In the midst of a major mining conference in Toronto known as PDAC 2012, a new report sheds light on controversial projects in Chile involving Canadian mining companies. The Council of Canadians released a report entitled Chilean Patagonia in the Balance: Dams, Mines and the Canadian Connection. The report is available here.

The report exposes the involvement of the British Columbia Investment Management Corporation, the Canada Pension Plan, and the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, as well as Canadian companies Barrick Gold, Goldcorp, and Kinross in highly controversial projects in Chile. These projects, while politically invisible in Canada have been met by fierce public opposition in Chile.

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow notes in the report’s introduction, “Far away, on the southern cone of South America in Chilean Patagonia, exists one of the most beautiful, still-virgin territories on Earth. There, an intense struggle is taking place that most Canadians have never heard of, but that intimately involves the Canadian mining industry, the Canadian government, and millions of Canadian pensioners and investors. This report by Alex Latta and Kari Williams tells the story of this struggle and why every Canadian should care about it.”

Chilean Patagonia in the Balance highlights three significant Canadian connections:

– The rising demand for more energy is driven by Chile’s rapidly expanding mining industry, in which Canadian companies are the single largest source of foreign investment. Canadian mining companies, such as Barrick Gold, Goldcorp, and Kinross, are aggressively moving into Latin America.

– Transelec, the only transmission company currently operating in Chile that is capable of building the project’s link to the market — likely to require an 80-metre wide, 2,300-kilometre-long clear-cut corridor through 14 national parks, nature preserves and conservation areas — is owned by a Canadian consortium led by Brookfield Asset Management (the company which attempted to evict Occupy Wall Street in New York), with partnership from the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and the British Columbia Investment Management Corporation, both public sector investors.

– Major investments in the Chilean mining industry fuelling demand for the Patagonia project are supported by loans and loan guarantees from Export Development Canada, Canada’s export credit agency. EDC’s financial services to Canadian exporters and investors in Chile quadrupled during the first decade of the new millennium and now involve some 300 Canadian firms.

All attempts by human rights and environmental groups to establish human rights and environmental standards for this money have been met with resistance by the Harper government, which openly supports the Chilean government in its energy and mining policies through a shared free-trade agreement and EDC loans.