Government problems: water-energy-mining-spying

Well, quite a week in Albertan and Canadian resource policy.

Last week, a judge issued a verdict against Alberta’s regulatory decision to exclude Pembina, an environmental NGO, from hearings on oil sands projects. And it wasn’t just a decision, it was a scathing indictment, which you can download here (PDF). Among the judge’s comments was that it was  “difficult to envision a more direct apprehension of bias” than the regulator’s decision to exclude Pembina.

Alberta also released a new consultation policy for development of resources affecting First Nations. It has been characterized as misguided. And that is not good timing, since the federal government sent an armada of ministers to B.C. recently to create some momentum for a pipeline through First Nations territory on that side of the two province deal that would pipe bitumen to Kitimat. It could be that the federal government and First Nations are headed for conflict.

On the other side of the country there is the on-going standoff over fracking in New Brunswick. A judge issued an injunction against a Mi’kmaq barricade yesterday, and the province’s premier is planning negotiations. The embarrassing issue for the New Brunswick government is that the chair of their Energy Institute was recently exposed as a fraud. So the credibility of the government is in serious doubt.

Also yesterday, Brazil called Canada out on its spying program that targeted Brazil’s mining and energy ministry. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds since, according to reports, there are more documents on Canada’s intelligence gathering that may be released as well.

Alberta’s new wetland policy + updates

Alberta released its new wetland policy yesterday. You can download it here (PDF). It has been a long time in the making, and for those who are interested in comparative exercises, you can crosscheck the actual policy above with the recommendations made by the Alberta Water Council in 2008.

In other news, the on-going oil spill in Northern Alberta has now triggered an investigation by Environment Canada. It will likely be some time before we know what the full impacts will be. But in the meantime, the federal government disbanded the regional land and water boards in the Northwest Territories. On its face, this move seems to fly in the face of the NWT Water Strategy adopted for 2011-2015. And it is not just on the face. It is difficult, if you are familiar with the aims and agendas of the current mining push in the North, not to see this as a step away from partnerships with those affected by new projects.

On this front, there was a fairly decent article in Oilweek, an industry magazine, on the impacts of oil sands mining on the Ft. McKay First Nations and the cumulative impacts accruing there.

Finally, Nic Rivers at the University of Ottawa put out a new study on water and economics in Canada. It’s based on a model that, like any, has some limitations. But Nic is a particularly astute researcher, so well worth the read.

Measurement, mining and Canada’s foreign finances

A couple of new items out on mining. One is a new article published in Minerals Engineering that compares different ways of measuring “sustainability“.

Here is the ABSTRACT: Recent years have seen a proliferation of frameworks for assessing and reporting mining sustainability. While these frameworks vary substantially in scope and approach, they all seem to share the purported goal of better informing decision-makers about the future implications of mining to the environment and society. Whether they do so, however, remains an open question. The purpose of this paper is to describe, compare and critically analyse five sustainability assessment and reporting frameworks used by, or proposed for, the mining industry. Based on literature reviews, the paper highlights the underlying assumptions of those frameworks and presents a diagram that helps to clarify aspects such as temporal orientation, geographical scope and quantity of indicators. Three out of the five frameworks follow a siloed approach to assessing mining sustainability, overlooking trade-offs and synergies among variables and sustainability dimensions. None of the frameworks seems to fully shed light on the problem of mineral scarcity and the effective legacy of mineral operations. The paper concludes by emphasizing the need to carefully consider the information generated by the analysed frameworks and suggest more fruitful ways to foster sustainability reports.


A second item is more Canada specific. I’ve identified previously the increasing literature that identifies Canada’s unique place in the global mining context. This latest piece is on whether Canada is out of step with the push for more transparency around the extractive resource sector more broadly.

“As the G8 works to increase financial oversight and accountability for the extractive sector, is Canada standing off in the corner?

When the G8 leaders get together in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland on June 17-18, they’ll be following summit host and British Prime Minister David Cameron’s, agenda: tax, trade and transparency. Cameron has also made clear his intentions to renew the international community’s focus on financial openness in the extractive sector.

Cameron is riffing off a trend that is increasingly common in the extractive sector. In matters of corruption, sunlight is the best disinfectant: making public payment data from oil, gas and mineral companies will push out corruption, free industry from having to line the pockets of greedy middlemen, and ensure that local communities know where their royalties are going. Though the consensus appears to be calcifying around Cameron’s push, Canada appears to be more tepid in its support…” Read more here.

Responses to #water threats from #mining and logging in Chile

The Guardian recently reported the conflicts over water in Chile between mining and logging companies and, well, most everybody else.

A large carnival was held in response. About 6000 people attended the march (one report says 10 0000) to deliver their message of frustration with the on-going water problems in Chile.

There a number of other articles on this issue, which cover the relationship between mining and water from a few different angles, see here, here or here.

Arctic mining, Canadian leadership: questionable recipe?

As I’ve mentioned before, Canada is coming under increased focus as the headquarters for most of the world’s mining corporations.

This year, Canada begins its 2 year period as chair of the international Arctic Council ending 2015. Canada has named Leonna Aglukkaq to this role. Several researchers at McGill recently wrote an open letter to Aglukkaq, highlighting the need for human security over resource development amongst Arctic communities.

The concerns expressed by the researchers were confirmed (again) earlier this week by news that a diamond mine was abandoned in Nunavut by its operating company  and left without environmental reclamation.

In this context, there is a very interesting piece out in Water Canada about the rush for mining and its effects on water in the North. This piece came out very close to the publication of The Future of Mining in Canada’s North (PDF) from the Conference Board of Canada.

It will be important to keep threading all of these strings together.

Shale oil, fracking and mining: Australia

These are just some interesting links that happened to cross my path yesterday:

There is a new $20 trillion shale oil play in Australia.

Also down-under, there are industry concerns about protests against LNG (Liquified Natural Gas), largely extracted through fracking.

Deloitte’s mining trends for 2013 predictions.

And the top 10 energy projects in the world, by price. There are some massive things going on these days.

Why are 75% of the world’s mining corporations headquartered in Canada?

Lots of interesting news on the relationships between Canadian foreign aid and private industry, particularly mining. Steven Hoffman, who I had the opportunity to meet last spring, wrote an op-ed calling out the distinct new tenor of Canada’s foreign aid priorities and the difference between “trade” and “aid.” The minister in charge of the portfolio, Julian Fantino, responded not once, but twice, to Steve’s arguments. Steve was also interviewed by the news, which is making for a nice public debate about the changes going on, with contributions from others (on both sides of the debate).

The Real News Network recently interviewed Yves Engler about Canada’s foreign policy with respect to Haiti, which is particularly timely given that the third anniversary of the massive earthquake there recently passed and given recent U.S. pressure on Canada. Here is that interview, which focuses on the nexus between Canada’s foreign aid policy, recent changes (according to Engler) and the mining industry. Spoiler: it is clearly weighted against the government’s position.

Side note: I’ve now finished up reading Imperial Canada Inc. (which I mentioned here before) and which outlines an answer to why Canada is home to the vast majority of the world’s mining companies. I highly recommend it if this is a topic of interest. It has its drawbacks, but everything does.

Open Pit: award winning documentary on Peru’s Gold Mines

Still thinking on mining, and see that the documentary Open Pit is available online. It, and the information quoted below, can be found here.

“Accolade Award winning Feature Documentary “Open Pit” is a tour de force of investigative journalism and guerilla filmmaking that reveals the vicious face of “dirty gold” in Peru. A film by Gianni Converso. Produced by Daniel Santana and Gianni Converso.

In the heart of Cajamarca, Newmont Mining Corporation operates the Yanacocha Gold Mine, one of the largest Open Pit mining operations in the world.

Using the cyanide leach process, Newmont Mining has come to define “dirty gold” for a generation of Campecinos – the indigenous people who have lived at the top of the Peruvian Andes since the Inca civilization.

Faced with devastating mercury pollution, heavy metals and acid mine drainage, the people of Cajamarca fight a desperate battle to defend their water resources, their families – and their way of life.

Backed by money from the International Finance Corporation and The World Bank, Newmont Mining enforces their business model through corruption, intimidation and violence.

Open Pit is a tour de force of investigative journalism and guerilla filmmaking that reveals the vicious face of “dirty gold” in Peru.”

Mining company challenges critical book in 2010; now available!

Last night I posted about the new book on Canadian mining companies. I hadn’t realized the earlier controversy – 2 years ago – about the book which mining companies sought to block from publication. This important new title looks great; I have flipped through it briefly and look forward to sitting down with it to give it the attention it deserves.

Here’s the book’s website.

Canadian Mining Inc: Why Canada is the haven of choice for the mining industry

Canadian mining companies do not have a great reputation. 9780889226357Just today the dam holding toxic tailings from an abandoned copper mine broke spilling heavy metal pollutants into local waterways. For the foreseeable future the residents of South Brook, Newfoundland will be on bottled water.

It is not just abandoned or ongoing bitumen, gold or diamond mining in the northern regions of this continent that raise concerns, but also the global effects that these firms exert in places like Guatemala, where indigenous groups have come to Canada to launch legal proceedings against mining companies. But why is Canada a preferred place to locate mining firms that exploit the global south? At least part of it is answered in a new book that explains, first, why so many multinational mining companies headquarter here and, second, how Canadian tax law and its regulatory regime welcomes them without so much as a blink.

Here is the information from the publisher’s website:

Imperial Canada Inc.: Legal haven of choice for the World’s Mining Industries

By Alain Deneault & William Sacher
Translated by Fred A. Reed & Robin Philpot

Co-contributors: Catherine Browne, Mathieu Denis, Patrick Ducharme

Imperial Canada Inc. sets out to ask a simple question: why is Canada home to more than 70% of the world’s mining companies?

Created by the British North America Act of 1867, Canada, rather than turning away from its colonial past, actively embraced, appropriated, and perpetuated the imperial ambitions of its mother country. Two years later, it took possession of Rupert’s Land—all of the land draining into Hudson Bay—and the North West Territories from the Hudson’s Bay Company, 3 million square miles of resources, and set about its nation-building enterprise of extending its Dominion “from sea to sea.”

This Canadian imperial heritage continues to offer the extractive sector worldwide a customized trading environment that: supports speculation, enables capital flows to finance questionable projects abroad, pursues a pro-active diplomacy which successfully promotes this sector to international institutions, opens fiscal pipelines to Caribbean tax havens, provides government subsidies, and most especially, offers a politicized legal haven from any risk of litigious recourse attempted by any community seriously affected by these industries.

Traditionally rooted in Canadian law, the right to reputation effectively supersedes freedom of expression and the public’s right to information. Hence, Canadian “bodies corporate,” i.e., Canadian-based corporations, can sue for “libel” any and all persons or legal entities that quote documents or generate analyses of their corporate practices that they do not approve of. Even foreign academics have become hesitant about presenting their work in Canada for fear of such prosecution.
The authors of Imperial Canada Inc., respected scholars in their fields, meticulously research four factors that contribute to the answer to this question: Quebec’s and Ontario’s mining codes; the history of the Toronto Stock Exchange; Canada’s involvement with Caribbean tax havens; and, finally, Canada’s official role of promoting itself to international institutions governing the world’s mining sector.