A company cannot be the Western World's largest nickel producer without attracting some attention, but this is not the kind of attention welcomed by INCO LTD. The first annual World Unites Against Inco Day was held last Tuesday, Oct. 7, at sites around the globe.
The protests, organized by ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE CANADA, were intended to make Inco take responsibility for the environmental and health impact of mining in places as diverse as Port Colborne, Ont., and Indonesia. The Raging Grannies planned a candlelight vigil in Sudbury. Other demonstrations were planned in Thompson, Man., St. John's, Nfld., Halifax, N.S., Prince Edward Island, New Caledonia, Guatemala, New York City, London, U.K., Australia, Japan, and Walesanywhere Inco has a presence.
A global protest against a single corporation is impressive. If a person is of the green persuasion, it sends the message loud and clear. Executives of international integrated mineral producers other than Inco may have had a "better them than us" thought or two. Corporately, Inco has been rather quiet on the subject of the protests.
CMJ and its readers know Inco is environmentally responsible. The company is creating ever-cleaner methods of extracting metals. It remediates land and water damaged by historic activities. It actively promotes the health of its workers, their communities and their natural world. There is much to do and Inco is doing it.
Environmental Defense Canada chose the wrong target. If it wants to pick on a nickel producer, it should protest the environmental damage done by Norilsk in Russia. If it wanted to branch out beyond a single metal, there is no shortage of offenders elsewhere in the former Soviet Union and Communist Bloc countries. They deserve to be condemned for their dismal record of pollution and disregard for local communities. (Or more constructively, they need the help of those who do produce minerals responsibly to find solutions to their problems.)
Obviously, Inco is not getting its message out to the general public. The company's 100-year-old reputation as a despoiler of the beautiful Sudbury Basin is hard to shake. But the truth is that Inco (and Falconbridge) have spent tens of millions of dollars regreening the region, and it shows. Inco should counter allegations of environmental irresponsibility at every opportunity, rather than remain silent concerning World Unites Against Inco Day.
It's not easy being green, says Kermit the Frog. It's not easy to be seen to be green in Inco's experience.