian mining company wants to explore the earth beneath this recreation hot spot to see if metals marbled into the rock are plentiful enough for a copper mine. And despite mountains of opposition, the U.S. agency overseeing exploration maintains it’s powerless to stop the project.
Not 2 miles from the heart of Mazama, Vancouver-based Blue River Resources is proposing to drill as many as 15 bore holes 1,000 feet deep to see how much copper and molybdenum ore is there. The drilling could go on 24 hours a day for months, and would require the company to haul thousands of gallons of water up the mountain. The drilling could start later this summer. Read the rest of this entry »
TORONTO – The government of Kyrgyzstan has lobbed many nationalization threats at Centerra Gold Inc. over the past 17 years. But a court ruling has turned the tables and made a large chunk of the government’s own Centerra shares vulnerable to potential seizure.
The strange turn of events is tied to Canadian junior miner Stans Energy Corp., which is also active in Kyrgyzstan. In 2012, a parliamentary committee revoked Stans’ licence for a rare earths project under highly suspicious circumstances, and the company launched legal action to protect its rights.
Those efforts culminated in a key ruling this week, as an arbitration court in Moscow ordered Kyrgyzstan to pay US$118.2-million to Toronto-based Stans.
It is highly unlikely that Kyrgyzstan will respect the ruling and pay out any cash. That leaves Stans the option of securing verdicts against one or more of the state’s foreign assets. And a logical one to go after would be Kyrgyzstan’s 32.7% stake in Centerra, currently worth almost $500-million.
David Vinokurov, vice-president of corporate development at Stans, declined to comment on whether the company would target Centerra, also based in Toronto, shares for payment. But he acknowledged that it would be a logical place to look. Read the rest of this entry »
As fighting continues between Ukrainian military forces and pro-Russian separatists, coal mines in the country face possible shutdowns, according to DTEK, Ukraine’s largest mining and power group.
Months of hard fighting
The insurgency in the largely Russian-speaking east erupted in April after street protests in the capital Kiev toppled the Moscow-backed leader Viktor Yanukovich. Russia subsequently annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and the West has accused Russia of supporting the insurgency.
Following months of hard fighting, on Monday 23 June, pro-Russian rebel leader Alexander Borodai said the separatists would observe a ceasefire for five days. However, attacks on both Ukrainian military forces – and on civilians – were reported as recently as the 22 June.
With the continued fighting, the country’s resources have been threatened repeatedly. DTEK issued a statement a day after the separatists attacked its Komsomolets Donbassa, one of the largest coalmines in Ukraine, detaining the coal mine’s top management and confiscating assets, including coalminers’ monthly pay, 22 vehicles and office equipment. Read the rest of this entry »
We’ve heard a lot about mines planned for northwest British Columbia, just across Alaska’s border. Southeast tribal, fishing and environmental groups have blasted those plans. Critics say they’ll pollute rivers that cross the border, damaging or destroying salmon and other fish runs.
Much of the recent focus has been on what’s called the Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell or KSM Project, being developed by Seabridge Gold. The site, which also includes copper, is roughly 80 miles east of Wrangell.
Critics say it could damage the Unuk River, which flows into the ocean northeast of Ketchikan. Seabridge says that’s not the case. Brent Murphy is the corporation’s vice president of environmental affairs
“The concern with minimizing downstream environmental impacts has been the guiding principal behind the whole design of the mining project,” Murphy says. Critics say the KSM could be about the same size as the proposed Pebble Prospect, a controversial mine proposed for Southwest Alaska.
They worry about plans for huge, dammed tailing lakes that could leak or break, sending acidic water into nearby streams and rivers. Read the rest of this entry »
Seven men allege they were shot at close range during a peaceful protest
A group of men wounded last year during a protest outside a Guatemala mine is suing the Vancouver-based mining company, Tahoe Resources Inc., in British Columbia Supreme Court arguing it should be held liable for the alleged violent action against them.
It is the first time a Canadian company has been sued in B.C. for events that occurred at operations outside of Canada, but it follows from three suits against Toronto-based Hudbay Minerals, which were accepted to proceed to trial by an Ontario Superior Court Judge last year, also related to alleged violent incidents in Guatemala.
Together, the suits are part of increasing efforts of non-government organizations seeking greater accountability from Canadian mining companies operating abroad.
“The plaintiffs feel like they’ve not got justice for what happened to them (in Guatemala),” said Matt Eisenbrandt, legal director for the Canadian Centre for International Justice. Read the rest of this entry »
Aroland has rejected the open pit mine proposed by Premier Gold Mines Limited near Geraldton over environmental concerns, including destruction of a 16-acre lake.
“My First Nation is generally supportive of sustainable mining development,” said Aroland Chief Sonny Gagnon. “Premier Gold wants to destroy Begooch Zaagaigan, a lake that supports our Aboriginal fishery. They just put a number on this lake – A-322 – and tell us they’re going to fill it in with mine waste. This is one of the worst project proposals I’ve ever seen. They’re going to seriously impact our lands and resources. Such a large and destructive project should receive the maximum examination possible – but instead, very little is being done under provincial or federal environment assessment laws. And virtually nothing has been done to consult with and accommodate the many serious concerns of Aroland First Nation.”
Aroland called on the federal government to hold a Panel Study Environmental Assessment on the project and the provincial government to hold a full Individual Environmental Assessment.
“It is shocking to me how much damage Premier Gold intends to cause and what it seems to want to get away with by avoiding scrutiny from environmental laws and Aboriginal consultation,” Gagnon said. “It is unclear whether Ontario will require more. We urge the Ontario government to use its laws to protect the environment, the water and our rights.” Read the rest of this entry »
NEW DELHI – (Reuters) – India’s domestic spy service has accused Greenpeace and other lobby groups of hurting economic progress by campaigning against power projects, mining and genetically modified food, the most serious charge yet against foreign-funded organizations.
The leak of the Intelligence Bureau’s report comes as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s new administration seeks way to restore economic growth that has fallen to below 5 percent, choking off investment and jobs for millions of youth entering the workforce.
Greenpeace denied it was trying to block economic expansion, saying the allegations were an attempt to silence dissent and that it stood for sustainable growth.
The government report is likely to intensify the debate over whether Asia’s third largest economy will pursue the path of fast growth under the Modi administration or try a more balanced strategy that the previous government sought.
It has also turned the spotlight on the role of foreign funded organizations, some of whom said they feared a crackdown by the new regime, seen as more friendly to business.
“A significant number of Indian NGOs funded by donors based in US, UK, Germany and Netherlands have been noticed to be using people-centric issues to create an environment, which lends itself to stalling development projects,” the Intelligence Bureau said. Read the rest of this entry »
Jeff Thompson is executive director of California Trout, a nonprofit organization that has been working to protect and restore wild trout, steelhead, salmon and their waters throughout California since 1971.
The Smith River, stretching from Southern Oregon into the far reaches of Northern California, is the only major California river that remains undammed from its headwaters to its mouth. That’s no small thing. More than 7,000 dams and diversions clutter California’s rivers, making the Smith the last truly wild major river here.
A mining company based in the United Kingdom has set its sights on developing a nickel mine along one of the Smith’s major tributaries in Oregon. The proposed mining area is within a national forest; federal law allows mining on such lands. Just because mining can take place on this land, should we allow it happen?
Is it fair – or even logical – for a private corporation to reap a profit while placing California’s last wild river in harm’s way? Millions of dollars and countless hours have gone into protecting and restoring the Smith River watershed. Ninety percent of the land around the river and its tributaries are managed by public agencies. This tremendous investment of time and money has a singular goal: to protect one of the last salmon strongholds left in the lower 48 states, which provides essential support for a multimillion-dollar salmon fishery. Read the rest of this entry »
BUCHAREST, June 3 (Reuters) – Romania’s lower house of parliament rejected a bill on Tuesday that would have allowed Canada’s Gabriel Resources to proceed with plans to set up Europe’s biggest open-cast gold mine, putting the project on hold indefinitely.
The bill, which was initially approved by the leftist government of Prime Minister Victor Ponta, drew thousands of anti-mine protesters into the streets across the European Union country last year, prompting the senate to strike it down.
The lower house had the final say, and data it published on Tuesday showed deputies rejected the draft law with 302 votes against and one in favour.
Romania is one of Europe’s poorest countries but it is comparatively rich in natural resources, including gas, coal and gold. Tuesday’s vote has kicked into the long grass a project the government has said is vital to reviving an ailing mining sector in a Romanian region in dire need of jobs and investment.
Gabriel has been waiting for more than 15 years for approval to use cyanide to mine about 314 tonnes of gold and 1,500 tonnes of silver in the small town of Rosia Montana. The local unit of Gabriel Resources declined to comment on Tuesday. Read the rest of this entry »
In 2000, engineers from Radius Gold, a Vancouver-based mining company, discovered a belt of gold deep inside the Tambor mountains in southern Guatemala. The Guatemalan government promptly issued the company an exploratory license, and for more than a decade, Radius studied the region as a possible base of operations. The proposed mine lies just a few miles from the village of San José del Golfo and from San Pedro Ayampuc, a small city.
Few locals, most of whom are of indigenous Mayan descent, were consulted before Radius moved in. Few of them knew anything was happening at all. They certainly didn’t know they were living atop what would become a literal gold mine.
It wasn’t until early 2012 that townspeople began to grasp the scope of what was happening just down the road. They watched as truck after truck, loaded with heavy equipment, rumbled down the winding jungle roads that were normally used as routes for colectivo buses and small pickups carrying crates of chickens. In February 2012, Radius obtained final permission from the government to build its mine, which it hoped would pump out as many as 52,000 tons of gold a year.
Fearful of what might happen if a big foreign developer started digging into their soil, the community decided to intervene. They formed a human roadblock, manned in rotating shifts by people sitting on plastic chairs. They held banners, and cooked on-site meals for protesters in a makeshift kitchen under a lush canopy of vegetation. Read the rest of this entry »
May 30, 2014 – Aroland First Nation, Ontario – Aroland First Nation is rejecting Premier Gold’s Hardrock Mine plans for an open pit mine near Geraldton, Ontario. The proposed mine will cause significant adverse environmental effects, including the destruction of a lake and major alterations to the TransCanada Highway for open pit mines.
Like the controversial Taskeo Mines Prosperity Mine proposed in British Columbia – a project that was twice rejected by the federal Ministry of the Environment – Premier Gold proposes to drain a 16 acre lake that supports important fisheries and fish spawning ground. Premier Gold also proposes a massive waste rock facility next to Kenogamisis Lake, one of Ontario’s most popular fishing lakes.
“My First Nation is generally supportive of sustainable mining development,” says Aroland First Nation Chief Sonny Gagnon. “Premier Gold wants to destroy Begooch Zaagaigan (pronounced “Be-gosh Zag-A-gan”), a lake that supports our Aboriginal fishery. They just put a number on this lake – A-322 – and tell us they’re going to fill it in with mine waste. This is one of the worst project proposals I’ve ever seen. They’re going to seriously impact our lands and resources. Such a large and destructive project should receive the maximum examination possible – but instead, very little is being done under provincial or federal environment assessment laws. And virtually nothing has been done to consult with and accommodate the many serious concerns of Aroland First Nation.” Read the rest of this entry »
Bulga, Australia – Tony Brown typically spends his days ferrying tourists to and from the Great Barrier Reef. But last month, the charter boat operator flew to Europe where he helped persuade Deutsche Bank and HSBC not to fund the expansion of a coal port that green groups claim could destroy the Unesco World Heritage-listed site.
“The dredging required to build the port is a risk to the reef and the A$6bn tourist industry that depends on it,” says Mr Brown, who has vowed to continue the fight to block what would become the world’s largest coal port at Abbot Point in Queensland.
The decision by the banks is the latest victory in a global campaign being waged against the funding of fossil fuel projects and companies by green groups, which allege they are causing catastrophic global warming. Read the rest of this entry »
JOHANNESBURG – (Reuters) – In his spare time, South Africa’s tough new mines minister, Ngoako Ramatlhodi, enjoys stalking game with a rifle in the wild bush of his native Limpopo province.
Hunting season is in full swing but Ramatlhodi has his eye on bigger game: a solution to a crippling platinum strike, the longest in the history of the country’s mines, which threatens to tip Africa’s most advanced economy into recession.
“I am focused on the strike. It’s my breakfast, lunch and supper,” Ramatlhodi told Reuters in an interview. Sworn in on Monday, he has waded straight into the fray, dragging the mining union and platinum firms back to the negotiating table after the latest round of talks collapsed.
Ramatlhodi looks determined to bring an end to the 18-week strike which has hit 40 percent of global production of the precious metal used to make catalytic converters that reduce pollution from automobiles.
“He summoned the parties back and said we are going to talk,” a union source familiar with the matter told Reuters after talks again stalled on Wednesday. Ramatlhodi has set-up a government mediation team which includes treasury officials. Read the rest of this entry »