Canadian Mining Journal

Feature

Being held ransom by your own people

I love it when a judge* uses the word "ransom" in a summation involving a mining company because it just reinforces what many miners have claimed for years about what it’s like to deal with some "shady" characters over mineral rights.


I love it when a judge* uses the word “ransom” in a summation involving a mining company because it just reinforces what many miners have claimed for years about what it’s like to deal with some “shady” characters over mineral rights.

I say “shady” for sake of politeness because some of the other words I’ve heard to describe certain parties involved with Impact Benefit Agreements (IBAs) aren’t  printable.

In any event, the business of mining is getting tougher all the time thanks, in part, to greed and so-called “agreements” that seem to change once projects start to show signs of prosperity.

It’s no secret that some governments in ‘questionable’ parts of the world where ‘unquestionable’ quantities of resources are found, can run hot and cold when it comes to agreements and I think it’s criminal that many of them are still getting away with changing the rules mid-stream, years after signing original IBAs.

What’s even more infuriating is that they seem proud of it!

I know Canadian mining companies are pretty much on their own once they venture into offshore agreements but I still think our government should have something to say on the industry’s behalf when other governments show such disrespect for agreements with Canadian mining companies.

I often wonder how some of those offshore governments would feel if Ottawa changed its mind when it comes to ‘humanitarian’ relief? After all, Canada seems to always be “right there” when it comes to helping those in distress, but it’s “nowhere” when it comes to helping its own and that’s especially true when you see mining companies in trouble overseas.

Anyway, Canadian mining companies have fended for themselves for decades and will continue to do so for decades to come, but it would be nice to have a little back-up from time to time.

I know it’s easy for me to sit here in my Toronto office and talk about IBAs and foreign authorities, especially after writing “Nothing beats homemade ore”  here a few months ago, but with all that’s going on right now and the way some Canadian miners are getting screwed offshore, domestic minerals look pretty good.

Mind you, and I refer back to the judge’s use of the word “ransom” in the first paragraph, things aren’t that rosy here either.

Look at the situation involving De Beers and a few disgruntled members of the First Nations (who are also ex-employees of De Beers) who periodically blocked the ice road to its Victor Diamond Mine in northern Ontario this past winter.

Because of the mine’s fly-in location, the 250 kilometre ice road is the company’s only way of transporting heavy equipment and supplies to the site and it was during those three or four critical winter months that a handful of ‘locals’ decided they didn’t want ‘outsiders’ crossing their land.

To hell with the IBAs between De Beers and The First Nations, barricades were put up and supplies were stopped. To De Beers’ credit, they respected the protesters and as time passed, the on-again/off-again barricades didn’t have enough impact to seriously compromise De Beers’ 2013 business plan.

But they could have, and that’s what is most upsetting. It’s bad enough that our mining companies are being held “ransom” by foreigners, they’re also being threatened by some Canadians too!    


*Timmins, Ontario, Judge Robert Riopelle, (according to a report in the Timmins Daily Press) said recently that the barricading of the ice road (by members of the Attawapiskat First Nations) leading to De Beer’s $1 billion Victor Mine in Northern Ontario during the critical seasonal period when the company makes essential deliveries of supplies to the mine was done by “individuals with private financial interests, holding a large multinational corporation to ransom…. It smells of coercion.”


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