Case Study: Blackfire Mine, Chicomuselo, Chiapas, Mexico (abbreviated version, followed by full version with additional details and footnotes)
By Ellen Paulley and Adrienne Wiebe, MCC Latin America, May 31, 2012Read more
On February 23 and 24, representatives from the three Anabaptist denominations in Colombia (Mennonite, Mennonite Brethren, and Brethren in Christ), MCC and partner organizations, came together in Bogota to dialogue about three core inter-related issues in Colombia: Land, Mining and Food Security. The two days consisted of academic speakers addressing the issues broadly and within the Colombian context, as well as time for discernment through group and plenary discussions on the dilemmas, ethics, theological implications and possible courses of action.
There was overall consensus on the need of the churches to address land, mining and food security issues, and a call for opportunities to learn more. Small groups contained members from each of the three denominations and during the discernment time participants were very open about their own specific challenges and the need for their prospective churches to get involved.
The issues of land, mining and food security are all closely linked in Colombia, as was demonstrated by the three academic speakers. Most of the land in Colombia, up to 60%, is controlled by a very small percentage of the population, 0.4 %, and is often used for mass production of export materials, such as palm oil, or is sold at low costs to foreign and multinational companies for mining exploration, leaving less and less land for food production. Up to 5 million people have been displaced from their land in the past 15 years, making Colombia the country with the most number of internally displaced people in the world, according to the UNHCR. In addition, the armed conflict continues, and is especially severe in regions where there are land disputes, and valuable resources such as minerals (petroleum, coal, gold, etc).
The ethical challenges were similar across the three broad topics, connecting to dilemnas of production, consumption and public policy. Specifically pertaining to the issue of mining, there was general consensus that completely shutting down the mining industry in Colombia and around the world is not a realistic option. We depend on mining for many of the products we use every day, from cell phones and computers to fuel and infrastructure. However, there was a clear call for just and ecologically responsible mining and production, and also responsible and sustainable consumption. This was supported by Scripture, especially pertaining to the need to care for creation and the environment, and also to care for one another.
Participants then discussed what they as individuals and congregations could do to address issues like mining, land and food security. Even though these issues are broad and cover so many areas of life, it was reinforced that individuals and groups can make a difference. Participants encouraged each other to think about where their food, the materials in their electronics and other products come from and the people and communities that are involved in and affected by production. It was generally agreed that giving up products like cell phones is unrealistic for most people in this day and age, but participants gained a new consciousness about the long term, irreparable, destructive consequences of over-consumption. People should investigate companies before buying new phones, and also, not overconsume or feel the need to buy products much more frequently than necessary.
Potential advocacy actions will only come out of intentional efforts to put convictions into practice. Participants discussed the possibility and even necessity to support national movements, such as the Indigenous and Afro-Colombian Rights Movements, as many Indigenous communties have been severely impacted by the rapid development of the mining sector in Colombia. Or supporting boycotts of products and companies who are exploiting land and communities through mining initiatives and alternatively supporting fair trade initiatives or companies that have implemented just mining practices. Finally, it was suggested that church leaders play a more active role in these dicussions and dilemnas, be it through supporting such movements, or even just talking to their congregations about these issues.
Many of the rural churches participating in the Encuentro have already been talking to their congregations about these issues. This meeting of urban and rural leaders was an excellent opportunity for the urban churches to learn more about the struggles faced by their rural counterparts, as most of these issues, including mining, are more prevalent in the rural areas. All of the denominations, for example, expressed an interest in supporting advocacy, be it through campaigns, education or direct action. Many participants proposed solidarity actions with the Mennonite Brethren churches of Chocó who, historically dependent on artisanal mining, have recently been deeply affected by large-scale mining efforts and related violent land conflict.
Finally, there was significant support for the idea of another encounter later in 2012, where participants could map out more concrete plans of action on these issues, in cooperation with all of the denominations. It was very refreshing to see such passionate participation in the discussion time, and to see all of the churches working together so well. Currently MCC Colombia is planning to organize another Encounter in August or September of 2012.
 United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). June 15, 2010
On January 25th, the Quebec Court of Appeal overturned a lower-court decision in the lawsuit against Anvil Mining Limited—a potentially precedent-setting case that would have paved the way for victims of human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to seek remedy in the Canadian justice system.
The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) plays a significant role in the federal government's four-pillared corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy—launched in 2009 to improve the competitive advantage of Canadian extractive companies operating abroad.
Aimed at improving resource governance, transparency, and accountability, this pillar focuses on providing support for initiatives that enhance the capacities of developing governments and communities to manage the development and use of their natural resources and to improve opportunities for economic development. In this endeavor, CIDA plays a pivotal role, along with Natural Resources Canada (NRCAN) and Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT).
Since the Fall of 2011, the government has made a number of announcements unveiling the launch of new initiatives related to mining and the extractives sector—all of which highlight the role that CIDA assumes within this CSR policy framework. Such initiatives include the establishment of a new research institute on extractive industries and development, a special project on conflict management and prevention in the extractives sector, and four CIDA pilot projects that support public-private partnerships related to development in mining-affected communities in Africa and South America.
According to the government, such initiatives also fit within CIDA's Sustainable Economic Growth Strategy—launched in 2010 to focus on constructing economic foundations, growing businesses, and investing in people—and aim to strengthen the linkages between resource extraction, economic development, and poverty reduction.
Going forward, CIDA is working to develop an Action Plan that will guide its future work related to the extractives sector. With significant budget and resources allocated to programming and capacity-building projects, it is anticipated that CIDA will devote up to $40 million over the next five years on initiatives related to the management of natural resources.
Learn more about CIDA's role in the CSR strategy
News - More government aid money to support mining
News - CIDA announces new projects for corporate responsibility
As part of its four-pillared corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy, launched in 2009, the federal government promotes three widely-recognized CSR performance guidelines in order to address concerns raised about the human rights impacts of Canadian extractive companies operating overseas.
Promoted primarily through the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) and Natural Resources Canada (NRCAN), the endorsed standards and guidelines, all voluntary in nature, include the following:
- International Finance Corporation (IFC) Performance Standards on Environmental and Social Sustainability: Originally adopted in 2006, the IFC Performance Standards are globally recognized benchmarks for defining clients' (companies receiving IFC investment) responsibilities for managing environmental and social risks. More specifically, they outline expectations of conduct in eight areas for addressing the challenges facing extractive sector companies operating in developing countries;
- Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights: Established in 2000 through dialogue with businesses, governments, and NGOs, the Voluntary Principles provide guidelines to help extractive companies anticipate and mitigate common risks related to the use of public and private security forces, particularly in sensitive contexts where mining operations may be affected by armed conflict or insurgencies;
- Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Sustainability Framework: First initiated in 1997 through dialogue with businesses, civil society groups, investors, and accountants, the GRI framework provides consistent international standards for reporting on human rights, labour, environmental, anti-corruption, and other corporate citizenship issues. While the GRI is independent, it collaborates with the United Nations Environment Programme and the United Nations Global Compact.
The Office of the Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Counsellor is part of the federal government's four-pillared CSR strategy, launched in 2009 to improve the competitive advantage of Canadian extractive companies operating abroad.
Working as a special advisor to the Minister of International Trade, the CSR Counsellor is mandated to review the corporate social responsibility practices of Canadian companies operating outside of Canada and to advise stakeholders on the implementation of the endorsed performance standards.
Marketa Evans, the first Counsellor to be appointed, opened her office in March of 2010. This office, located in Toronto, now has three staff and an Advisory Panel that provides strategic advice and input.
In the fall of 2010, the government officially launched its review process, a dispute resolution mechanism facilitated by the CSR counsellor and intended to mediate between aggrieved communities and Canadian mining, oil, and gas companies operating overseas.
The main steps of the CSR Counsellor's review process are as follows:
- A request for review is submitted to the office;
- The office sends an acknowledgement to the person(s) making the request;
- The office assesses eligibility;
- The CSR Counsellor works with parties in building trust;
- The CSR Counsellor and parties may engage in a structured dialogue.
By virtue of an Order-in-Council, the CSR Counsellor has a very limited mandate—s/he cannot review a case without the written consent of parties involved; carry out investigations to clarify disputed facts; apply standards other than the endorsed performance guidelines; make binding policy or legislative recommendations; or apply sanctions to discourage corporate wrongdoing.
As of early 2012, the CSR Counsellor had received two requests for review: one by Excellon Resources Inc. in Mexico, and the other by First Quantum Minerals Ltd. in Mauritania. In the case of Excellon, the process shut down as the company refused to participate in the dialogue process.
The Centre for Excellence in Corporate Social Responsibility is one of the four pillars announced in the federal government's strategy for enhancing the corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices of Canadian mining companies.
Hosted by the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum (CIM)—a technical society consisting of 11,000 industry, government, and academic representatives associated with the Canadian minerals and materials industry—the Centre aims to offer a forum where the extractive industry, government, and civil society can obtain timely access to high-quality CSR information and, in so doing, raise the bar for excellence in CSR-related practices.
The Centre has established a website that strives to be a hub of knowledge and virtual community of practice for CSR in the extractive sector. In addition to an introductory video outlining the Centre's mandate, the site currently contains information on:
- CSR-related policies and regulations;
- CSR tools and resources;
- Country profiles; and a
- CSR directory.
The multi-stakeholder agenda of the Centre is ensured by the composition of the Executive Committee, which includes representatives from mining companies and mining industry organizations, civil society organizations, and academics. MCC Canada was invited to join this committee in April of 2011.
The modest budget of the Centre is funded jointly by mining industry members and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT), and observers from several government departments attend all committee meetings.
From December 12-16, African mining departments and expert advisors gathered in Ethiopia to discuss an action plan for reforming Africa's mining sector.
Much to the concern of many human rights activists and civil society groups, in late December the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) lifted its two year-old order calling for the suspension of operations at Goldcorp's controversial Marlin Mine in Guatemala.
After months of waiting, on December 22 the Supreme Court of Canada made a unanimous ruling rejecting the Conservative government's bid to create a single federal securities regulator.