[R-G] Mining companies under microscope
fentona at shaw.ca
Wed Oct 29 12:24:31 MDT 2008
Mining companies under microscope
Do Canadians support activities of our mining companies in the world's
October 29, 2008
Earlier this month, while Canadians were in the process of selecting a
slightly-new government to lead them over the next few years, Canada's
reputation abroad was tarnished at an important international
conference in Barcelona. Not deliberately, but unavoidably.
The damage to our country's image occurred during a meeting of the
International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which bills itself
as "the world's oldest and largest global environmental network."
More than 8,000 of the top thinkers and actors in the field of
sustainable development, including representatives from government,
business, the UN, non-governmental organizations, and academia were
there to find solutions to various green problems.
Where did Canada come in? Among the attendees were Indians from the
Amazon region of Colombia, who had travelled a long way from their
rainforest home to speak out against what they feel will be a very
destructive mining project that's being planned and aggressively
promoted by Canadian mining interests.
The deep-drilling gold mine, which would follow the veins of shiny
metal as it winds its way through the Earth, is the brainchild of
Vancouver-based companies Frontier Pacific Mining Corp. and Cosigo
Resources Inc. It would be situated on top of a highly sacred site for
This is a bit like drilling through the floor of Westminster Abbey or
any beloved place of worship.
According to Martin von Hildebrand, a longtime supporter of indigenous
rights in Colombia, who was also in Barcelona, the Indians can't
understand the Canadian corporations' desire to plunder and desecrate
such a remote and blessed part of nature.
"These people have a very refined, special feeling for the energy of
the earth," he explained during an interview.
Their spiritual leaders or shamans, he noted, are highly in tune with
that energy, which they claim to sense emanating from the ground.
Von Hildebrand, whose German father founded the prestigious University
of the Andes in the Colombian capital of Bogotá, pointed out that the
Indians also find the act of mining gold beyond their comprehension:
"If Mother Earth has kept gold -- and oil -- in her womb, that's the
way it's supposed to be," he said, trying to convey the Indians' way
of thinking, which is so different from ours. Otherwise, he added,
they believe it will cause illness and social problems - a view most
of us in the developed world are starting to come to terms with.
Unfortunately, the Indians, who have been granted a large piece of
land the size of the United Kingdom in the western part of Colombia,
don't have subsoil rights to that land. In other words, although they
can safeguard the plants and animals, along with their own way of life
and culture, they can't legally prevent the miners from boring
underground in search of profits.
Therefore, the Indians have asked the Colombian government to convert
their threatened sacred area into a national park, where the subsoil
would be legally protected.
This land transfer, however, requires a consultation process, which
the Canadian mining companies are doing their best to influence.
According to von Hildebrand, Cosigo representatives have been busy
telling the Indians that the gold extraction will not affect the
environment -- an unlikely occurrence since the process usually
requires digging through tons of rock to find even one ounce of
They have also been trying to entice the Indians with promises of
health care and education funding (already supplied by the government)
-- and with cold hard cash.
Indeed, money is being used to sway the Indians to vote against the
required park consultation process -- and, therefore, the park itself.
Von Hildebrand said young people are the most vulnerable to such
enticements. "They have not come to a deep stage or understanding or
seriousness that would prevent them from agreeing to vote for the mine."
So, the Indians and their supporters, such as von Hildebrand, are
spreading the word in Barcelona and elsewhere against this Canadian
project -- and, at the same time, exposing some of the worst elements
of our country's economic foundations.
Sadly, this Colombian project isn't an isolated example of Canadian
mining companies running amok in the relatively pristine lands of
other nations. They are also threatening Indian territory in the
Andean Cordillera region of Colombia, as well as indigenous lands in
Peru and Brazil.
In fact, if you check the website of Canadian-based Mining Watch,
there is a long list of locations -- from our own Arctic to Turkey,
Tanzania, Thailand, and the Philippines -- where local citizens are
waging battles against what they see as unsustainable developments.
Of course, in the long run, it will have to be Canadians themselves
who say "no" to this kind of economic aggression perpetrated in their
name. We have to come to the conclusion that the protection and
conservation of the planet are Canada's priorities, not exploitation
As von Hildebrand pointed out: "We know that the planet is at stake
and we don't have a second one to live on."
Areas like the site he is fighting to save in Colombia might be "the
Kathleen O'Hara writes for the Winnipeg-based Issues Network.
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