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Harper spins Canadian mining in Peru

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Photo: leliebloem/flickr

There are numerous controversial gold, silver and copper mining projects driven by Canadian companies in Peru. These mines include Barrick Gold's Pierina gold mine near Mareniyoc, Candente Copper Corp's proposed Cañariaco Norte copper mine in the Lambayeque region, the proposed Conga gold and copper mine in northern Peru, and the proposed open-pit Laguna Sur mine.

Ignoring community and Indigenous opposition to these mines, as well as the impact these mines can have on local water resources, Prime Minister Stephen Harper -- in Latin America this week to explore joining the Pacific Alliance free-trade bloc and desperate to shift attention away from the scandals his government is facing in the Senate -- has instead employed spin, saying that the billions that mining companies pay to governments should go to communities in need.

The Canadian Press uncritically reports, "Canadian mining companies hope that Stephen Harper's visit to Peru will lead to better use of the billions in royalties and taxes that are sitting idle in a country where poverty is still a large problem. Harper met mining executives Wednesday before a lengthy tete-a-tete with Peruvian President Ollanta Humala Tasso. …Harper announced a $53-million aid package (over six years) that includes money to help local and regional governments better target their royalties to mining communities. The money had already been set aside in previous budgets but had not been allocated to specific projects. …The new 'extractive industries' approach was rolled out last fall, and aims to align Canada's aid spending more closely with its commercial interests."

A few points to keep in mind:

- In 2009, the Council of Canadians opposed the Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement, a deal intended in part to promote more mining in that country. By June 2011, Vancouver-based Bear Creek Mining Corp. threatened a Canada-Peru FTA challenge after the Peruvian government withdrew its concession to the company to develop a sliver deposit over popular opposition that the mine would pollute local water sources.

- In 2011, then-minister of international cooperation Bev Oda announced that the Canadian International Development Agency would finance three NGOs to run aid projects alongside Canadian mining companies in Peru, Burkina Faso, and Ghana. The project in Peru involves CIDA, Barrick Gold and World Vision. Barrick's proposed open-pit Laguna Sur mine is close to five small lakes that comprise a catchment area providing clean water for some 8,000 farmers downstream.

- In March 2013, Nicador Alvorado stated at the World Social Forum that those who are promoting dams, logging, mining and hydrocarbon extraction expect his people to bow and say 'yes sir' as they did 500 years ago. He said that we have to understand that the state and corporations are working together against our interests. He noted the massive March for Water in Peru that demanded an end to mining injustice and called for water to be recognized as a human right within the Peruvian constitution.

The Council of Canadians and the Blue Planet Project rejects the Harper agenda and stands with the more than 200 communities and civil society organizations in Peru who are demanding an end to destructive mining practices and for water to be recognized as a human right.

Photo: leliebloem/flickr

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