Canada & Murder of Environmentalists under Liberal and Conservative Governments

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A study by York University's Osgood Law School professor Shin Imai documents how Canadian mining companies used violence that killed 44 people in Latin America, part of a pattern in which these firms have not been held to account. However that may be changing with Supreme Court of Canada allowing a B.C. case to proceed against Canadian mining firm Nevsun Resources involving allegations of slavery at an Eritrean mine. 

Nevsun suffers Eritrea legal setback

The Supreme Court of Canada has given Eritrean refugees the green light to proceed with claims against Nevsun Resources regarding alleged human rights abuses at its Bisha mine in Eritrea

Most of us don't associate Canadian businesses with assault and murder. But between 2000 and 2015, 44 people died as a result of violence surrounding Canadian-owned mines in Latin America. The stories behind those killings, some of which are documented in a 2016 study by Shin Imai, a professor at York University's Osgoode Hall Law School, are harrowing.

According to his report, mine protesters in Guatemala have reportedly been beaten, arrested, kidnapped and shot. Women living in communities surrounding the mines have been raped. In 2009, a political activist who opposed a Canadian mine in El Salvador was found dead in a well, his fingernails removed.

These atrocities rarely make headlines in Canada. The victims are poor and live in faraway developing countries. ...

But after decades of brutality, complacency can set in. The problems seem intractable and become part of the cost of doing business.

There is cause for hope. There have recently been some major developments that could result in real change.

One is that countries like Guatemala and Chile are now doing more to protect Indigenous peoples and their land. In 2017, Guatemala's supreme court surprised many by suspending operations at Escobal, a massive silver mine built by Vancouver-based Tahoe Resources, ruling that the government did not adequately consult locals before approving the mine. Tahoe's share price plummeted by 33% in one day, and before long, the company became a takeover target for Vancouver-based Pan American Silver.

Investors were similarly shocked when Chile's environmental regulator ruled that Barrick Gold had to shutter the Chilean portion of its Pascua-Lama mine, which straddles the border between Chile and Argentina, partly because of problems with its water management system. The mine was once one of Barrick's most promising projects, and the shutdown forced the company to write down almost half a billion dollars.

More important, for the first time ever, Indigenous peoples are now suing Canadian mining companies through Canadian courts, rather than relying on the local justice system. Cases against Tahoe, Toronto-based Hudbay Minerals and Vancouver-based Nevsun Resources (which was recently acquired) are now being heard in Toronto and Vancouver. If any of those companies lose, the ramifications will be huge. It will essentially mean that Canadian operations in developing countries can be held to the same human rights standard we have here at home, rather than the weaker standard found in many Latin American, South American and African countries.

That will be hard on some mining companies. Having to meet the Canadian standard will put them at a competitive disadvantage to mining companies based in China or Russia, where the injured are unlikely to have such recourse. But there could be benefits as well. As Canada gets a reputation for operating safe, sustainable mines around the world, we may become the preferred source of minerals for more progressive manufacturers and the preferred partner for more progressive investment funds.

The world is changing. Indigenous land claims, environmental standards and protection for human rights will continue to grow stronger in Canada and overseas. Some mining companies will ignore the shift and continue to conduct business as usual. But that approach is starting to get expensive. Just ask Tahoe.


Pacific Rim Mining is a Vancouver-based multinational that has been involved in the murder of community members in El Salvador. The Canadian base Pacific Rim was later taken over by Australian mining firm Oceana Gold.  Despite being involved in the murder of five community members opposed to the project, "Pacific Rim originally sued El Salvador for $300 million under the Central American Free Trade Agreement, but the case was dismissed because Canada, where Pacific Rim had been based before its acquisition by OceanaGold, is not a party to CAFTA."

 Adalberto.H.Vega via Flickr.

The shining blue waters of Lago Suchitlan, Suchitoto, El Salvador. Photo: Adalberto.H.Vega via Flickr.

OceanaGold demanded $300 million in compensation from impoverished El Salvador after a mining permit was refused to safeguard a clean drinking water source that millions of people depend on, writes Pete Dolack. The sum does not even represent losses - but profits the company claims it would have made. (

Pacific Rim obtained a mining exploration license in the mid-2000s, but failed to meet the regulatory requirements to put the mine into operation. In 2009, through a subsidiary, the company brought an investment dispute against El Salvador for “loss of potential profits.” 

From 2009-2011, five community members opposed to the project were murdered: 

 18 Jun 2009: The body of a leading activist who opposed the project was found in a well with all his fingernails removed and with other signs of torture. 

 7 Aug 2009: A male activist opposed to the mine was shot eight times in the back and survived. 

 20 Dec 2009: In a second attack, the activist mentioned above was shot and killed in his vehicle. The woman next to him in the vehicle was also killed. A 13-year-old girl was wounded. 

 26 Dec 2009: A female activist opposed to the project was assassinated. She was eight months pregnant at the time of her death. Her two-year-old son was injured during the shooting. 

 4 Jun 2011: A male community member opposed to the project was found murdered. 

There were also reports of several serious injuries, two failed assassination attempts and numerous death threats made against community members opposed to the mine.

In October 2016, the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) of the World Bank ruled against the company, indicating the suit was without merit and ordering it to pay $8 million in legal fees and costs to the govern-ment of El Salvador. The suit had reportedly cost the Salvadoran government approximately $12 million.



Vancouver-based Pan American Silver publicly apologized on July 30th 2019 for the shooting of peaceful protesters by Tahoe Resources, another Vancouver-based Canadian mining company that it had bought, but major issues remain. 

Guys July 2018 1

On July 30th, 2019, lawyers representing four Guatemalan members of the peaceful resistance to the Escobal mine announced the conclusion of the precedent-setting lawsuit against Tahoe Resources, recently acquired by Pan American Silver. The resolution includes a public apology by Pan American Silver in which the company takes responsibility for the shooting and the violation of the peaceful protestors’ human rights.

The settlement of the lawsuit, however, did not resolve any of the underlying issues of the Escobal mine. Shortly after Pan American Silver’s acquisition,affected communities demanded the company respond: Why would Pan American Silver, which has branded itself as a socially responsible company, buy a mine that clearly violated Xinka Indigenous rights in Guatemala from the start, and continues to violate their rights today? ...

On April 27, 2013, Tahoe Resources’ private security opened fire on peaceful protesters outside the Escobal silver mine, in the municipality of San Rafael Las Flores in southeastern Guatemala. The seven victims, allegedly shot at close range and while attempting to flee, filed a lawsuit in Canadian courts against the company for its role in the violence. Four men have continued as plaintiffs in the suit.

Alberto Rotondo, former military officer from Peru and head of security for Tahoe at the time of the incident, was previously under arrest in Guatemala awaiting trial for allegedly ordering security guards to fire at protesters and then covering up the evidence. In November 2015, he fled the country, since which time he was rearrested in his native Peru. Guatemala has initiated an extradition process in order to eventually continue with his prosecution.

But the lawsuits in Guatemala and Canada are only a small part of the bigger picture.

With its flagship operation in Guatemala, Tahoe Resources Inc. is a silver exploration and development company that lists on the Toronto and New York stock exchanges, with its head office in Reno, Nevada, USA. Since it arrived in the region, community leaders opposing the mine have faced repression, criminalization and violence. Despite the conflict – or perhaps because of it – Tahoe rushed to put the mine into operation before establishing reliable mineral reserves, bringing its underground mine into operation in January 2014.


MiningWatch Canada and the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP-Canada) have launched an electronic Parliamentary petition "in response to increasing extrajudicial attacks on civilians and human rights defenders in the Philippines since 2016."


Aggressive mining development in the Philippines: the Didipio Gold and Copper mine, owned by OceanaGold Corporation, has caused large human rights violations and environmental destruction (

The Philippines is now one of the two most dangerous countries for those who defend human and environmental rights according to Global Witness. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights’ issued a report on the Philippines this year that found serious human rights violations against human rights organizations, lawyers, political and judicial actors, journalists, trade unionists, and religious groups.

Canada is implicated in these rights abuses through the role Canadian mining companies play in the country. OceanaGold’s copper-gold project in the village of Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya, has long been accused of serious human rights and environmental abuses. In 2018, local indigenous people, who have peacefully opposed the mine for years, were falsely accused of sedition against the state, making them targets for extrajudicial killings, which have become so common in the Philippines. This year a large police force violently dispersed a peaceful and authorized blockade of a road to the mine, even though the mine has been without a permit to operate since June of 2019. 

Canada falls short in protecting Philippine human rights defenders both at the consular level in the Philippines and through its corporate accountability mechanisms at home. When some of the people who were falsely accused, and faced the threat of extrajudicial killing because of their opposition to OceanaGold, sought assistance from the Canadian embassy in Manila their requests for help were not addressed. At the same time we still do not have an Ombudsperson in Canada who has the investigatory powers to compel witnesses and documents that are necessary to address complaints against Canadian mining companies.

Since the election of Rodrigo Duterte, extrajudicial killings have increased in part due to a “War on Drugs” campaign implemented shortly after Duterte’s election, and counter-insurgency campaigns initiated after the government unilaterally ended peace talks with the National Democratic Front.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Global Witness have recently raised concerns about the increase in extra-judicial killings, arbitrary arrests, and targeting of human rights, environmental and indigenous land defenders. Often these rights defenders are “red-tagged”3 and either arrested as political prisoners or killed because of their rights-based activism, which is cast as opposition to Duterte’s regime.

Given these circumstances, Canada should not be selling military equipment and providing defence cooperation to the Philippines. In 2019 Canada issued “Export Permit Denials of Military, Dual-Use, and Strategic Goods and Technology” in regard to four countries on the basis of “Canadian foreign and defence policy”; the Philippines should be added to this list. 

As socio-economic and other forms of aid have been used to support military actions resulting in human rights abuses, we call on Canada to halt these transfers to the Government of the Philippines and to instead channel these funds directly through non-governmental and humanitarian organizations.

We are also concerned about Canadian companies operating in countries where gross human rights violations are occurring, in particular Canadian mining companies operating in the Philippines. 

On April 6, 2020, some 100 Philippine National Police violently dispersed 29 primarily Indigenous Ifugao residents maintaining Didipio’s peaceful People’s Barricade, which was authorized by municipal and provincial governments on July 1, 2019. Rolando Pulido was beaten and arrested; others were wounded.

This event was triggered when Canadian corporation, OceanaGold, sought to have three fuel trucks run the blockade to maintain basic operations at the Didipio mine. The Didipio mine, situated in Nueva Vizcaya, started operations in 2013, but its permit expired in June 2019 and has not been renewed. With the support of municipal and provincial governments, local citizens and communities oppose the renewal of the permit due to mining-related human rights abuses, environmental degradation, and negative impacts on local livelihoods. 

Finally, we are concerned about the lack of effective support by Canadian consular staff for human rights and environmental defenders threatened because of their efforts to protect rights in the context of overseas operations of Canadian companies and the lack of effective accountability mechanisms in Canada to hold Canadian companies to account when they have caused or contributed to human rights abuses overseas. When Didipio villagers met with staff at the Canadian Embassy in Manila in 2018, after having been “red tagged” because of their opposition to human rights and environmental impacts caused by OceanaGold’s operations, they did not receive the protection they requested, in spite of the known threat they faced as red-tagged rights defenders.8 We call upon the House of Commons and Prime Minister to:

1. Make the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) independent and empowered to compel evidence and witness testimony under oath. The government of Canada committed to grant the CORE these necessary investigatory powers, but subsequently reneged on this commitment.

2. Enact a human rights due diligence law that compels businesses to respect international human rights. Such a law would have both a preventative effect, as well as providing a cause of action for legal recourse in Canada for those who have been harmed by the actions of Canadian companies operating overseas;

3. Hold hearings on the human rights situation in the Philippines in the Parliamentary Human Rights Sub-committee during the current session of Parliament;

4. End Canadian support to the Government of the Philippines including socio-economic and financial programming, tactical, logistical and training support, military sales and defence cooperation;

5. Mandate Canadian consular personnel to protect human rights defenders. Whereas Canadian embassy staff are currently mandated to promote and protect the interests of Canadian companies operating overseas, they are not mandated to protect human rights defenders whose lives are threatened because of their criticism of the impacts on rights and the environment caused by these companies.


This month fifty organizations from around the world "including the British Columbia General Employees Union (BCGEU) and the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), wrote to the British Columbia Investment Management Corporation (BCI) regarding its investment in Vancouver-based mining company Equinox Gold."

The Los Filos mine went into operation in 2008. Since that time, the Ejido of Carrizalillo, which is half a kilometre from the massive heap leach pad at the mine, has documented a large increase in "health problems among the local population believed to be the result of constant exposure to arsenic and heavy metal-laden dust from the mine. These include prevalence of eye irritation, skin conditions, respiratory trouble, premature births, and birth deformations, among other illnesses. The community’s medical costs are only partially alleviated through their social-cooperation agreement. The community has also lost its water supplies, which have either been depleted or contaminated as a result of mine operations. Violence has also escalated from the arrival of organized crime fighting for control of the area during the last 9 years, leading to processes of extortion, the forced displacement of half the community in 2015 and the murder of an estimated 55 community members as of 2019." (

Equinox Gold: Racist and Discriminatory Company, outside Los Filos, Mexico (Source: Amapola)

Equinox Gold: Racist and Discriminatory Company, outside Los Filos, Mexico (Source: Amapola)

The organizations urge the fund to engage Equinox in dialogue over breaches in key provisions in its social cooperation agreement with the community of Carrizalillo in Guerrero, México, on whose land the company’s flagship Los Filos mine is principally located. Violations of the agreement led the community to act upon their rights in that same agreement and shut down the mine for over 60 days and counting. Key issues include the provision of clean water, medication, educational scholarships, jobs and contracts, as well as company management’s discriminatory and racist treatment of the community as it seeks to resolve these matters through dialogue. Notably, since the Los Filos mine went into operation in 2008, the communities’ sources of water have been dried up or contaminated with arsenic and other heavy metals. 

The letter highlights significant and serious concerns for community safety, health and economic well-being, stating: “We do not understand why, instead of engaging promptly and in good faith, the company decided to adopt a dilatory, discriminatory and abusive stance, including to criminalize the community’s actions.” On September 4, the company issued a public statement calling the community encampment an “illegal road blockade”, putting people at grave risk of legal persecution and violence, which is all too common at mine sites in Mexico.

The community strike now far surpasses the last shutdown at Los Filos in April 2014, which lasted 33 days after Goldcorp failed to reach a new land use agreement with the community. Equinox requires access to Carrizalillo’s lands in order to operate the Los Filos mine and has no rightful or legal way to operate without their agreement. 

The signatories to the letter, some of whom include contributors to the fund, echo the principle requests of the Ejido of Carrizalillo including: 

• Engage in respectful and serious talks over a new social-cooperation agreement that could mitigate harms on the community’s water, health, work and safety.

• To abstain from any further acts of criminalization, discrimination, racism and abuse of its economic and political influence.


You can call on Canadian banks to stop funding the violation of the  human and environmental rights of the people of Ejido of Carrizalillo in Mexico by Equinox Gold (see last post for more details) by clicking on the url below and sending a message to these banks. 

Community members look on Los Filos open pit mine in Guerrero, Mexico; Photo: Christian Leyva

Imagen @ M4

Translation: Corporate Accountability: increased sickness; loss of biodiversity; lies and plunder; use of cyanide

URGENT ACTION: Call on Canadian Banks to Stop Funding Conflict at the Los Filos mine

Equinox GoldMexico Human Rights

It has been more than 83 days since the Ejido of Carrizalillo shut down Equinox Gold’s Los Filos mine in Guerrero, Mexico after two months of failed attempts at dialogue to address racist and discriminatory treatment, as well as breaches of their social cooperation agreement. This is the longest-running strike since the mine started operating in 2007.

Instead of genuine efforts to achieve talks over a new agreement with the community, Equinox Gold, has resorted to provocation and threats, and is even suing the Ejido in Mexican courts.

BMO, CIBC, Scotiabank, and the National Bank of Canada are funding this unnecessary conflict having participated in a $500 million credit agreement with Equinox in March 2020. These banks have a responsibility to demand Equinox stop putting communities, and investors, at risk.

Call on BMO, CIBC, Scotiabank, and the National Bank of Canada to demand that Equinox negotiate in good faith without threats.


Barrick Gold, which is headquartered in Toronto and was until 2019 the largest gold mining company in the world, " generated significant controversy around the world, including allegations of mass rape[58] and other violent abuses,[59] hundreds of murders,[60] forcible eviction and mass arson.[61] Barrick and certain of its executives have been charged at various times and in various jurisdictions with bribery,[62] conspiracy,[63] forgery, money-laundering,[64] tax-evasion,[65] and incalculable environmental damage.[66]" (

In Papua New Guinea Barrick Gold security guards have been involve d in mass rape. 


A group photo of Porgera community women and men who say they were raped or violently abused at the gold mine owned by Barrick Gold Corporation. (

At least 130 women were raped by security guards at Barrick Gold Corporation’s open pit mine in Porgera, Papua New Guinea. Some say the compensation they received was inadequate. ...

As of September 2010, Barrick employed a private security force of 443 guards — 279 from Porgera, 153 from around Papua New Guinea, and 11 supervisors from outside the country —to detain trespassers and hand them over to police, according to a Human Rights Watch report.

After first ignoring their stories, the company finally acknowledged the problem in 2010 and in 2012 it created a process to compensate the women for the abuse they suffered. In return, the women signed waivers promising not to sue the company in any court in the world.

These rapes are undisputed by the mining company. The only matter in dispute is whether the women received justice. And a new joint report by the human rights clinics at the Harvard and Columbia law schools says they did not. ...

One of the report's authors, Sarah Knuckey, who presented her findings in front of the United Nations this week, says while Barrick Gold created an "innovative remedy approach" in 2012 — one of the first company-created mechanisms like it in the world — the process has still resulted in a deep feeling of unfairness among the women who went through it.

Earlier this year, 11 women who were raped by the company's guards but did not sign away their rights, received 10 times as much compensation from the company because they had attorneys advocate on their behalf, according to the report released Thursday.

"In July 2015, Barrick offered each of the 120 women an additional payment, but taken together, the initial packages and additional payment remain significantly less than the international settlement [that the 11 women received]," the report states.

The company's mechanism had "specific positive features that other companies should look to as guidance," the report says, but it "falls short" and "is not a model that other corporations should replicate wholesale."

"The women, if you ask them now, are you happy with the remedy that you received, many of them will say something like, this remedy is like a mother giving a crying child a small snack," says Knuckey. "They feel insulted, and embarrassed and in some ways quite ashamed about the remedy they got."


In Papua New Guinea, Barrick Gold was also involved in the burning down of 200 local houses near the company's Porgera gold mine. 

In a pre-dawn raid on Friday, June 6, Papua New Guinea (PNG) police Mobile Units evicted residents from Wingima village near Barrick’s Porgera gold mine and burnt down some 200 houses, according to reports from eye witnesses in Porgera as well as from local Member of Parliament Nixon Mangape. Victims said they had no warning and were not given eviction notices in advance of the attack.
In a repeat of house burnings in 2009, MiningWatch has been informed that this raid was also accompanied by Mobile Unit police violence against villagers and the rapes of at least ten women and young girls.
The Tiene clan of Wingima, which was also targeted in 2009, are the traditional local landowners. People who have now lost shelter and the contents of their houses are Tiene landowners or relatives who can only live in the village at the invitation of the Tiene.
Barrick’s Porgera Joint Venture (PJV) mine houses, feeds, and financially supports units of PNG’s infamous Mobile Units, in spite of their ­reputation for violence and their previous involvement in hundreds of house burnings in the mine’s lease area, as documented by Amnesty International.

Following the 2009 house burnings, the Porgera Lando­wners Association (PLOA) reportedly obtained an order from the National Court of Papua New Guinea restraining the State from burning down more houses. However, reportedly, following a request by Barrick (Nuigini) Limited, the National Court removed the restraining order, arguing that the police has ultimate power to execute such operations under the terms of a State of Emergency (SOE).
In April, a State of Emergency was called by the Government of PNG, leading to the deployment of additional Mobile Units to the Porgera Valley, to supplement those already supported there by the PJV mine. One reported goal of the SOE was to crack down on unauthorized scavenging of ore by residents living around the mine. Barrick Gold has not managed to stop dangerous incursions into the pit and across its massive waste flows of desperate people eking out a living. The mine and its uncontrolled waste flows have destroyed agricultural land and traditional subsistence activities.
The raid took place while the leadership of the PLOA were away from the Porgera Valley. They had reportedly travelled to Kokopo, East New Britain, for a meeting with PJV’s Community Affairs Manager and representatives of the National Government, and the Provincial Government of Enga Province, where the mine is located. The meeting was an attempt to come to agreement on terms for a new Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for the operation of the mine. ...

“It is simply unconscionable that Barrick is turning its back on the obvious need to resettle these communities away from the mine, but continues to house and financially support PNG Mobile Units that have a history of human rights abuses, including house burnings, in those communities,” says Catherine Coumans, Asia-Pacific Program coordinator at MiningWatch Canada. “It is unacceptable that violence is being used to manage the very serious problems associated with this mine and its negative impacts on the ability of local people to live healthy lives and to sustain themselves.”


With the sexual abuse and racism displayed towards women working at within Canadian mining firms and towards those in surrounding communities in Canada, it is hardly surprising that such attitudes would manifest themselves internationally as shown in the last post. 

1. Indigenous Communities and Industrial Camps
“In research conducted in the Fort St. James area (Shandro et al. 2014), data from the local RCMP showed a 38 per cent increase in sexual assaults during the first year of the construction phase of an industrial project, as well as an increase in sex work in areas where there is an increase in industrial traffic (Shandro et al. 2014). Indigenous women are particularly vulnerable to being victimized by sexual assault (Department of Justice 2015), and particularly so when industrial camps are located near remote communities” p. 22.  ...

2. Indigenous Gender-based Analysis
“Violence-related deaths among Indigenous women is five times higher than the national average for Canadian women.85 The risk of sexual violence, substance abuse and sexually transmitted infections due to rape and sex trafficking is particularly high for Indigenous women and girls in proximity to industrial camps.”86 ....Indigenous women are disproportionately affected by the negative socio-economic effects of development and are less likely to benefit from employment opportunities.”87 ....“Though limited data is available on the experience of gender-diverse Indigenous peoples in the mining industry, one study found that 43% of gender-diverse Indigenous participants in Ontario had experienced physical or sexual violence and 67% had been forced to move as a result of their gender identity.” ...

3. Women in Canadian Mining
In 2018, Peltier-Huntley conducted an on-line questionnaire survey of employees working in management positions within mining and those who had left mining occupations. Of 540 who responded (please note the points below are direct quotes from the document):

  • 214 (39%) respondents shared 251 stories of their experiences with (n = 109 or 43%) or observations of (n = 96 or 37%) discrimination (n = 116 of 46%) and harassment (n = 117 or 47%) incidents in the mining industry. (p.90)

  • The most common aggressors were identified as male or men (n = 33 or 21%), supervisor (n = 30 or 19%), worker (n = 18 or 12%), manager (n = 16 or 10%), and senior (n = 12 or 8%). P.91

  • Aggressors were often in a position of power (n = 75 or 48%), such as a client, supervisors, or manager. The receivers were most often identified as: (n = 56), indicative of a first-hand account or by their gender: female or women (n = 52). There were a few accounts of women being the aggressor (n = 4) toward other women or men, or men being the receiver of aggressions (n = 7) from other men. The term “bullying” was used most often when men received inappropriate behaviour from other men. (p. 91)

  • Harassment (n = 116) included the attacks which were personal in nature, overt, and may have occurred on multiple occasions, such as bullying. Discrimination (n = 117) incidents were more general, less personal, and often subtle in nature. Some incidents (n =18 or 7%) were described in such a way that it was not possible to determine the severity of the action. The method of administering the offence was described in terms of involving physical contact (n = 16 or 6%) or comments (n = 107 or 43%). Comments could include texting, emailing, or verbal communication. The nature of the offences was identified in 161 (64%) cases. The nature of offences were deemed to be sexual and/or sexist (n = 144 or 89%), racist (n = 11 or 7%), religious (n = 4 or 2%), or homophobic (n = 2 or 1%). All of the 16 incidents involving physical contact were also sexual in nature. Of the 251 incidents, 109 (43%) involved first hand experiences; the vast majority (n = 98 or 84%) of those at the receiving end of the incident were women. A further 46 (18%) incidents were witnessed by the survey respondent, where 60% (n = 28) of the witnesses were men. 78% (n = 36) of the survey participant who were confided in after the incident occurred (n = 46 or 18%) were male. (pp. 92-93)

  • The setting in which these incidents occurred were mainly at the workplace (n = 184 or 73%). Some incidents occurred off-site, such as at a conference, or after work hours (n = 16 or 6%). Thirty-seven (17%) of the 214 respondents who shared their experiences with harassment and discrimination in the Canadian mining industry indicated they had multiple examples of inappropriate behaviour to share. (p. 93)

    From: Peltier-Huntley, Jocelyn. 2019. Closing The Gender Gap In Canadian Mining: An Interdisciplinary Mixed Methods Study. Unpublished Msc Thesis. Saskatoon: University of Saskatchewan. (available from the online University repository)  (


The examples of human rights abuses by Canadian owned Barrick Gold in Papua New Guinea outlined in post 58 (mass rape of at least 130 women) and post 59 (and the burning down of 200 homes) are part of a "30 year of reckless mining" history and a long legacy of human rights abuses by the firm. 

Everlyn Gaupe, a survivor of sexual violence at the Porgera mine in Papua New Guinea, speaks with protesters outside Barrick Gold’s annual general meeting on Tues. April 25, 2017 in downtown Toronto. Photo by Riley Sparks

As Barrick Gold executives once again face their shareholders, investors should be asking themselves why this company is continuously embroiled in conflict and legal action involving its deeply harmful relationships with the indigenous communities that surround its mines.

The callous disregard for the communities around Barrick mines has consequences. Once again, Barrick is facing legal action in the U.K. on behalf of victims of shootings and beatings by its mine security at the North Mara Gold Mine in Tanzania; the previous suit on the same issues was settled out of court just five years ago. In yearly visits since 2014, MiningWatch Canada has documented over 200 cases of excess use of force at this mine, and supports some of the victims through the current legal action by Cardiff-based firm Hugh James.

In Papua New Guinea (PNG), Barrick is on the verge of losing access to what CEO Mark Bristow calls a mine with “tier one potential.” The country’s Prime Minister, James Marape, has pointed to environmental and legacy issues as factors for denying Barrick’s subsidiary a renewed 20-year licence. As a leading partner in the Porgera Joint Venture mine for 14 years, Barrick has been at the helm as the environmental impacts have become overwhelming and the social “legacy issues,” including brutal human rights abusescommitted by the mine's private and public security forces, have deeply angered the local indigenous landowners. ...

While media focus has been on Barrick, the PNG government and the landowner agents, in order to understand the breadth and depth of disillusion with the mine one must turn to the Porgera grassroots organizations that have fought for human rights and environmental justice for Porgerans for over 15 years. In a newly released statement from the leadership of six local organizations they say:

As Barrick Gold and the Chinese government, on behalf of its corporate national Zijin Mining, threaten our Prime Minister as though they have some kind of right to the gold under our feet, and as our own 24 landowner agents argue amongst themselves about how to get the best financial deal out of the mine, we raise our voices on behalf of too many Porgerans who have suffered human rights abuses and very serious environmental impacts because of 30 years of reckless mining led by Canada’s Placer Dome and now Barrick Gold.

These organizations, and the human rights victims they represent, need to be included in the court ordered negotiations now underway and in any further discussions about the future of the mine.


Canadian mining magnate Peter Munk received many glowing eulogies in the mainstream media upon his death in 2018, overlooking his Barrick Gold company's legacy of plunder, environmental degradation and human rights abuses across the world. 

Everyln Gaupe and Joycelyn Mandi – survivors of gang rape at the hands of Porgera mine security – travelled to downtown Toronto to protest Barrick Gold’s annual general meeting. Photo by Allan Lissner.

In Ontario, patients benefit from state-of-the-art treatment at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre at the Toronto General Hospital – funded by a $100 million donation that lowered Munk’s tax burden. Meanwhile the only hospital in Porgera, Papua New Guinea sits right next to Barrick Gold’s Porgera Joint Venture mine, and has been closed for over a year. Here, the company Munk founded contravenes international environmental norms by dumping millions of tonnes of mine wastedirectly into the river system each year, contaminating that water for hundreds of kilometres and causing chemical burns to villagers who come in contact with the waste.

On the other side of the world, over 50 residents living near Barrick’s Pueblo Viejo mine in the Dominican Republic reported lesions on their bodies following direct contact with the water in the area. The lesions are consistent with known effects of cyanide exposure. A group of community members who had been exposed to contaminated water also tested positive for cyanide traces above safe levels, and unacceptably high levels of heavy metals in their blood.

These, and hundreds of other environmental violations at Barrick mines across the world, destroy livelihoods, displace populations, divide communities, and harm human health. Among other human rights violations, Barrick’s presence has led to the militarization of entire communities in Tanzania and Papua New Guinea, where people routinely die in confrontations with mine security. Environmental racism is always gendered: In 2015, 120 women alleged that they were raped by guards at Barrick’s Porgera mine.

Barrick Gold’s international violations, which allowed for Munk’s philanthropy, have been met with a studied lack of scrutiny by Canadian authorities. Indeed, Munk’s success is only the logical consequence of Canadian policy: lax oversight for extractive ventures, incentives for prospecting, unfettered access to speculative capital, and tax frameworks that favour the accumulation of wealth by mining speculators at the expense of the public good.

Not only has the Canadian state helped make neocolonial extractive ventures profitable, regardless of the environmental and human cost, it has also offered diplomatic support for Canadian mining interests overseas. When a 2009 coup and subsequent fraudulent election in Honduras led to a government that has been accused of grave human rights violations, narco-trafficking, and corruption, Canada remained a steadfast ally because of the regime’s support of Canadian mining interests in the country. Moreover, the Canadian legal system makes it nearly impossible for those harmed by Canadian companies abroad to seek justice in Canadian courts.

Almost every news story about Munk highlights his loyalty to the country that allowed him to amass his wealth, after his family fled from Nazi-occupied Hungary. On its surface, this narrative is a stale rehashing of the trope of Canadian hospitality to immigrants. But that a man with such global influence should make his most significant donations within Canada also illustrates how the tax write-off from his donations are highly subsidised by the Canadian taxpayer, with no accountability in return. And certainly, Munk profited greatly from his connections at the highest echelons of Canadian politics, with the likes of former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and former Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird joining Barrick Gold’s International Advisory Board after leaving office, giving the corporation enormous political clout and access to policy makers....

Of special concern are Munk’s connections with his alma mater, the University of Toronto, which have helped undermine campaigns pushing for greater accountability in the mining sector. Specifically, the Munk School of Global Affairs at UofT – founded by a $51 million donation from Peter and Melanie Munk – was involved with a Harper-administration push-back against recommendations by the 2009 National Roundtables on Corporate Social Responsibility. The roundtables called for environmental and human rights standards for Canadian businesses abroad, and for an ombudsperson to investigate allegations of company abuses. Instead, the Harper government created a toothless CSR Counsellor position, first filled by Marketa Evans, the former director of the UofT’s Munk Centre for International Studies (the Munk School of Global Affairs’ predecessor). At the same time, the Harper Government pursued a pro-mining strategy that channeled Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) funds to community projects linked to Canadian mining operations. CIDA also abruptly stopped giving money to several nongovernmental organizations that advocate for the human rights of mining-affected communities, including Kairos, Development and Peace, and the Mennonite Central Committee. When the Canadian government moved to dismantle CIDA altogether, to further align international giving with foreign policy objectives like trade, this move was marshalled by none other than Janice Stein, the Munk School director at that time, who served on an advisory panel for CIDA restructuring.

From Latin America to the Asia-Pacific and Africa, Peter Munk’s legacy of environmental destruction has health consequences that far outweigh his support for cardiovascular care and university research in Toronto. Today, Barrick Gold – Canada’s largest mining company and the world’s largest gold mining company – holds their Annual General Meeting, outside of which activists from Toronto’s Mining Injustice Solidarity Network will be protesting. We must not allow Munk’s money to exonerate him – or his legacy – of his crimes. The violence and displacement that accompany the rapacious ventures of Barrick Gold around the world – with the complicity of Canada’s financial, media, academic, and diplomatic sectors – has led to dispossession and death for many communities. Who will publish the eulogies for them?


In 2016, a Tanzanian government inquiry heard evidence that "Tanzanian police have killed 65 people and injured 270 during years of sporadic clashes with villagers at a controversial Canadian-owned gold mine." Once again it was Barrick Gold Corp. 

Militarized police guarding Barrick Gold Corp. Tanzanian mining site.

Tanzanian police have killed 65 people and injured 270 during years of sporadic clashes with villagers at a controversial Canadian-owned gold mine, according to evidence heard by a Tanzanian government inquiry.

The alleged number of fatalities, based on complaints given to the inquiry by local communities, is the first official estimate of the scale of reported violence at the North Mara gold mine, operated by the African subsidiary of Barrick Gold Corp.

The Toronto-based company has faced criticism for many years for the large number of violent deaths at the Tanzanian mine, where the mine has agreements with local police to provide security. Villagers routinely enter the site in search of low-grade rock, from which they can extract small bits of gold. They often clash with the police, who are accused of barring some villagers while accepting bribes from others to let them enter.

Barrick's majority-owned subsidiary, formerly known as African Barrick Gold and now known as Acacia Mining, is based in London. It operates three major gold mines in Tanzania.

In July, in its interim results for the first half of this year, Acacia disclosed that the Tanzanian Mines Minister had appointed a commission to investigate the disputes between the North Mara mine and the local communities.

The mining company praised the commission's report, which has been shown to local communities near North Mara. The company called it "a fair outcome for all stakeholders" but did not mention the number of fatalities and injuries that were cited in the report.

In the Swahili-language report, obtained by The Globe and Mail, the commission said it had received complaints of 335 cases of abuse by Tanzanian police, including 65 deaths and 270 injuries. The complaints were given to the commission in February and March when it visited the remote region where the mine is located.

The report did not give the time period for these deaths and injuries, but the numbers appeared to date back to 2006, when Barrick acquired the North Mara mine. ...

In a separate confidential letter obtained by The Globe and Mail, a senior Tanzanian official told the company that the government is worried by the fatalities at North Mara, the "escalating" number of intrusions by villagers, and the reported collusion between the police and some of the trespassing villagers.

"The government cannot allow this situation to continue," said the letter, sent to a vice-president of African Barrick Gold in November, 2014, by Eliakim Maswi, the permanent secretary of Tanzania's Energy and Minerals Ministry.

He said the situation calls for "urgent action" from the government and other involved parties to reduce the clashes and the fatalities and injuries among the intruders and police. The intrusions were escalating, despite the presence of about 160 police at the mine site, the letter said.


In 2020, "seven Tanzanian human rights victims launched a legal claim at the British High Court against subsidiaries of Canada-based Barrick Gold". As the previous post details Tanzanian police have killed 65 people and injured 270 locals near the mining site while working for Barrick Gold Corp. The obvious question is why the lawsuit didn't happen in a Canadian court because Barrick Gold is Canadian. The answer is 75% of mining companies in the world are registered in Canada because the laws governing their behaviour outside of Canada are virtually non-existent. 

An aerial view of Barrick Gold's North Mara Mine in Tanzania.

A group of seven Tanzanian human rights victims launched a legal claim at the British High Court against subsidiaries of Canada-based Barrick Gold, one of the world’s largest gold mining companies, alleging serious abuses by security forces, including local police, employed at Barrick’s North Mara gold mine.

The claim was issued against Barrick Tz Limited, formerly known as Acacia Mining, of which Barrick was the majority shareholder. Majority-owned subsidiaries of Barrick operated the troubled Tanzanian gold mine from 2010 until 2019. In 2019 Barrick bought out the minority shareholders of Acacia, delisted the company from the London and Dar es Salaam Stock Exchanges, and took it back under its control.

The group of claimants, who brought their case forward last Friday, reside in communities around the mine. The group includes the father of a nine-year-old girl run over and killed by a mine vehicle, driven without due care, on 19 July 2018. The young girl’s stepmother and other women who had gathered around the body, and whose claims were also issued, say they were injured when security personnel and/or police fired on them without warning. The claimants further include a young man who says he was shot in the back and then beaten by the police employed by the mine when he was 16 years old, and a man who says he was seriously assaulted by the police on the mine site.

“This group of victims represents just a fraction of those who have suffered abuse at the North Mara mine, but the filing of their legal claims in a British court brings hope of justice,” said Anneke Van Woudenberg, Executive Director of RAID. “Barrick Gold should use this as a wake-up call to address the human rights situation at the mine, rein in the security forces, and ensure that those who have suffered obtain remedy.”

The North Mara gold mine, located in a remote part of northern Tanzania, has been plagued by reports of serious human rights abuses against local community members by security forces since it was acquired by Barrick in 2006. This is the second British lawsuit against Barrick’s subsidiaries for deaths and injuries at the North Mara mine. The first, commenced in 2013, was settledin 2015 by Acacia Mining. The mine’s engagement of the local police, which it pays, equips, and accommodates to provide security in and around the mine site is central to the problem. The mine continues to employ the police despite a pattern of excessive use of force over many years against local residents on and off the mine site.

MiningWatch Canada and RAID documented 22 killings and 69 injuries at or near the mine from 2014 to 2016 alone, while a 2016 Tanzanian parliamentary inquiry received reports of 65 killed and 270 injured by police jointly responsible for mine security. From 2014 to 2017, Acacia itself acknowledged 6 deaths relating to the use of force against ‘intruders’ and/or police involvement and 28 other ‘intruder fatalities’, which it attributed to ‘fall from height’, ‘infighting’, ‘drowning’, ‘rockfall’, ‘vehicle accident’, and ‘other’. RAID has sought further information on these deaths, but none has been provided. Despite widespread attention and calls for reform at the mine, the abuses have continued. To MiningWatch and RAID’s knowledge, not a single police officer has been held to account.

At last week’s Mining Indaba in South Africa, Barrick’s CEO Mark Bristow acknowledged that Acacia Mining, Barrick’s subsidiary which operated the North Mara mine till 2019, had been “irresponsibly-run” and “not properly managed.”


In addition to the numerous rapes carried by Barrick Gold Corp security guards in its Papua New Guinea mine, Barrick Gold has also been accused of being involved in rapes, murder, pollution and attacks on media personnel related to  its Tanzanian mine. A Tanzanian government inquiry concluded that Tanzanian police have killed 65 people and injured 270 locals near the mining site while working for Barrick Gold Corp. 

Lucia Marembela Mwita.

Lucia Marembela Mwita.  First woman to speak out about rapes at Tanzanian Barrick Gold Corp Mine

Welcome to North Mara, one of the biggest mines in Tanzania, which since 2006 has been operated by London-listed Acacia Mining and predominantly owned by the world’s biggest goldmining company, Barrick, a Toronto-based firm that holds a 63.9% stake.

For the past two decades, this mine has been a place of danger, extreme violence and allegations of environmental contamination. ...

Although Tanzania is nominally at peace, over the years police and security guards have been accused of killing dozens – possibly hundreds – of local people, injuring many more and raping countless women.

There have also been reports of contamination from mining chemicals, but journalists and human rights activists who have tried to investigate these cases have sometimes found themselves the subject of intimidation, harassment and even threats of deportation from police and state authorities. Acacia says it is not involved in any crackdown on the media and it promotes transparency.

An investigation by the Guardian and its partners in the Forbidden Stories journalism collective has been told violence continues – albeit at a lower level – while the health problems associated with possible chemical pollution remain a concern. ...

It is running a vast and remote mine that is a major contributor to the national economy. The disparity of power with local villagers could hardly be greater. Most locals here are from the Kuria indigenous community and many are illiterate. ...

Police dump the bodies outside the homes’ ...

Nearby villagers were forbidden from artisanal mining, which had been an important source of income before the mining company arrived. Locals – sometimes armed with machetes – intrude inside the mine to look for granules of gold among the waste rock and on the edge of the tailings pond. The situation is often volatile.

On some days, the guards accept bribes and turn a blind eye.  On others, they are ordered by their bosses to crack down. The worst period was around 2010-14.

“I’ve seen a lot of people get shot, some beside me. We would enter in a group and then run if they see us. We would hear the next day who had died. Police dump the bodies outside the homes,” said one local man who asked to remain anonymous, referring to conflicts at that time. He said tensions remained. “It happened many times. The villagers get very angry. Why are they treating us like animals?”

The nearest general hospital in Tarime was treating five to eight cases of gunshot wounds from the mine every week from around 2010 to 2014, according to Dr Mark Nega, a former district medical officer. ...

Such killings were initially played down or denied. Journalists who tried to investigate found themselves harassed by police, or believed their stories had been spiked following pressure from state authorities.

After pressure from activists and lawyers, Acacia acknowledged 32 “trespasser-related” fatalities between 2014 and 2017. Of these, six died in confrontations with police at the mine.

International watchdog groups say at least 22 were killings by guards and police during the same period. Tanzanian opposition politicians have claimed 300 people have been killed since 1999.

“For such a high number of violations to have occurred outside a conflict zone in a business context is shocking and exceptional,” said Anneke van Woudenberg, the executive director of Raid, a UK corporate watchdog. 

The owners blame police. ... But the authorities work under a memorandum of understanding with the mine whereby local police work at the service of the mine in return for fuel, food, accommodation and daily stipends.

After a lawsuit against the company in 2015 by plaintiffs represented by the UK law firm Leigh Day was settled out of court with no recognition of liability, the number of shootings has declined and no rapes have been reported.

There is a new wall around operational areas. The mine and local authorities say they are educating guards and police and punishing those who break the law. ...

Then there are environmental problems that may prove to be Acacia’s enduring legacy long after the gold is mined out. 

There can be few places in the world where so many people live so close to a vast toxic tailings dam, waste rock dump and chemical processing facility. About 70,000 people live close to the mine, many of them drawn by the prospect of jobs or gold. ...

John Nyamboge Ntara, of Matongo village, said that up until September 2017, 168 of his cows had died after grazing on land close to the tailing reservoir. “We worry for our kids,” he said. Acacia said it had investigated these claims and found no evidence supporting the allegations. ...

But pollution concerns have been backed by several studies. In 2012, scientists found arsenic levels were “an order of magnitude” higher than the drinking water recommendations by the World Health Organization. Four years later, a study of Mara river fish found significantly higher concentrations of chromium, nickel, copper and selenium downstream of the mine than upstream. ...

Rape victims are also speaking out about their experiences and the waivers they were encouraged to sign in return for modest sums of compensation. The first was Lucia Marembela Mwita, who was caught by guards in 2009. “They took me to the airstrip in a car. One raped me. The other kept watch. It became a routine for any women they caught.”

Another woman, Nyamhanga Kichele Mwita, was ordered to lift up a large rock and told she would be beaten if she dropped it. As she clasped it, they stripped and raped her. She later found she had HIV.

Many of the victims say they kept quiet because they were ashamed to tell their husbands. Boke Makolele still has trouble walking because the guards struck her knees, ankles and the small of her back with a kilungo, or wooden baton. “They beat me a lot because I didn’t want to do it. After they dumped me, I went to hospital in tears. It hurt so much,” she said. “I never told anyone. I was afraid.”

Eventually, more than a dozen women complained and after the case was picked up by lawyers and international NGOs, they were paid off by the company, though it made no admission of liability.

Looking back, the women believe they were deprived of their legal rights. “They called us and said sign here. We didn’t even get to take the document home to read. We weren’t aware what was written on the paper,” said one. “I think they were trying to silence us.”


Even when a BC court ruled, as in the case of Nevsun vs. Araya, and the case seems about to head to trial a settlement is reached to avoid publicity the MSM pays virtually zero attention to the evidence of what has happened. In this court case, the charge was human slavery and torture. 

nevsun gala.jpg

The Canadian mining industry, however, has often been criticized for its human rights record abroad.  In 2018, Canadian companies had mining assets in 100 countries abroad, valued at $174.4 billion. This made up two-thirds of total Canadian mining assets. 

Among the 100 countries was Eritrea, where the operations of the gold, copper and zinc Bisha mine gave rise to one of the most closely observed pieces of litigation in Canada in recent years, largely because it involved allegations of slave labour and torture. Its recent settlement in near total silence therefore raises some important questions. ...

In 2014, three Eritrean plaintiffs launched a class-action lawsuit in the British Columbia Supreme Court against a Vancouver-based mining company, Nevsun Resources. They alleged that they had suffered human rights abuses at the Bisha mine, including slavery and torture, as well as a variety of domestic violations, including assault, battery and unlawful confinement. The mine was held by a consortium comprising Nevsun and the Eritrean government. The claimants said they were part of Eritrea’s involuntary and indefinite military conscripts and deployed to work at the mine for subsistence wages. When they tried to flee, they were allegedly beaten with sticks, tied up and left to lie in the hot sand in temperatures of up to 50 C. ...

Nevsun requested that a matter be removed from the court’s roll, arguing essentially that the claim has no reasonable chance of succeeding. At the end of February 2020, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the decisions of the British Columbia Supreme Court and the B.C. Court of Appeal, refusing the defendant’s request. This opened the way for the matter to proceed to trial. It had the potential to set a major precedent in terms of the liability of Canadian mining companies for wrongs committed abroad. ...

The recent settlement of Nevsun vs. Araya didn’t make very much news in the Canadian media. ...

The disturbing aspect of this settlement is that it has been kept so quiet. It ends a high-profile case with an elevated potential for setting negative precedents for Canadian mining companies operating abroad. ...

What’s troublesome is the veil of secrecy in which this settlement is cloaked. Greater transparency, while not legally required, would have demonstrated that Nevsun is a responsible mining company that takes the interests of its stakeholders seriously. Instead, Nevsun remains silent.


Rabble has an article "Berta Cáceres in a time of COVID" that both commenerates this indigenous environmental activist who was murdered in Honduras in 2016 and looks at what at the injustices laid by bare by Covid that demand a rededication to the fearless activism symbolized by Berta. Cáceres herself had warned  that Canadian hydroelectric giant Blue Energy had issued death threats to her shortly before her murder in 2016 because of her activism in resisting unwanted development projects on Indigenous territory in Honduras. Even though she had won the prestigous Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015, both for her work and in an attempt to provide her some protection through making her issues known abroad, the Trudeau government did nothing to help her or to address the issues she raised both before and after her death.

In August 2019, the Trudeau government put out a ombudsman guideline for Canadian firms operating abroad that is so useless it caused the environmental group Mining Watch and 13 other civil society organizations to resign in protest. Canada is second only to the U.S. in foreign investment in Honduras and has signed a free-trade deal that further facilitates this despite it being "the most dangerous country in the world, relative to its size, for activists protecting forests and rivers" ((áceres)), such as Berta. It is time to demand that Canada's change it's support for such Canadian companies and foreign governments that engage in the murder of environmental activisits and the extreme inequality they create through fear and murder. 

 UN Environment/Wikimedia Commons Berta Cáceres

Berta was a founder and director of the Civil Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). When she gathered under an ancient oak tree on the banks of the sacred Gualcarque River with Lenca people who had walked miles across the Río Blanco to discuss the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam in April 2013, she spoke of how Indigenous people on their continent had resisted 520 years of colonialism that was not over yet. ...

Three months after that gathering, Berta and fellow COPINH member Tomás Garcia were detained for their opposition to the dam. Then, on July 15, 2013, in front of a crowd of hundreds of people, a Honduran soldier shot and killed Tomás and wounded his son Alan. Tomás, 49, was a father of seven. Berta was left to not only mourn her colleague but also had to navigate death threats and a state set on criminalizing her. Berta told Telesur a year before her murder. ...

For her unwavering defence of life despite the dangers to her life, Berta was awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015. Berta told the audience gathered at the San Francisco Opera House to watch her receive the award: "These are centuries-old ills, a product of domination. There is a racist system in place that sustains and reproduces itself." Months later Berta was dead. Just before midnight on March 2, hired assassins shot and killed Berta while she slept in her home.  ...

Thirty thousand people attended Berta's funeralTributes to Berta poured in from organizations across the world. Banners were dropped at Honduran embassies that said, "Berta Cáceres Did Not Die, She Multiplied!" ...

The U.S. and Canadian governments have been criticized by Honduran social movements for legitimizing the post-coup regime, a regime that is friendly to U.S. and Canadian investments in the country, and deadly for environmental activists, journalists, lawyers, peasants and queer activists. When Berta was murdered, a loud message to activists was sent: no activist was safe in Honduras. ...

All people of goodwill should ask Prime Minister Justin Trudeau those same questions. After the U.S., Canada is the largest foreign investor in Honduras. In 2011, the Canadian government signed a free-trade agreement with Honduras that paved the way for Canadian investment in the impoverished nation. Before Berta was killed, she was organizing Lenca opposition to a dam being built by Hydrosys, a Canadian company, and she said she had received death threats from Blue Energy, a Canadian hydro developer at another site near her home.

Berta would likely look at today's pandemic world and the inequalities that COVID-19 has made more visible and still demand more of the activists concerned about climate change and forced migration. She would call on people everywhere to go to the root cause of oppression and environmental degradation.

As we dream of a new normal post-COVID, we must remember Berta's spirited call on U.S. soil in the months before her assassination:

"Let us wake up! Wake up humankind! We're out of time. We must shake our conscience free of the rapacious capitalism, racism, and patriarchy that will only assure our own self-destruction."áceres-time-covid


Since 2001, at least 272 land defenders, many of whom were from indigenous communities, have been murdered in the Philippines, with many happening because of Canadian mining operations. Since Duterte took power in 2016, extrajudicial killings, including those of land defenders have skyrocketed, with at least 157 occurring during his time in power. Army killings of land defenders are often justified as dealing with Communists. Land defenders who have approached the Canadian embassy in Manila get no help in dealing with violations by Canadian mining companies. Instead, they were grilled on whether they were Communists. Furthermore, Canada’s Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise has yet to undertake a single investigation into human rights violations by Canadian companies despite being in office for more than a year. 

 News Photo


At least 272 environmental defenders were killed between 2001 and 2019, according to the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, a network of Philippine environmental organizations. More than half of them were protesting mines, like the three young farmers in Masbate province on the island of Luzon, who were killed in October 2017 after they were red-tagged. The three farmers had opposed the Masbate Gold Project, the country’s top gold producer, according to Kalikasan.

A third of those killed were Indigenous, like the Lumad leaders from the island of Mindanao in 2015. The Lumad have long been displaced by the encroachment of mining companies on their homes. Eufemia Cullamat vividly remembers the events of September 1, 2015, when armed men came to their Indigenous community in Sitio Han-ayan, Diatagon, and gathered roughly 200 men, women, and children in a local basketball court. Then, in front of them, the gunmen shot community leaders Dionel Campos and Juvello Sinzo—Cullamat’s uncle. “We all saw how they exploded (Campos’) head,” she told VICE News. “It felt like our world had collapsed.”

After the September killings, about 3,000 Lumad evacuated their ancestral lands and moved to the town of Lianga, over 25 kilometres away. Rights groups later claimed that the killings were perpetrated by a government-backed paramilitary group. The Philippine Army has denied any links to the group. ...

Since Duterte came into power in 2016, extrajudicial killings, including those of land defenders, have skyrocketed. Environmental watchdog Global Witness declared the Philippines the deadliest country for land and environmental defenders in 2018, when 30 people were killed. Last year, over half of the 212 reported killings worldwide occurred in just two countries: Colombia, with 64 activists killed, and the Philippines, with 43. ...

A number of activists and experts say some of the extrajudicial killings and forced displacement are byproducts of Canadian mining in the Philippines. In most cases, the Canadian government offers little recourse for those harmed. The activists point out that because the Philippines is rich in natural resources, and law enforcement violently punishes people resisting development, the country is attractive for companies that want to mine with few regulations. Mining companies also face few checks and balances that would otherwise maintain environmental standards and human rights—and the Philippine Army, police, and militias have a mandate to protect flagship projects, including major mines run by transnationals.


Canada’s share of mining worldwide is substantial. According to its natural resources ministry, nearly half of the world’s mining companies are headquartered in Canada. Fifteen percent of mining in the Philippines is Canada-owned, with six Canadian companies operating in the country, the ministry said. ...

“Canadian mining companies are complicit in the violations of the rights of Indigenous peoples not only because there is no free, prior, and informed consent, but also in the violation of their rights to their land and way of life,” said Claver (whose wife was murdered during an attempt on his life after protests against many Canadian mining companies). ...

Julie Simongo, an Indigenous Ifugao leader, found her name and 26 others printed in posters and widely distributed pamphlets in October 2018, calling them “allies” of communist rebels and telling the public to “be careful of these groups.” Most of those named were farmers and Indigenous peoples. They had been red-tagged. Simongo said the 27 had one thing in common: they were critical of human rights and environmental abuses at the gold and copper mine in Didipio village, about 280 kilometres northeast of Manila. The mine was acquired by OceanaGold in 2006.

Members of the community had opposed the mining site since the 1990s, but after OceanaGold began commercial production as an open-pit operation in 2013, villagers have complained about the lack of safe drinking water, polluted surface water, and the loss of more and more land. ...

In June 2019, the company’s 25-year licence expired. OceanaGold told VICE News it had permission from the Department of Natural Resources and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau to continue operating legally during the waiting period. The company says the authority over the Didipio mine rests with the national government, and not local officials.

In response, the Didipio community, backed by the local government, set up a barricade the following month to block access into the mine. OceanaGold claims it suspended operations in October 2019, but activists continued to object to trucks making deliveries to the site.

The barricade was broken this April, when the police violently dispersed 30 people who were peacefully blocking three tankers from entering the site. Photos and videos of the clash obtained by VICE News showed activists shoved to the ground by police using riot shields. The dispersal injured some community members and at least one activist was beaten and arrested, according to the watchdog group MiningWatch Canada. ...

April was not the first time land defenders and residents in the area said they were targeted. According to the Philippine Commission on Human Rights, security forces stormed the same site in 2008 and allegedly destroyed and displaced 187 family homes, beat residents, and used tear gas, truncheons, and shields. The UN Human Rights Council also received a report in 2019 detailing similar allegations. ...

Activists say infractions caused by mining companies are made possible because the Philippine Army and other state security forces have a government mandate to protect projects deemed essential to the Philippine economy. ...

Unenforceable rules may have long-term consequences: One of the Philippines' worst ever environmental disasters took place in March 1996 at a Canadian mining site in Marinduque, an island in the southwest. Toxic leftover waste leaked out of the Marcopper Mining site, run by Marcopper and its parent company, Placer Dome, a Canadian corporation that has since been taken over by Barrick Gold. The waste flooded nearby villages and the Boac River, which was full of fish and shrimp. Hundreds of people were displaced, including 400 families who lived in Barangay Hinapulan, a village that was buried in 6 feet of muddy water. ...

Marcopper, Placer Dome, and Barrick Gold have faced several legal actions since the disaster, including a civil suit launched by the provincial government of Marinduque in 2006 in Nevada. (Barrick Gold became a party to the suit after it acquired the company.) Placer Dome had more earnings from mines in Nevada in the Philippines than those in Canada. ...

At least 157 land defenders had been killed since Duterte came to power, according to Kalikasan. This is an annual rate that far outstrips his predecessors: it’s more than three times higher than occurred under Benigno Aquino III, and eight times higher than under Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. This is not surprising, given Duterte’s ongoing brutal drug war that has resulted in the deaths of about 27,000 Filipinos through alleged extrajudicial killings at the hands of police. ...

At least nine human rights defenders have been killed since March despite the COVID-19 movement restrictions, said rights group Karapatan, while Dulce said they have monitored at least 555 environmental defenders who have suffered human rights abuses during the lockdown. Among that number is Zara Alvarez, a human rights activist who documented the murders of farmers and land defenders and had been red-tagged. She was gunned down last month while walking home from the grocery store.

The Office of the Presidential Spokesperson did not respond to multiple requests for comment. However, Arevalo, the spokesperson for the armed forces, said that whenever they name individuals as supporters of communist parties. 


The land defenders have also turned to the companies, as well as the countries where their headquarters are based, to take responsibility. “Shouldn’t the mother countries be accountable for allowing their corporations to take advantage of weak policies overseas? They’re benefiting from human rights violations here in the Philippines; they’re benefiting from natural resource plunder,” said Dulce. 

After being red-tagged (labelled Communist) in 2018, Simongo and others named in the posters made the seven-hour road trip from Dipidio to Manila to appeal to the Canadian embassy for protection. “We wanted to ask for protection and to ask Canada to investigate the violations of the company,” said Simongo, “so people would know the truth.” The four red-tagged eco-defenders detailed human rights violations at the Didipio mining site and showed pictures of the pamphlets connecting them to communist guerrilla insurgents, said Coumans, who accompanied the delegation. They wanted the embassy to denounce Duterte’s practice of red-tagging, and wanted to know if Canada could offer support, including amnesty, if dangers escalated. The answer to both requests was no, and according to Coumans, the diplomat they spoke with said he wouldn’t issue a public statement because he didn’t want to spark conflict. Instead, Coumans said the embassy grilled Simongo and the others, and the diplomat questioned whether they had legitimate ties to the Communist Party. ...

Canada’s Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise, Sheri Meyerhoffer, is supposed to hold corporations accountable. The ombudsperson role, introduced last year, is tasked with reviewing claims of human rights abuses by mining and oil and gas companies, although according to Myerhoffer’s spokesperson, Nelson Kalil, she has not undertaken any investigations yet.


As Canadian mining companies sign the BlackNorth pledge to fight racism, they continue to attack, displace, and disenfranchise Black and Indigenous people in Africa and the Americas.

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An image of two quilombolas from the Above Ground report on Kinross’ Morro do Ouro mine in Brazil. The quilombolas are descendants of enslaved African peoples who have been fighting for land rights and legal title for decades.

The quilombolo had little contact with others until the 1970s, when first logging companies and agribusiness, and then mining companies began deforesting and extraction activities. Eventually, the Brazilian government recognized the African descendants as distinct communities and granted them land rights. 

For the quilombolo of Paracutu, recognition did not save them. First a British company owned the mine at Morro do Ouro, which was sold to Kinross, a Canadian mining company, in 2003. When Kinross bought the mine, it inherited the fifteen year resistance by quilombolo who complained about the loss of land, environmental damage, and the loss of traditional activity as the state outlawed the artisanal mining that sustained the community. 

By the time Kinross acquired the mine, the quilombolo were formally recognized by the Brazilian government and were in the process of negotiating ownership rights over their traditional lands. But Kinross wanted to expand. A 2019 study by NGO Above Ground reports how residents were pressured to enter agreements with Kinross to sell their land without legal advice—in some cases residents could not even read relevant documents. quilombolas reported death threats and intentional division sown in the community. Although they attempted to legally challenge Kinross, the courts overturned their efforts and the community was displaced. Today, there are no quilombolo remaining in the area.

In July of 2020, Kinross, the mining company who removed the quilombolo from their land, signed the Blacknorth pledge to end anti-Black racism. The pledge has become an opportunity for Kinross and numerous Canadian mining companies to rebrand their global reputations of anti-Blackness while maintaining the same racist practices.

BlackNorth founder Wes Hall is a financial shark who, as the Executive Chairman and founder of Kingsdale Advisors, has worked with numerous Canadian mining companies to build his fortune. Hall has recently rebranded himself as a human rights champion by creating BlackNorth, an initiative that claims to be fighting against anti-Black racism. BlackNorth has created a pledge enlisting corporations to rebrand too, and its signatories include Kinross Gold and many other Canadian mining and extraction companies who exploit Black and Indigenous people in Africa and across the Americas.

When BlackNorth Initiative launched in the summer of 2020, its premise seemed simple enough: Hall wanted to see more Black faces in high places. 

BlackNorth released a corporate pledge, and asked signatories to commit to having Black people occupy at least 3.5 percent of executive and board roles by 2025 (according to the most recent census, Black people make up an estimated 3.5 percent of Canada’s population). The pledge also dictates that Black people must account for at least 5 percent of a company’s student workforce.

Hall speaks regularly about systemic anti-Blackness, and dubiously suggests we confront it by elevating Black individuals in the corporate boardroom. He doesn’t promise that these Black business leaders will change their companies’ racist practices, and neither does the BlackNorth pledge. Instead, Hall frames Black representation itself as the problem to be solved.  ...

The exploitation in Brazil has been repeated by Canadian mining companies around the world, often funded by Export Development Canada (EDC). EDC is a Crown corporation owned by the government of Canada that funds Canadian companies to, as they put it, “succeed on the world stage.” EDC has invested an estimated $850 million into the Morro do Ouro project in Brazil—it is also a BlackNorth pledge signatory.

In Ghana, Tanzania, Mauritania, Peru, Guatemala—across the African continent and Central and South America—Canadian mining companies face credible charges of corruption, violence, threats, shootings, gang rapes, and murder.  

Kingsdale Advisors, the company founded by Wes Hall, boasts on its website of “the most impressive client roster.” With a significant presence of companies in the extraction industries, the list is a virtual rogues’ gallery of the most destructive and harmful corporations on earth. Along with Kinross, Hall’s partners include Hudbay, Pan American Silver, Yamana Gold, Wesdome, Teranga Gold Corporation, Goldcorp and other mining companies, as well as oil and gas companies including Enbridge and TransAlta, the latter of which has faced years of resistance at the Shubenacadie River by Mi’kmaq people. Many of these companies have signed the BlackNorth pledge.

Alhassan Atta-Quayson, a Ghanaian scholar who studies the impact of mining on communities in Ghana, says the pledge will have no effect on the people displaced by Kinross’ mining operations. I do not expect any meaningful change in ongoing operations especially in Ghana attributable to Kinross signing on to a petition to combat anti-Back racism.  ...

Atta-Quayson is referring to Kinross’ displacement of farmers around the company’s Chirano mine. The company has been accused of corruption related to Chirano, as well as its Tasiast mine in Mauritania. In October 2017, anti-corruption organizations issued a letter to Justin Trudeau, asking him to probe “serious bribery allegations” and provided evidence that the company seems “to have engaged in illegal business activities in its West African operations.” The allegations have never been criminally investigated. 

It is not only Kinross that faces serious accusations. Hudbay Minerals, another Kingsdale client to take the BlackNorth pledge, is infamous for three lawsuits regarding a mine the company previously owned. The lawsuits allege murder, shootings, and gang rapes against the Mayan Q’eqchi’ population of El Estor, Guatemala. More recently, Hudbay has been accused of police repression against locals who are peacefully protesting stalled negotiations with the company. Hudbay has effectively privatized the local police force through direct agreements that disenfranchise the local population. ...

Hudbay’s Lalor Project in Northern Manitoba has been resisted by the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation, on whose territory the mine sits. In response to peaceful gatherings at the mining site, the company obtained injunctions against the entire nation and launched a lawsuit against its chief. 

Pan American Silver, owner of the Escobal mine in Guatemala, is another BlackNorth signatory and Hall client. The Escobal mine was suspended due to broad opposition, in particular from the Indigenous Xinka community, after years of violence, threats, and military-style surveillance against mine opponents. But Pan American refuses to cease its work in the community even as six members of the peaceful resistance to the Escobal mine have suffered attacks and death threats this year. 

Topacio Reynoso, a 16-year-old girl leading the youth resistance against mining was assassinated in 2014, several land defenders have been shot, members of the Xinca parliament have been kidnapped (one of whom was killed), and hundreds have been criminalized for their resistance. A solidarity page for the mine details the resistance and the ongoing violence and repression. 

It’s hard to imagine that Hall is unaware of the practices of these companies, especially since many remain listed as his clients. 

Barrick Gold may be the single most notorious Canadian mining company, having credible allegations of widespread gang rapes and killings at its mines in Papua New Guinea and Tanzania. After years of denial, Barrick set up an ineffective grievance mechanism to respond to these accusations, but the abuse continues and in 2020, ten Tanzanian people filed a lawsuit alleging serious abuse by Barrick’s security forces. In the Dominican Republic, communities surrounding Barrick’s Pueblo Viejo mine have accused the mine of polluting local water sources, poisoning local people and livestock, as well as causing the loss of over 80% in their cacao production. Black and Indigenous peoples around the world are resisting Barrick and have repeatedly taken legal actions against the company....

Jamie Kneen is the Communications and Outreach Co-ordinator and is also responsible for the Africa program at MiningWatch Canada, an NGO that monitors Canadian mining companies and works closely with people affected by their projects. He compares mining companies signing the BlackNorth Pledge to Barrick Gold’s support for the White Ribbon Campaign condemining male violence against women, “even as its security forces were assaulting and raping women in Tanzania and Papua New Guinea.” ...

Like Alhassan Atta-Quayson, he points out that BlackNorth’s diversity goals only target Black people entering Canadian boardrooms, and not the local people whose lives and livelihoods are actually destroyed. Even if we accept the premise that Black Canadians benefit from this Initiative, people like the farmers in Ghana get nothing.  ...

UPDATE, May 12, 2021: After publishing this piece, we learned that BlackNorth board member and Indigenous Observer Committee chair David Sharpe has been terminated from his employment with accounting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and is under investigation by the Ontario Securities Commission. OSC staff allege Bridging Finance misappropriated about $35 million to complete an acquisition for its own benefit, that Sharpe received $19.5 million in undisclosed payments to a personal chequing account and that the firm lent $32 million to a borrower shortly before the party bought a stake in the private lender.


While human rights abuses, even murder by Canadian mining companies, continue, the Trudeau Liberal government followed its typical approach on many issues, initially promising a new watchdog that could investigate the overseas activities of Canadian companies , it has now given into lobbying and "gutted" the office. 


A study published this month analyzed 2,743 environmental conflicts registered in the Environmental Justice Atlas. Showdowns around mine sites are the most common type of environmental conflict globally, with 21% of global environmental conflicts and 20% of the associated assassinations linked to mining, according to the study. Image from Scheidel et al (2020).

not walking the talk on its miners’ abuses abroad, campaigners say

In 2018, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government announced it would create a new watchdog that would have powers to investigate the overseas activities of Canadian companies, including the ability to force them to respond to questions and turn over evidence.

But it later scaled back those plans following an “onslaught of mining industry lobbying that got them to change their minds,” said Emily Dwyer, the coordinator of the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (the CNCA), which represents a group of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), churches, trade unions and other civil society organizations.

“It has been gutted,” Dwyer said. ...

The government also changed its plans despite paying a consultant, retired lawyer Barbara McIsaac, for advice about how to set up the new office called the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE).

McIsaac detailed two options that would allow the CORE to pursue investigations: by enacting a law to establish the CORE with these powers, which is the “preferable” solution she provided, or by appointing the CORE as a commissioner under the Inquiries Act.

“Whether the CORE should have the power to compel witnesses or documents is a question of policy,” wrote McIsaac in her 2019 report, obtained by Global News.

“However, it is fair to say that without a way to compel the cooperation of entities against which a complaint is made or others who may hold relevant information, the CORE’s effectivenessmay (sic) be compromised. On the other hand, a process which includes powers to compel runs the risk of becoming overly confrontational and caught up in procedural wrangling and Court challenges.”

Former minister of international trade diversification, Jim Carr, would later tell Dwyer in a September 2019 letter that after reviewing McIsaac’s advice, he had concluded that the “most effective way” to ensure the watchdog had the powers it needed would be to enact a standalone legal framework and that he had instructed public servants to proceed with that plan.

Trudeau replaced Carr in cabinet a few months later, after the latter was diagnosed with a rare cancer, and it is not clear what happened to the former minister’s instructions. ...

When asked why the government opted not to give stronger powers to the CORE, the office of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade Minister Mary Ng referred questions from Global News to Global Affairs Canada. The department’s trade division told Global News in a statement that the government decided to adopt a “non-judicial mechanism” for the CORE because it considers this “to be more accessible, faster and cost-effective than other avenues.”

The Canadian government said Canada is home to half of the world’s publicly listed mining and mineral exploration corporations, and these companies had presences in 96 foreign countries in 2019 (down from 100 countries the year before).

Eight claims containing allegations of environmental or human rights abuse related to the international operations of Canadian extractive companies (none involving Yamana) have been filed in Canadian courts, according to Above Ground. None of the cases, to date, have been decided in favour of the plaintiffs.

“The courts are not a shoe-in for the courageous plaintiffs,” said Keenan of Above Ground.

However, some overseas complainants have had victories. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in February 2020 that a lawsuit could proceed against another Canadian mining company over activities in Eritrea. The parties reached a settlement in October.


At the end of May the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (CNCA) released draft model legislation that provides lawmakers with a blueprint for writing into Canadian law the corporate duty to respect human rights and the environment. This is particularly important in the mining industry as Canadian mining corporations are invovled in about 75% of global mining, in part because Canadian laws governing mining abroad are so lax.

The draft model law, if adopted, would require Canadian companies to prevent human rights and environmental harm throughout their global operations and supply chains.

Similar laws are in place or being developed in several countries. Canada, however, is falling behind. Instead of legally requiring companies to respect human rights and the environment, Canada encourages them to voluntarily take measures to do so.

“All around the world, people are being harmed by the business practices of Canadian companies and their subsidiaries, subcontractors and suppliers,” said Jean Symes, from the feminist social justice organization Inter Pares. “We are calling on Canadian lawmakers to catch up to global leaders by adopting our model legislation, a comprehensive law that would help respond to the widespread and egregious abuses linked to Canadian companies including forced labour, sexual violence, and murder.”

Under the CNCA’s proposed law, if a company causes harm or fails to do its human rights and environmental due diligence, those affected would have the statutory right to bring a civil lawsuit against that company in Canadian court.

"Canadian businesses that are already doing what’s needed to protect human and environmental rights will welcome this legislation,” said Hassan Yussuff, President of the Canadian Labour Congress. “Those that aren’t will now be held accountable for their failure to act."

Over 150 organizations and unions that work with people impacted by the activities of Canadian companies in 32 countries around the world have endorsed the CNCA’s proposed law.

“The CNCA’s proposal stands in stark contrast to the modern slavery reporting law currently being examined by the Canadian Senate,” said Catherine Coumans, co-manager at MiningWatch Canada. “The proposed law released today moves beyond reporting and requires companies to change their behavior – and stop profiting from human rights and environmental harm – or face significant consequences.”


The former chief of security for Hudbay, a Canadian mining company, pleaded guilty to murder and assault charges in Guatamala in January 2021. These human rights violations follow the widespread examples of Canadian mining companies, which make up 75% of the world's mining companies in part because Canadian mining laws for overseas operations are so lax. As so often is the case the murder involve an indigenous land protector. Hudbay's comment on the conviction: "do not affect our view of the facts or Hudbay’s liability in relation to civil matters currently before the Ontario court". Nothing about the murder or the victim, which tells you how much concern the company has about the murder or any consequences for it in Canada. 

Angelica Choc stands in front of a banner with an image of her slain husband, former Q'eqchi' Mayan community leader, teacher and anti-mining activist Adolfo Ich Chaman, on the fifth anniversary of his murder.

Angelica Choc stands in front of a banner with an image of her slain husband, former Q'eqchi' Mayan community leader, teacher and anti-mining activist Adolfo Ich Chaman, on the fifth anniversary of his murder. PHOTO BY JAMES RODRIGUEZ/MIMUNDO.ORG

The former chief of security for a nickel mine once owned by a Canadian mining company in Guatemala has pleaded guilty to criminal charges in that country in connection with an alleged homicide and serious assault on Indigenous activists that stretch back over a decade.

On Wednesday, a judge in Guatemala accepted criminal pleas from Mynor Ronaldo Padilla Gonzalez, including admissions, translated from Spanish, to ‘homicide in an emotional state’ and ‘culpable violence,’ according to lawyers in Canada who represent plaintiffs in a civil case here related to the same incidents, who were monitoring the case through an associate in the Guatemalan court. ...

Both pleas related to clashes at the Fenix nickel mine, in eastern Guatemala, once owned by Hudbay Minerals Inc.

The development is significant because Hudbay has spent nearly a decade battling civil litigation in Canada related to the same violent episodes, and had denied that Padilla was connected to the violence. Now, that line of defence conflicts with Padilla’s own admissions.

“This pulls the rug out from Hudbay’s main denial right now,” said Murray Klippenstein, of Klippensteins law firm in Toronto, who represents the plaintiffs suing Hudbay in Canada.

To be sure, his criminal plea in a Guatemalan court has no direct impact on Hudbay’s civil liability in Canada, except that it may force the mining company to reconsider its defence, and could potentially ramp up pressure to settle the case. It is one of three landmark cases filed in Canada that seek to hold mining companies accountable for overseas human rights abuses through a legal claim of corporate negligence, but the other two cases have both settled.

Hudbay released a statement acknowledging Padilla had pleaded guilty in his criminal proceedings in Guatemala.  “We will review the court’s decision once it is released. Any agreements made in the Guatemalan court do not affect our view of the facts or Hudbay’s liability in relation to civil matters currently before the Ontario court,” the company said. The Hudbay stock fell 0.6 per cent to $9.47 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.


Hudbay Minerals, which is one of Canada's oldest mining company and not a fly-by-night startup, was taken to court in Ontario over murder, rape, violence and other human rights abuses. The murder case was described in the last post. Two other cases involving Tahoe Resources and Nevsun Resources are also briefly discussed at the end of the article below. 

How bad is our court system in dealing with this case ? It took eight years to get to trial in 2019. They won in 2020. But an appeal occurred and court proceedings on this case have been suspended due to Covid-19.

Irma Yolanda Choc Cac (right) and Angelica Choc (left) arrive at Toronto's 393 Courthouse, Tuesday September 17 regarding their case against Hudbay Minerals.

Irma Yolanda Choc Cac (right) and Angelica Choc (left) arrive at Toronto's 393 Courthouse, Tuesday September 17 regarding their case against Hudbay Minerals. PHOTO BY PETER J THOMPSON/NATIONAL POST

'They burned everything': Guatemalan women press Hudbay on human rights claims in closely watched case. Their lawsuit, originally filed in 2011, ties into a trend of increasing scrutiny of Canadian mining and exploration companies’ overseas activity 

Two indigenous Guatemalan women stood quietly in front of a Toronto courthouse on Tuesday morning, surrounded by a scrum that included a filmmaking crew, lawyers, media and a gaggle of other people. ...

Both women, Irma Yolanda Choc Cac and Angelica Choc, had travelled from a remote part of eastern Guatemala, to continue pressing legal claims that Hudbay Minerals Inc., one of Canada’s oldest mining companies, bears liability for rape, violence and other human rights abuses that took place more than a decade ago when their village was razed to make way for the Fenix nickel mine.

Their lawsuit, originally filed in 2011, ties into a trend of increasing scrutiny of Canadian mining and exploration companies’ overseas activity. In its wake, other plaintiffs sued at least two other mining companies under the same novel legal theory, which accuses the mining companies of negligence.

“I’m assuming any chance of resolving anything between these parties has long since left the building,” the presiding case management master, Michael McGraw, who functions like a judge, said near the start of the hearing on Tuesday.

In a courtroom packed with journalists and supporters of the women, the lawyers had planned to argue about whether the plaintiffs could amend their complaint against Hudbay to include new details about the alleged human rights abuses.

But that never happened and instead, the parties pushed the hearing back until November while they discuss a compromise.

The suit claims security personnel for Skye Resources — which Hudbay bought in 2008 for US$451 million to acquire the Fenix mine project — worked with Guatemalan military and police to clear the land and raze the Mayan Q’echi community of Lote Ocho for the mining project.

Several of the plaintiffs in the case, including one present Monday, in documents filed in the case, describe the trauma — being tied, beaten and gang-raped in front of their children — in excruciating detail while under examination by Hudbay’s lawyers at Fasken, Tracy Pratt and Robert Harrison.

“It was these men just like this that raped me when I was three months’ pregnant,” one of the plaintiffs said, adding, “And it’s men just like this that are the ones that burned my house, and they burned my clothing and they burned everything I had in my house.”

The plaintiffs’ lawyers say they have gained new details from documents and emails that Hudbay produced during the litigation to substantiate the alleged human rights abuses. Already, they have filed documents in court that contain new details related to payments Skye made to military and police, and to the arrangements between Skye’s security force and local police and military.

At the hearing, lawyers for Hudbay said they would consider agreeing to allow the plaintiffs amended complaint, although they may file a new motion challenging whether Ontario is the proper jurisdiction to hear the claims. They had filed a motion to move the case to Guatemala earlier in the case, but Hudbay withdraw it before a ruling was ever handed down. ...

Meanwhile, in a separate case using the same legal theory filed against Tahoe Resources, a B.C. judge ruled that the negligence case could be heard in Canada. Earlier this year, Pan American Resources Inc., which purchased Tahoe, publicly apologized to the plaintiffs and reached a confidential settlement.

There remains one other suit that uses the same theory, against Nevsun Resources Inc., which was purchased by a Chinese company in 2018, accusing it of using forced labour and of committing other human rights abuses on a mining project in Eritrea.

A representative for Hudbay, who was present in the courtroom, referred questions to the company’s lawyers, who declined to comment.

Hudbay sold its interest in the Fenix mine for US$170 million in 2011, shortly after the lawsuit was filed. It retained liability, however, and continues to fight the case.


Adolfo Ich Chaman was murdered by Mynor Ronaldo Padilla Gonzalez, the former chief of security for the Canadian mining company Hudbay Minerals who was convicted in Guatemala in January, eleven years after the killing (see last two posts for details). Below is a tribute to Adolfo Ich Chaman's work. German Chub was shot and left paralyzed on the same day by Hudbay Mineral's security force that also raped 11 women. 

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Rights Action remembers and honors Adolfo Ich Chaman, a Mayan Q’eqchi’ environmental, territorial, human rights defender, assassinated September 27, 2009, by Hudbay Mineral’s security guards

11 years since Adolfo Ich was killed by private security guards hired by Hudbay Minerals and its subsidiary company CGN, in El Estor, Izabal, Guatemala.

11 years since German Chub was shot and left paralyzed by Hudbay/CGN security guards, that same day.

11 years since Adolfo Ich’s widow Angelica Choc, German Chub and eleven gang-rape victims from the village of Lote 8 initiated the Hudbay Minerals lawsuits in Canadian courts – proceeding despite extraordinary obstacles and odds.

11 years of on-going environmental devastation, mining corruption and repression in the Q’eqchi’ communities of El Estor, as Swiss mining company Solway Investment Group is doing now what Hudbay Minerals and Skye Resources were doing 2004-2011, what INCO did in the 1970s and 80s.
11 years of strength and dignity of Angelica, German and the Lote 8 women, doing what Canadian and Swiss politicians and courts should do, what the Canadian and Swiss media and citizens should do – hold ourselves accountable when our governments, investment firms and companies commit crimes, human rights violations and environmental harms in other countries.

Thank-you Adolfo Ich
Thank-you Angelica, German and the Lote 8 women
Justice must be done for these victims of Hudbay’s mining repression


Trudeau's words, as on so many other issues have not matched his actions when it comes to human rights abuses and environmental protection by Canadian corporations, especially with regard to mining companies. "While Trudeau and the Liberals may have put forward some nice rhetoric on the campaign trail to burnish their progressive image and deflect international criticism, their practice in government has been largely the same as Stephen Harper’s, putting the profits of mining companies above human rights and protection of the environment."

Trudeau's words may be different from Harper's on human rights abuses and environmental protection but his actions are the same. 

Canada is home to 75 percent of the world’s mining companies. Firms based or listed in Canada operate approximately four thousand mineral projects abroad. And, as you might expect, many of those projects involve shady corporate practices and violations of human rights.

There have been an astounding number of conflicts at Canadian-run mines. Pick almost any country in the Global South, from Papua New Guinea to Ghana, Ecuador to the Philippines, and you will find a Canadian-run mine that has caused environmental devastation or been the scene of violent confrontations.

Stephen Harper, Canada’s prime minister from 2006 to 2015, faced frequent criticism for his unapologetic promotion of Canadian mining interests. His successor, Justin Trudeau, was supposed to be a breath of fresh air. But there has been far more continuity than change since Trudeau replaced Harper. While Trudeau and his party might pay lip service to environmental and labor rights, in practice, they have served to prop up Canada’s predatory, globe-trotting mining industry. ...

Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has recently criticized Americas Gold and Silver Corporation for their disregard of Mexican labor laws. Mexican activists accuse the Toronto-based company of preventing its workers from unionizing at the company mine in northern Mexico. AMLO has also condemned the failure of Canadian mining companies to pay outstanding taxes....

Canadian firms dominate mining in Guatemala as well. Last month, a Canadian legal academic brought a case before Canada’s Federal Court, alleging that the minister of foreign affairs improperly withheld information about the government’s support for Goldcorp. This comes after multiple accusations of human rights abuses directed against the Vancouver-based company, stretching back years.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has called for the closure of Goldcorp’s Guatemalan Marlin Mine due to the company’s failure to consult with indigenous communities. The Canadian government has thus far refused to release any details about its communications with Goldcorp, Guatemala, or the commission itself.

Another Canadian court is currently hearing a separate case about a mining firm in Guatemala. Eleven indigenous women are suing the company Hudbay Minerals (previously Skye Resources), accusing it of complicity in their gang rape, allegedly by security personal at Fenix mine in 2007.

The women first brought the suit to the Superior Court of Ontario in 2011. The Intercept recently published a damning article drawing on internal corporate documents that were released because of this precedent-setting lawsuit. The files paint a picture of overbearing corporate influence, political interference, and widespread intimidation and abuse. In Brazil, Toronto-based Belo Sun Mining is moving forward with a highly contentious gold mine in one of the most biodiverse regions on Earth. According to Rosana Miranda of the São Paulo–based Amazon Watch, the company’s use of heavy metals and cyanide in the Amazon’s Xingu River will “prompt the last stages of ecocide” in the region. Mining in Brazil has benefited from far-right president Jair Bolsonaro’s hostility to indigenous rights and the environment.

At the beginning of March, protesters pelted Argentinian president Alberto Fernández’s bus over his support for mining in Patagonia. Local and indigenous communities in the southernmost part of the hemisphere strongly oppose the mining projects of Canadian firms Pan American Silver, Yamana Gold, and Eldorado Gold. Tensions resulting from mining projects are running high in the country. Mining and real estate interests have been pressing the authorities to lift mining bans in the region. A wave of fires, which local people believe were the result of arson, have destroyed land that indigenous communities had protected from miners and developers. ...

All over the world, Canadian-run mines habitually destroy farmland, harm endangered species, and contaminate drinking water. The mining firms are also responsible for beatings, kidnappings, arbitrary arrests, and killings in local communities. They frequently undermine indigenous self-determination, as national and regional governments give them permission to operate in spite of overwhelming local opposition.

Over the past two decades, thousands of articles, reports, documentaries, and books have detailed Canadian mining abuses abroad. At least four UN bodies have urged Ottawa to hold its companies accountable for their international operations. As the UN Human Rights Committee noted in 2015:

The State party should (a) enhance the effectiveness of existing mechanisms to ensure that all Canadian corporations under its jurisdiction, in particular mining corporations, respect human rights standards when operating abroad; (b) consider establishing an independent mechanism with powers to investigate human rights abuses by such corporations abroad; and (c) develop a legal framework that affords legal remedies to people who have been victims of activities of such corporations operating abroad.

Before Trudeau became prime minister, the Liberals promised to establish an independent ombudsperson on mining. But Trudeau’s government waited nearly four years before creating the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE). After a delay of two more years, CORE has finally started taking cases. But it is unable to compel firms to hand over information, putting its effectiveness into question. By the spring of 2019, all fourteen of the union and NGO representatives advising on CORE’s work resigned, complaining that the government had ignored everything they said. In March of this year, Liberal MP John McKay reportedly confronted Mary Ng, minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade, over the government’s failure to provide CORE with sufficient investigative powers.

As Emily Dwyer of the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability observes, Trudeau and the Liberals have created a watchdog that can only function if companies agree “to voluntarily provide information that it requires in order to do an investigation.” There’s an obvious explanation for this failure. As a report by the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project has revealed, the country’s two main mining industry associations played a significant part in shaping the development of CORE. ...

Justin Trudeau has lined up Canadian foreign policy behind the mining industry. Canadian diplomats regularly accompanymining company representatives to meetings with government officials and lobby on their behalf. Mineral sector companies are major beneficiaries of Export Development Canada’s (EDC) services. The crown corporation has provided tens of billions of dollars — $28 billion in 2014 alone — in financing and insurance to the extractive sector, including many controversial international projects. The Liberals have shown little interest in laying down human rights and environmental standards for EDC. ...

The Liberals also seem happy to rubber-stamp Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (FIPAs), which are designed to protect Canadian mining investments. ... These “investors’ rights” accords limit the ability of governments to regulate corporations operating on their soil. If the rules interfere with the profits of Canadian mining interests, they can sue the local administration and have their suits heard before private, investor-friendly international tribunals.



Trudeau is nothing but a front person. Like the Conservatives, it is the party executive not just the leader only even more so with the Liberals. 

I've come to suspect that the party executive is far more important than any leader they put in place.