Canadian Mining Journal

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READER COMMENT: Bridging the mining/human rights gap

"I really feel like the gap between human rights workers and people who work in the mining industry really nee...



“I really feel like the gap between human rights workers and people who work in the mining industry really needs to be bridged more effectively,” wrote Megan Cotton-Kinch from Toronto. She is a graduate student is social anthropology at York University. “My master’s research is on this very topic of companies and communities.

 

“Sadly, many Canadian companies do participate in the violations of human rights, and benefit directly from the repression of dissent. Only a few weeks ago in Guatemala, a machine gun opened fire on a van full of human rights workers, many of which worked directly on the mining issue, killing one person and gravely wounding many others. I know someone who was almost lynched in a village in Guatemala because, as a Canadian, he was suspected to be working for a mining company: he barely escaped with his life. Respected NGOs such as Amnesty International and Oxfam are gravely concerned about human rights abuses and mining companies, and human rights is what they specialize in.

 

“The BBC has published an article on people living near a Goldcorp mine site in Guatemala who are suffering from terrible skin afflictions they never had before the opening of the mine site (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7934513.stm). And as I’m sure you aware, the Norwegian government divested from Barrick gold for environmental and human rights problems. These are not minority or extreme sources,” she continued.

 

“Unfortunately, because there is no tracking and no way to prosecute these crimes, we can’t know the extent to which Canadian mining companies are implicated: which is why there needs to be investigative powers which do not depend on the consent of the company being investigated.”

 

Cotton-Kinch concluded, “I’m sure that most mining engineers and people who work in the mining industry do not intend any harm to communities: this is why they, and CMJ, need to support investigations of people that do.”