Water Justice News: Mining and Dams

 
October 14, 2016
Media Release

L’arbitrage entre investisseur et État fait chanter El Salvador et pervertit la démocratie

Photograph: Jose Cabezas/AFP/Getty Images
Photo : Jose Cabezas/AFP/Getty Images

CABAÑAS, EL SALVADOR / WASHINGTON, DC / OTTAWA, MONTRÉAL, CANADA / MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIE – Des groupes de la société civile du monde entier appuyant les communautés et les organisations salvadoriennes qui interviennent sur les enjeux miniers et environnementaux ont réagi à la décision rendue aujourd’hui par le centre international pour le règlement des différends relatifs aux investissements (CIRDI).

En 2009, Pac Rim Cayman LLC a engagé une procédure d’arbitrage contre El Salvador en ayant recours au mécanisme de règlement des différends entre investisseurs et État (RDIE) sous l’égide du CIRDI de la Banque mondiale. La multinationale, une filiale désormais en propriété exclusive de la société canado-australienne OceanaGold, poursuivait El Salvador pour perte de profits escomptés après s’être vu refuser une concession minière pour un projet de mine d’or. Le gouvernement du Salvador n’a pas voulu délivrer la concession parce que le géant minier n’avait pas satisfait aux principales exigences réglementaires.

« Le fait que Pac Rim — aujourd’hui OceanaGold — puisse poursuivre El Salvador, alors même qu’elle n’a jamais eu de permis d’exploitation, est un abus de procédure », a déclaré Manuel Pérez‑Rocha de l’Institute for Policy Studies. « Ces audiences, qui se déroulent loin des tribunaux indépendants et transparents, minent la démocratie du Salvador et du monde entier. »

Cette affaire a largement influencé la décision du gouvernement du Salvador de ne plus délivrer de permis au secteur minier. Cette décision a reçu un appui général de la population du Salvador. Un sondage récent réalisé par l’Université centraméricaine (UCA) révèle que 79,5 % des Salvadoriens sont contre les projets aurifères.

« Des dégâts irréparables ont déjà été commis dans les communautés du Salvador », a déploré la Table ronde nationale sur les mines (MESA) du Salvador. « La présence de Pac Rim au pays a provoqué des conflits locaux qui ont entraîné des menaces, des attaques et des assassinats. Nous voulons voir OceanaGold, et toute la souffrance qu’elle a causée, quitter le Salvador et nous voulons que le gouvernement salvadorien proclame l’interdiction de toutes les mines de métaux. »

« En permettant aux sociétés transnationales de faire chanter les gouvernements pour les obliger à adopter des politiques qui favorisent les entreprises, l’arbitrage entre investisseurs et État mine la démocratie d’El Salvador et de partout dans le monde », a dit Marcos Orellana du Centre pour le droit international de l’environnement (CIEL). « Sans égard au résultat, le processus d’arbitrage a paralysé l’élaboration et la mise en œuvre de politiques publiques nécessaires pour protéger l’environnement et l’accès à l’eau en tant que droit de la personne. »

« C’est l’un des trop nombreux exemples où une société minière canadienne a eu recours au processus d’arbitrage international dans le but d’intimider un gouvernement pour un projet minier qui n’a pas l’appui de la communauté et qui ne satisfait pas aux exigences réglementaires ou légales », a rappelé Jen Moore, de Mines Alerte Canada. « En revanche, les communautés n’ont aucun moyen réel pour demander des comptes à ces sociétés pour les dommages graves et systématiques résultant de leurs activités. »

« Nous avons là un exemple flagrant de ce qui cloche avec ce mécanisme de règlement des différends entre investisseur et État, et qu’il fasse partie de la législation nationale ou d’un traité bilatéral ou multilatéral d’investissement n’y change strictement rien », a expliqué Robin Broad, professeure à l’American University. « L’expérience du Salvador confirme que le recours des multinationales à des tribunaux spéciaux comme celui du CIRDI constitue une menace pour les droits de la personne et pour l’environnement. »

« Une société minière qui se dit responsable ne devrait pas avoir recours à ce genre de mécanisme pour obliger un gouvernement à faire ses quatre volontés », a ajouté Keith Slack d’Oxfam America. « Un pays comme le Salvador a le droit de dire non aux minières sans craindre de s’exposer à des poursuites. »

« À une époque où l’eau est rare, il est inconcevable que le régime mondial de commerce et d’investissement prive le gouvernement d’un pays en proie à des pénuries d’eau, comme le Salvador, de l’espace politique requis pour protéger ses bassins hydrologiques et garantir le respect du droit à l’eau en tant que droit de la personne », a déploré Maude Barlow, présidente nationale du Conseil des Canadiens.

« Soyons clairs : le Salvador n’a rien “gagné” avec ce processus d’arbitrage. La compagnie minière va devoir rembourser le deux tiers, soit 8 million, des 12 millions de dollars dépensé par l’état Salvadorien seulement pour sa défense », a dit Pierre-Yves Serinet du Réseau québécois sur l’intégration continentale (RQIC). « Rien qu’en frais juridiques, le pays aurait pu offrir des cours d’alphabétisation à 140 000 personnes pendant plus de deux ans. Le pire, c’est qu’on tente actuellement d’élargir cette justice parallèle pour le bénéfice des transnationales à l’ensemble de la planète, via le Partenariat transpacifique (PTP), les accords de libre-échange de l’Europe avec le Canada (AECG-CETA) et les États-Unis (TTIP) et plusieurs autres traités. Il faut plutôt en finir avec le RDIE et mettre en place des obligations et mécanismes contraignants pour que les minières comme OceanaGold soient tenues responsables des dommages sociaux et environnementaux laissés dans leur sillage. »

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Renseignements :

Meera Karunananthan, Council of Canadians – mkarunananthan@canadians.org, 613 355-2100

Notes à l’intention des rédacteurs :

L’association International Allies against Mining in El Salvador regroupe des organisations de l’Australie, du Canada et des États-Unis qui appuient les revendications des Salvadoriens en ce qui a trait à la souveraineté, au droit à l’eau, à la santé des communautés et à la propreté de leur environnement. Ces organisations alliées ont toutes un historique de solidarité avec El Salvador. De plus amples renseignements sont offerts au www.stopesmining.org.

Oct 142016
 
October 14, 2016
Media Release

Investor-State Arbitration Blackmails El Salvador, Subverts Democracy

Photograph: Jose Cabezas/AFP/Getty Images
Photograph: Jose Cabezas/AFP/Getty Images

CABAÑAS, EL SALVADOR / WASHINGTON, DC / OTTAWA, CANADA / MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Civil society groups worldwide that support Salvadoran communities and organizations working on mining and environmental issues reacted to today’s decision by the ICSID.

In 2009, Pac Rim Cayman LLC brought an “investor-state dispute settlement” (ISDS) case against El Salvador at the World Bank Group’s arbitration venue the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). The company, now a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Canadian-Australian company OceanaGold, sued El Salvador for alleged losses of potential profits as a result of not being granted a mining concession for a gold project. The government of El Salvador did not issue the concession because the company failed to meet key regulatory requirements.

“The fact that Pac Rim – now OceanaGold – could sue El Salvador when it has never had a license to operate, is an abuse of process,” says Manuel Pérez-Rocha of the Institute for Policy Studies. “That these suits take place far from any transparent, independent court system undermines democracy in El Salvador, and around the world.”

This case is part of what led the Government of El Salvador to decide not to issue new mining permits. That decision has widespread support in El Salvador; a recent poll of the University of Central America (UCA) indicates that 79.5% of Salvadorans are against any gold mining.

“Irrevocable damage has already been done to communities in El Salvador,” says the Salvadoran Roundtable against Metallic Mining (La Mesa). “Pac Rim’s presence in El Salvador has fomented local conflict, which has led to threats, attacks, and assassinations. We want OceanaGold, and all the misery it has caused, out of El Salvador, and for the government to enact a prohibition on any metal mining.”

“By allowing transnational companies to blackmail governments to try to force them to adopt policies that favor corporations, investor-state arbitration undermines democracy in El Salvador and around the world,” says Marcos Orellana of the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL). “Regardless of the outcome, the arbitration has had a chilling effect on the development and implementation of public policy necessary to protect the environment and the human right to water.”

“This is one of now far too many examples of Canadian mining companies making use of international arbitration to bully governments when their mine projects lack community consent and have not met legal or regulatory requirements. In contrast, communities have no effective means to hold these same companies to account for the systematic and serious harms resulting from their operations,” says Jen Moore of MiningWatch Canada.

“What we have now is a clear example of what is wrong with investor-state dispute settlement clauses, whether they are inserted in domestic laws or bilateral or multilateral investment agreements. El Salvador’s experience confirms the threats to human rights and the environment that occur when corporations bring a suit to tribunals like ICSID,” explained Robin Broad, professor at the American University.

“A mining company that calls itself responsible should not be using mechanisms like ICSID to force governments to do its bidding. Countries like El Salvador have a right to say no to mining without fear of a massive lawsuit,” said Keith Slack of Oxfam America.

“At a time of water scarcity, it is unconscionable for the global trade and investment regime to deny governments of water-stressed countries like El Salvador the policy space to protect local watersheds and ensure the realization of the human right to water,” says Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians.

“Let us be clear: El Salvador has not ‘won’ anything in this arbitration. El Salvador will recoup $8 million of the $12 million it spent to defend itself, but in the meantime that money would have paid for over 2 years of adult literacy classes for 140,000 people, and a third of it is gone for good. But OceanaGold must now leave El Salvador to prevent any further aggravation and violence to the local communities, and it should also be made responsible for the social and environmental damage left in its wake,” says Jamie Kneen of MiningWatch Canada.

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Contacts:

Amanda Kistler, CIEL – akistler@ciel.org, +1 202 742 5832
Jen Moore, MiningWatch Canada – jen@miningwatch.ca, +1 613 569 3439
Manuel Perez Rocha, IPS – manuel@ips-dc.org, + 1 240 838 6623
Laura Rusu, Oxfam America, laura.rusu@oxfam.org +1 202 459 3739
Robin Broad, American University, rbroad@american.edu, + 1 202 885 1478
Meera Karunananthan, Council of Canadians – mkarunananthan@canadians.org, + 1 613 355 2100

Notes to editors:

The International Allies against Mining in El Salvador are made up of organizations from Australia, Canada and the United States that support the Salvadoran people as they demand sovereignty, the right to water, healthy communities and a clean environment. Each of the organizations that make up the Allies has a history of solidarity work with El Salvador. More information is available at: www.stopesmining.org

 

October 14, 2016 – 9:43am

We KNOW that mining abuses the environment and miners and residents’ rights to water, health and a healthy environment. But maybe policy makers will hear this when it comes from Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic. Its newly released report is entitled “The Cost of Gold: Environmental, Health, and Human Rights Consequences of Gold Mining in South Africa’s West and Central Rand”.  Or at least it gives us something to organise around to hold the mines and the government accountable. 

South Africa: Protect Residents’ Rights from Effects of Mining
Government Response to Environmental and Health Threats Falls Short

(The Cost of GoldCambridge, MA, October 12, 2016)—South Africa has failed to meet its human rights obligations to address the environmental and health effects of gold mining in and around Johannesburg, the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) said in a new report released today.

The 113-page report, The Cost of Gold, documents the threats posed by water, air, and soil pollution from mining in the West and Central Rand. Acid mine drainage has contaminated water bodies that residents use to irrigate crops, water livestock, wash clothes, and swim. Dust from mine waste dumps has blanketed communities. The government has allowed homes to be built near and sometimes on those toxic and radioactive dumps.

Examining the situation through a human rights lens, the report finds that South Africa has not fully complied with constitutional or international law. The government has not only inadequately mitigated the harm from abandoned and active mines, but it has also offered scant warnings of the risks, performed few scientific studies about the health effects, and rarely engaged with residents on mining matters.

“Gold mining has both endangered and disempowered the people of the West and Central Rand,” said Bonnie Docherty, senior clinical instructor at IHRC and the report’s lead author. “Despite some signs of progress, the government’s response to the crisis has been insufficient and unacceptably slow.”

The report is based on three research trips to the region and more than 200 interviews with community members, government officials, industry representatives, civil society advocates, and scientific and legal experts. It provides an in-depth look at gold mining’s adverse impacts and examines the shortcomings of the government’s reaction.

For example, although acid mine drainage reached the surface of the West Rand in 2002, the government waited 10 years before establishing a plant that could stem its flow. In addition, the government has not ensured the implementation of dust control measures and has left industry to determine how to remove the waste dumps dominating the landscape.

The Cost of Gold calls on South Africa to develop a coordinated and comprehensive program that deals with the range of problems associated with gold mining in the region. While industry and communities have a significant role to play, the report focuses on the responsibility of the government, which is legally obliged to promote human rights.

The government has taken some positive steps to deal the situation in the West and Central Rand. This year, it pledged to improve levels of water treatment by 2020. In 2011, it relocated residents of the Tudor Shaft informal settlement living directly on top of a tailings dam. The government along with industry has also made efforts to increase engagement with communities.

Nevertheless, The Cost of Gold finds that the government’s delayed response and piecemeal approach falls short of South Africa’s duties under human rights law. As a result, the impacts of mining continue to infringe on residents’ rights to health, water, and a healthy environment, as well as rights to receive information and participate in decision making.

“The government should act immediately to address the ongoing threats from gold mining, and it should develop a more complete solution to prevent future harm,” Docherty said. “Only then will South Africa live up to the human rights commitments it made when apartheid ended.”

For more information: In Cambridge MA, Bonnie Docherty: bdocherty@law.harvard.edu, or +1-617-669-1636 (mobile).

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June 9, 2016 – 5:55pm

Activists gathered outside of OceanaGold’s shareholder meeting in downtown Toronto today at a rally organized by the Council of Canadians, the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network, MiningWatch Canada, and the United Church of  Canada. The Canadian mining company has faced controversy for its decision to sue El Salvador for US$250 million at a World Bank tribunal when the company failed to obtain a mining permit for which it never met regulatory requirements. As a result, over the past seven years, the tiny financially-strapped nation has been forced to divert over $12 million dollars from economic development, job creation and violence prevention, merely to pay to defend itself.

Failing to respect the clear ‘no’ to metal mining, OceanaGold is bullying El Salvador with its suit while trying to get its foot in the door through the El Dorado Foundation. OceanaGold created this company-sponsored foundation at the local level in an attempt to rebrand the proposed mine. This is deceitful, disrespectful and dangerous.

Meanwhile, in the Philippines, OceanaGold’s large-scale gold mining operations in the village of Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya province have also been the source of years of protest. Filipino organizations have been denouncing the illegal demolition of homes in 2008 to make way for the company’s tailings pond and contamination of the Didipio River and adjacent water bodies. Loss of water supplies, displacement and respiratory illness are among further complaints.

Council of Canadians organizer Rachel Small went inside the shareholder meeting and made the following statement to the shareholders, management, and executive team present.

“My name is Rachel Small and I work with the Council of Canadians.  

In 2013 Oceana took on an expensive drawn-out legal battle suing El Salvador for $250 million USD over a mine permit that it has never met the regulatory requirements to obtain.

El Salvadorans meanwhile have been very clear that they do not want mining to proceed in their densely populated and already water-stressed country. 98% of the country’s freshwater supplies are heavily polluted. The proposed Oceana Gold mine would threaten the watershed that provides drinking water for two thirds of the population. An overwhelming majority of Salvadorans want to see a permanent ban on metal mining – over 80% of the population as confirmed by a 2015 national poll.

Oceana Gold’s lawsuit is an effort to bully the Salvadoran people who are setting their own economic and environmental agenda free from destructive metal mining projects. Many are also looking to the company’s take on corporate philanthropy through its El Dorado Foundation in El Salvador as a further attempt to increase social divisions and contribute to further violence against local community activists. Between 2009 and 2011, four environmental activists were murdered in Cabañas, El Salvador. More recently, several local organizations have received threats. These crimes have never been fully investigated.

A decision in this case will be announced shortly. El Salvador, a small impoverished Central American country of 6 million inhabitants, has already spent over 12 million USD in legal fees– an amount that could go a long way towards providing basic services to reduce poverty. For example, that amount could provide two years of adult literacy classes for 140,000 people. 250 million would have devastating effects on the economy.

Many in El Salvador are looking at the Philippines for further evidence of why the proposed mine will not benefit their country. Local organizations in Nueva Vizcaya, where OceanaGold’s Didipio mine is located, are calling for OceanaGold’s operations to stop and for their lands to be rehabilitated, given impacts on water supplies and farmlands. The Incoming Governor of Nueva Vizcaya, Carlos M. Padilla, also issued an open letter reiterating the call for OceanaGold to pull out, emphasizing how the costs of the company’s open-pit mine far outweigh scarce benefits. In 2012 two environmental activists who opposed the mining project, Cheryl Ananayo and Randy Nabayay, were assassinated.

Salvadorans are preventing their communities from experiencing the kind of environmental devastation and displacement faced by communities impacted by the Didipio mine in the Philippines.

OceanaGold has repeatedly claimed that its mining project will be good for El Salvador and for communities near the mine. Given the terrible precedent of violence, displacement and contamination in the Philippines, the lack of consent from people of El Salvador, and the negative impacts Oceana Gold’s  lawsuit has already had in El Salvador, I would like to know how you back up this claim.” 

The CEO responded by saying all of the claims made in the statement were “spurious”, even as the protestors outside the building could be heard yelling “OceanaGold lies!”.

Media statement here

All photos by Allan Lissner.

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March 2, 2015 – 2:37pm

Mural at the Supreme Court, Mexico.
Back in November 2012, Maude Barlow was invited to be a judge at the hearing regarding dams for the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal. After this important hearing, the organizers arranged a me…

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