Posts Tagged ‘Mining’

Mar27

Corporations and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Advancing the Struggle for Protection, Recognition, and Redress at the Third UN Forum on Business and Human Rights

Reposted from Cultural Survival Quarterly 39-1 Upholding Indigenous Rights Is Good Business (March 2015)

By Andrea Carmen

In 1990, the UN Global Consultation on the Right to Development declared that “the most destructive and prevalent abuses of Indigenous rights are the direct consequences of development strategies that fail to respect their fundamental right of self-determination.” Twenty-five years later, notwithstanding historic progress in the recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ rights in the international arena (most notably the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples), this statement still defines the reality for the majority of Indigenous Peoples.

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Today, the survival of Indigenous Peoples around the world continues to be threatened by corporate activity. This includes mining, oil drilling, damming, deforestation, toxic pesticides, proliferation by agribusiness, water privatization and appropriation, and a range of other activities carried out on or near Indigenous Peoples’ lands without their Free, Prior and Informed Consent. These activities are often undertaken in violation of legally binding treaties and agreements. They desecrate sacred places, undermine food sovereignty and traditional livelihoods, and jeopardize community and reproductive health with little regard for violations of these and other individual and collective human rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) and other Indigenous organizations are engaged in the work of Special Representative John Ruggie, who was appointed by the UN Secretary General “to identify and clarify standards of corporate responsibility and accountability for transnational corporations and other business enterprises with regard to human rights.” IITC has made several submissions urging the full and effective participation of Indigenous Peoples to ensure that their perspectives and experiences would be taken into account. IITC has also consistently underscored the vital importance of the Declaration as a framework for upholding Indigenous rights.

In June 2011 the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution unanimously endorsing the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights implementing the UN “Protect, Respect and Remedy” framework proposed by Ruggie. This framework provided a global standard for preventing human rights impacts of business activity and providing remedies for victims. The Guiding Principles are organized under three pillars: the State’s duty to protect human rights; corporate responsibility to respect human rights; and the need for greater access to remedy for victims of business-related abuse.

The UN Working Group

In addition to adopting the Guiding Principles, the Human Rights Council established a UN Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises to carry out studies and oversee implementation at the country level. Along with issue-based studies and country visits, the Working Group organizes annual Human Rights and Business Forums where States, UN agencies, NGOs, and Indigenous Peoples review good (and bad) practices, present strategies for effective implementation, and highlight areas of ongoing concern.

The responsibility of States to be accountable for human rights violations caused by the corporations they license and the duty of corporations to respect human rights are relatively new and evolving human rights concepts. However, even before the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights were adopted in 2011, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the treaty monitoring body for the international convention of the same name, affirmed that both Canada and the United States are obligated to prevent human rights violations in Indigenous communities around the world by corporations licensed in either country. The continued lack of compliance by the US with this recommendation from the Committee was addressed when the US was reviewed again in 2013. The Committee made similar observations addressing the responsibility of Canada, in particular regarding the activities of Canadian mining companies carrying out activities that violated the rights of Indigenous Peoples outside the country in both 2007 and 2012.

Indigenous Peoples’ Participation in UN Forums on Business and Human Rights

From its first session in 2012, the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights has recognized that Indigenous Peoples around the world suffer from adverse impacts of corporate activity resulting in violation of a wide range of their individual and collective rights. At all three sessions of the Forum to date, Indigenous Peoples have been a key focus, although there is still no formal mechanism or permanent agenda item, as requested by Indigenous Peoples, to ensure their formal participation and full inclusion in future sessions. Chief Wilton Littlechild, Chair of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples addressed the first session in 2012, and the UN Special Rapporteurs on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya and Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, were panelists at the second and third sessions. One of the Working Group’s first activities was a groundbreaking study exploring the challenges faced in addressing “adverse impacts of business-related activities on the rights of Indigenous Peoples through the lens of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.”

Specific concerns raised by IITC at the third Annual Forum on Business and Human Rights held December 1–3, 2014 in Geneva, Switzerland, focused on the continued production and export by US corporations of highly restricted and unregulated pesticides banned for use in the US. This practice, permitted by current US laws, has had devastating, well-documented human rights consequences, including undermining reproductive health and causing over 25 documented deaths in Yaqui Indian communities in northern Mexico. IITC presented this concern in a side event organized by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, and was invited to submit this issue for the Committee’s country review of Mexico in May 2015.

The United States’ National Action Plan

A key mechanism for implementation and a central focus of discussion at the most recent Forum is the development of National Action Plans by UN member states to promote implementation of the Guiding Principles. On January 14, IITC sent a written contribution to the US State Department for the development of its own National Action Plan, which was announced by President Obama in September 2014. It is targeted for completion, after a series of consultations around the country, by the end of 2015. The first consultation was held in New York City on December 15; upcoming sessions are planned for Oklahoma, California, and Washington, D.C. in February and March 2015.

IITC’s submission followed up on issues raised during reviews of the US in 2014 highlighting corporate activities impacting the rights of Indigenous Peoples in and out of the country. These include laws allowing the manufacture and export of pesticides from the US that have been banned or deregulated in the US; violations resulting from corporate activities that cause the destruction, desecration, and contamination of Indigenous Peoples’ sacred and ceremonial sites, areas, and landscapes, including many located on what are now federal lands and in areas recognized as belonging to Indigenous nations under their ratified Treaties with the US; and lack of US compliance and implementation of the provisions and rights affirmed in its human rights obligations and commitments.

World Conference on Indigenous Peoples

AThe Outcome Document of the High Level Meeting of the UN General Assembly, also known as the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, further underscored UN member states’ commitments to uphold the rights affirmed in the Declaration. The Outcome Document adopted on September 22, 2014, included a commitment to the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent related to development activities. Based on the UN Guiding Principles Business and Human Rights, as well as the Concluding Observations of UN Treaty Bodies and the commitments made by States (including the US) in the outcome document, IITC made several recommendations to the US State Department urging the use of rights affirmed in the Declaration, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

IITC also urged that the national action plan affirm the rights contained in the World Conference outcome document to Free, Prior and Informed Consent; that the plan uphold the rights affirmed in the nation-to-nation treaties it concluded with Indigenous nations to interpret and guide its implementation of the UN Principles on Human Rights and Business; that it incorporate and implement the recommendations of the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and Covenant on Civil and Political Rights treaty bodies with regard to the protection of Indigenous Peoples’ sacred areas, sites, and landscapes; and that it include a commitment to take immediate steps to halt the production and export of pesticides and other toxic chemicals that have been banned for use in the United States.

Although these recommendations are directed specifically to the US, similar recommendations can be made to other member states where corporate and business activities impact the rights and survival of Indigenous Peoples. The devastating effects of business and corporate activities upon the rights of Indigenous Peoples, their health, lands and territories, cultures, and ways of life, cannot be minimized. Neither can the responsibility or accountability of member states.

Read the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights here: goo.gl/vAQgf4.

Andrea Carmen is the executive director of International Indian Treaty Council, an Indigenous Peoples organization with General Consultative Status with the UN Economic and Social Council.

Since 1972 Cultural Survival has been advocating for Indigenous Peoples’ rights and supporting Indigenous communities’ self-determination, cultures and political resilience. To read about Cultural Survival’s work around the world, click here. To read more articles on the subject use our Search function and explore 40 years of information on Indigenous issues.

Mar05

Rape, Sex Trafficking, and the Bottom Line: Corporations’ Complicity in Violence Against Women

Rosa Eblira Coc Inh, one of the plaintiffs. (Photo by Roger LeMoyne, MacLeans)

Rosa Eblira Coc Inh, one of the plaintiffs. (Photo by Roger LeMoyne, MacLeans)

By Katie Cheney

On January 17, 2007, 9 men entered the temporary home of Rosa Elbira Coc Ich, a Mayan Q’eqchi woman in Guatemala. 12 days earlier, Rosa and her family had been forcibly evicted from their home – now, she faced a second eviction, as hundreds of policemen, military, and security workers entered the settlement. After pointing a gun to her head, these 9 officials – one by one – proceeded to rape Rosa. They followed suit with 10 more Mayan Q’eqchi’ women in the community.

Gender-based violence is considered a pandemic by the United Nations, as 35% of women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence. Women and girls are victims of violence at the hands of their partners, family members, communities, and governments – and now, increasingly, the private sector.

The officials that entered Rosa’s settlement allegedly did so based on a land dispute, between the Fenix mine, then owned by Skye Resources, and the Q’eqchi’ Mayan community of El Estor, Guatemala. The community claims the land on which the mine sits as their Indigenous territory, and has argued that the land concession was granted without the community’s consultation or consent. Skye Resources allegedly hired security officers to “guard” the mine against the local community – the same security officers that carried out the evictions and rapes in El Estor In 2007.

On March 28, 2011, the 11 Q’eqchi rape survivors filed a lawsuit in Ontario’s Superior Court against Hudbay Minerals, which acquired Skye Resources in 2008. It is the first time a Canadian court is hearing a case against a Canadian mining company for overseas human rights abuses. The company is also facing lawsuits from the El Estor community for shootings in 2009 that left one man dead and another paralyzed, investigations into which are ongoing in Guatemala. Hudbay Minerals has denied all allegations against them, saying they are “without merit”, and has vowed to “vigorously defend itself” against the allegations of rape. The company’s stance on its former operations in Guatemala can be accessed on its website.

Rape: A Weapon of Corporate Warfare

In 2010, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon invited CEO’s and Corporate Executives the world over to join in the fight to end violence against women and girls – but what about corporations that are perpetrating, and at the very least permitting, violence against women?

Over the past decade, more and more cases of corporations complicit in violence against women have surfaced across the globe, particularly in the extractive industry. Anvil Mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo provided transportation (planes and vehicles) to the Congolese Armed Forces as they raped and tortured civilians near Anvil’s Dikulushi copper mine. Unocal Oil Corporation was sued for permitting (and arguably encouraging) rape, slave labor, murder, and forced displacement during the constructing of their gas pipeline in Burma. Royal Dutch Shell Oil is infamous for suppressing protests against their operations in Nigeria in the early 1990s, during which the military systematically targeted Ogoni villages, murdering, looting, and raping Ogoni women – on behalf of Shell’s operations.

An overwhelming number of lawsuits against extractive corporations that cite human rights abuses include rape and sexual assault of women. Rape has been used as a weapon of war for centuries, and was deemed a war crime in 1998 as a result of the Rwandan genocide. According to UNICEF, “Sexual violation of women erodes the fabric of a community in a way that few weapons can. Rape’s damage can be devastating because of the strong communal reaction to the violation and pain stamped on entire families. The harm inflicted in such cases on a woman by a rapist is an attack on her family and culture, as in many societies women are viewed as repositories of a community’s cultural and spiritual values.” Albeit on a smaller scale, corporations are waging wars against communities, and using sexual violence as a weapon.

 

Bakken: the Sex Trafficking Boom

While many of these cases happen internationally, extractive corporations have not excluded the United States from this trend of gender-based human rights abuses. The Bakken oil formation in North Dakota has boomed – over the past five years, it has increased daily production of oil from 200,000 barrels to 1.1 million barrels, becoming the second most oil-productive state in the country. Thousands of highly-paid workers have flocked to the region, settling in “man camps” that encroach upon the Native American Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation. The combined influx of cash and oil workers has sparked a considerable crime wave – crime has tripled on the reservation in the past 2 years, including murders, aggravated assaults, rapes, and robberies – 90% of which are drug related. Most alarmingly, a burgeoning illegal sex trade in the region has put Native American women hugely at risk to sex trafficking.

The trafficking of Native American women started in the colonial era, and has not abated – many major sex trafficking centers in North America are in cities in proximity to First Nations reserves, Indian Reservations, and Alaskan Native communities. Of female trafficking victims in the U.S., Native American women are disproportionately over-represented – in Anchorage, 33% of the women arrested for prostitution were Alaska Native, yet Alaska Natives make up only 7.9% of the population. In Canada, researchers have found that 90% of children in the sex trade were Native, and First Nations women and youth represent between 70 and 90% of the visible sex trade in areas where the Aboriginal population is less than 10%.

Reports of Native American women and girls being trafficked to the Bakken has put the Three Affiliated Tribes community on high alert – according to Sadie Bird, director of the Fort Berthold Coalition Against Violence, “We’re in crisis mode, all the time, trying to figure out…these new crises that are coming to us that we never thought we’d have to worry about. No one was prepared for any of this.” While trafficking has been a concern among Native populations in Minnesota and North Dakota for a long time, what’s unique about the spike in sex trafficking in the Bakken is its source of fuel – the oil workers.

How have companies operating in the Bakken responded to this trend? They haven’t. Companies including Apache, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Hess have taken zero responsibility for their workers’ collusion in the growing sex trade, increased drug violence, and general crime wave in Fort Berthold over the past two years, let alone the rest of the Bakken region.

Sadie Young Bird, the director of the Ft. Berthold Coalition of Domestic Violence, listens during a breakout session during the 2014 statewide summit on human trafficking put on by North Dakota FUSE at the Bismarck Civic Center in Bismarck, N.D. on Thursday, November 13, 2014. photo credit: Carrie Snyder / The Forum]

Sadie Young Bird, the director of the Ft. Berthold Coalition of Domestic Violence, listens during a breakout session during the 2014 statewide summit on human trafficking put on by North Dakota FUSE at the Bismarck Civic Center in Bismarck, N.D. on Thursday, November 13, 2014. photo credit: Carrie Snyder / The Forum]

 

Zero Corporate Social Responsibility

There is no indication that companies are having any substantive conversations about the impacts of their operations in the Bakken region. This trend of neglecting social risks, as companies in the Bakken have done repeatedly, has permeated corporate interactions with the communities they impact across the globe.

In the example of the Hudbay Minerals case in Guatemala, the company could have avoided its current legal challenges, had it given stronger attention to the social risks involved with acquiring Skye Resources. Despite making a number of community investments (link), the company remains exposed to financial, legal, and reputational risks related to the actions of its predecessor in the concession.

Hudbay is not the only one with poor social risk management. First Peoples Worldwide’s Indigenous Rights Risk Report found that only 8% of U.S. oil, gas, and mining companies have operating policies that address human rights or community relations. According to the report, virtually all communities that host or are proximate to extractive projects are unprotected from the project’s potential negative impacts – as we’ve seen, given case after case of corporate abuses against women.

 

The Price of Cooperation

Corporations can’t get much worse than perpetrating violence against women – except when they attempt to bribe their victims to keep quiet. Barrick Gold’s Porgera gold mine has produced more than 16 million ounces of gold since 1990, an amount equivalent to about US$20 billion today. To protect the mine, Barrick employed a private security force of nearly 450 personnel, who also monitor the mine’s waste dumps. Hundreds of local people scour the waste dumps daily in search of minute traces of gold, at the risk of arrest by the company’s security officers.

At least 170 women have allegedly been raped at the Porgera mine as of 2013, by those same security officers employed by Barrick Gold. A report from Human Rights Watch recounts horrifying stories of gang rape and physical abuse, in the name of “protecting” the waste dumps from illegal mining. Many women reported that after they were arrested, they were given a choice between gang rape or going to prison and paying fines. Several were raped regardless of their choice to go to prison.

It allegedly took Barrick Gold 5 years to acknowledge the rapes. In 2013, the company set up a grievance process at the mine site to receive complaints from the rape victims – allegedly forcing women to return to the site of their attack. In Barrick Gold’s remediation strategy, if womens’ reports of rape were validated by the company’s complaints process, they qualified to receive a benefits package – on the condition that “the claimant agrees that she will not pursue or participate in any legal action against [Barrick Gold or its subsidiaries] in or outside of [Papua New Guinea].” Barrick Gold’s conditional remediation package, including items such as access to counseling and micro-credit, is an appallingly inhuman response to the rape of 170 women.

Not surprisingly, a chillingly similar case occurred at Barrick Gold’s North Mara mine in Tanzania, where police and security guards sexually assaulted 14 women, originally arrested for also scouring waste dumps for tiny bits of gold. This is in addition to allegations that security police at the North Mara mine killed six local villagers and injured many more.

Barrick Gold has repeatedly made systemic failures in both recognizing and addressing the social risks of their mining operations, and at this point, hundreds of people have faced sexual assault and violence because of it.

 

Corporate Warfare

Imagine if we were to add Barrick’s number of rape victims to those attributed to Hudbay Minerals, Shell, Anvil Mining, and Unocal Oil. Then, we accounted for every sex trafficking victim in the Bakken, whose exploitation was supported by various extractive corporations’ employees. To be thorough, we add in the number of murder, torture, and assault victims linked to corporate abuses. War has traditionally been defined as conflict between political entities – yet if we consider corporations collectively, is their accumulation of victims and use of force not increasingly similar to warfare?

Account after account of gender-based violence is adding up to a war – waged by corporations, against women. Their weapon of choice: rape, sex trafficking, and violence, all for the sake of the bottom line.

 

Feb24

Mount Polley Mine: ‘Indigenous Law’ Will Now Be Enforced

This article has been reposted from Triple Pundit, originally published February 23, 2015

By Jan Lee

The negative effects of extractive industry operations on indigenous communities have been obvious for quite some time.

Studies show that the rights of Native communities are often at risk in such settings, especially when hydraulic fracturing and other crude oil-related developments are being operated on or near their lands.

What is often less reported however, are the dangers that Native peoples face from overlooked mechanical or structural failures where materials or waste compounds are stored in remote areas.

Images from NASA showcase the contaminated water that surged from the bright blue retention basin into nearby lakes when the mine collapsed. [photo credit: Triple Pundit]

Images from NASA showcase the contaminated water that surged from the bright blue retention basin into nearby lakes when the mine collapsed. [photo credit: Triple Pundit]

Mount Polley: Canada’s Worst Mining Spill

That danger was illumined in brutal clarity last August when a tailings pond in British Columbia, Canada failed, spewing 2.5 billion gallons of waste into nearby waterways. The Mount Polley Mine, located in B.C.’s vibrant Cariboo region sits amidst the province’s Fraser River watershed, an essential resource not only to the Vancouver Mainland, but to the Neskonlith Indian Band and nearby towns of the Cariboo. First Nations communities along the Fraser River and its tributaries depend on the rivers and lakes for food, water and livelihood. In many cases, access and the right to manage those resources are protected by treaty or another type of agreement with the government. In this case, sovereign rights of the Secwepemc First Nation (Shuswap First Nation in English), which includes the Neskonlith band, are protected through a reconciliation agreement with the Province of British Columbia.

The spill, reported to be the largest industrial accident of its kind in Canadian history, flowed into nearby waterways, polluting Polley Lake and creating a four-month-long drinking ban for local communities. Cleanup was estimated to cost $200 million.

This January, the results of the first of three investigations into the spill was released. The fact that the spill was caused by a failure of the pond’s earthen containment wall was visually evident from aerial photos. But the assessment of what caused the breach sent a chilling wake-up call to Native communities situated around North American ore mining sites.

“[The] dominant contribution to the failure resides in the design,” said the three-expert panel charged with determining the reason for the breach. “The design did not take into
account the complexity of the sub-glacial and pre-glacial geological environment” below the dam, which breached when stresses underneath it changed. For unknown reasons, the structural design for the containment pond had been changed at the last minute to an option that appears to have been “flawed.” The loading conditions of the pond didn’t take into consideration geological factors that would be essential to the long-term integrity of the containment walls. When the wall collapsed, the breach was sudden and unstoppable, creating a swath of heavy metals, mud and debris that penetrated nearby water systems.

Even before the cause of the breach was known, Native communities in other parts of the province began to speak out against mining operations on their lands.

“The spill’s ramifications rippled to Imperial’s Red Chris mine in northern BC, where elders from the Tahltan Central Council (with whom the company previously had a positive working relationship) established a blockade to voice their concerns about the potential of a similar incident in their territories,” stated First Peoples Worldwide in their Corporate Monitor post last September. In order to continue operations, the company was forced to sign an agreement that would allow third-party inspection of the operation under the band’s auspices.

Similar concerns were voiced in other parts of western Canada as well. In July, just days before the dam broke, Toronto-based Seabridge Gold obtained environmental certificate for its $42 billion KSM mining operation at the northwest corner of B.C. Weeks later, with news of the breach still in international spotlight, KSM bowed to pressure to allow third-party oversight for the life of the operation. Geologic studies suggest that the area possesses the same sub-glacial mining risks as the Mount Polley mine.

New Mining Policies for First Nations’ Lands

The provincial government has since delayed the release of the final report until 2017. The announcement, along with revelations of the avoidable cause of the breach, only heightened the frustration of Native communities in B.C.

Realizing that it would be essentially powerless to prevent any similar disasters without a conclusive report that could spur the industry and province into remedial action, the Secwepemc took what some might feel was a bold step: It invoked its rights as a sovereign First Nation of Canada and evicted Imperial Metals from its land. It also announced that it now had mining policies of its own, and would enforce from hereafter.

”One thing I want to make perfectly clear is this policy isn’t a wish-list,” said Jacinda Mack when the policies were announced. Mack serves as the the council coordinator for the Secwepemc Nation. “This is Indigenous law.”

The 55-page document spells out in specific terms the responsibilities of the mining company and the rights of the First Nation to oversee and enforce those guidelines. It invokes the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Rights to define the Native peoples’ right to “determine and develop priorities and strategies for the development or use of their lands or territories and other resources.” It also defines its right to close the mine and evict mining companies as it sees fit.

The policies were developed by a third party, the Fair Mining Collaborative, and is now available to all First Nation communities facing the question of mining on their lands.

“Indigenous rights can be defined as “flowing from Indigenous peoples’ historic and sacred relationship with their territories,” says Fair Mining Collaborative.  “These rights are derived from Indigenous laws, cultural practices, customs, and forms of governance.”

Chief Bev Sellars of the Soda Creek Band, which was affected by the tailings pond breach, explained the reason for the policies in more concrete terms. “Since mining arrived in BC First Nations have been ignored and imposed upon,” she stated in an interview with Canadian publication The Tyee. “With this mining policy we can no longer be ignored or imposed upon, and the province and industry can no longer claim they do not know how to work with us …”

Tailing Ponds Risks: A Worldwide Issue

According to studies released by the Center for Science in Public Participation and Earthworks, the conditions that affect the Mount Polley and KSM mining sites aren’t limited to British Columbia.

“There are 839 tailings dams in the United States and approximately 3,500 around the world, according the U.S Army Corps of Engineers and the United Nations, respectively,” the organizations announced in a press release in February. There is currently no international oversight of such mines.

There also aren’t uniform laws protecting Aboriginal rights when it comes to mining operations. First Peoples Worldwide’s 2014 study of extractive industry operations around the world last fall illumined numerous gaps in international policies when it came to indigenous communities and their rights to water, food and other resources when it comes to mining operations.

“Our Indigenous Rights Risk Report identified 73 mining projects on or near Indigenous Peoples lands globally, of which 17 are on or near Native American lands in the U.S.,” said a spokeperson for First Peoples.

It is worth noting that while last fall’s assessment of U.S. mining operations near or on Native American lands suggested that their residents experience less risk from mining operations than in Canada, Native American rights are not necessarily as far-reaching as in Canada. The path to nation sovereignty and community oversight of mining operations is often slower in the U.S., where some Native American populations are still battling the courts regarding environmental justice and climate justice issues.

Mount Polley: Climate Change?

There are numerous takeaway lessons that can be extracted from the Mount Polley catastrophe. While it is geographically more than a thousand miles from Alberta’s Tar Sands, Mount Polley mirrors the very type of environmental disaster that ecologists feared would occur if the Embridge Pipeline were constructed across the watershed. The provincial government turned down the controversial oil pipeline two years earlier because it said it feared among other things, that the pipeline would put this breadbasket of resources at risk. It cited insufficient protections to ensure a spill of far-reaching potential wouldn’t occur. The initial report on the Mount Polley disaster suggests that far-reaching environmental spills can still occur in industries that have prevailed for years and settings that are actively managed, just as they can miles of pipeline that cross desolate terrain.

One question that the report did not address is why there was a shifting of the sub-glacial formation. It is to be assumed that such change can occur over years as a part of the natural ecology of the area, but was this unexpected shift due to melting of glacial formations, and could it be related to climate change? Is this why it occurred at the peak of the Cariboo’s warm weather, and is it a risk we’ll see again with the Northwest’s increasingly warmer and drier summer landscapes? The next two reports aren’t meant to address geologic factors, but with the lessons of the Mount Polley Mine disaster now at hand, and concerns about climate change that is increasing the prevalence of warmer temps, perhaps these are questions worth asking.

To learn more about Triple Pundit, visit their website.

 

 

Feb16

Webequie Chief Speaks about Ring of Fire

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Development of northern Ontario’s Ring of Fire in the near future is looking more and more implausible, as Cliffs Natural Resources, the region’s leading investor, announced intentions to exit the area in late 2014. Cornelius Wabasse, Chief of the Webequie First Nation, says this is because conversations about Ring of Fire development are fixated on accelerating the pace of mining, rather than building a foundation of recognition and respect for First Nations.

Wabasse believes there is a “clear direction for success” in the Ring of Fire, but says three main things must be done for this to happen. First, agreements must be entered with First Nations that recognize and respect their role “in every aspect and dimension of development.” Second, development must coincide with implementation of treaty rights, which continue to be ignored and violated by the Canadian government. Third, social and economic investments must be made in communities to build their capacity to “direct, respond to, and benefit from the potential for development.”

Chief Cornelius Wabasse of the Webequie [photo credit: Huffington Post]

Chief Cornelius Wabasse of the Webequie First Nation [photo credit: Huffington Post]

Sources: Globe and Mail, Huffington Post

This post is excerpted from First Peoples Worldwide’s Corporate Monitor, a monthly report on key trends affecting companies interacting with Indigenous Peoples. To sign up for monthly e-mail updates, click here.

Jan28

The Importance of Inclusiveness

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Following fines and delays at its Pascua-Lama project in Chile, Barrick Gold signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MoU) with twelve Diaguita communities and three Diaguita associations that provides “a six-month period in which mining details will be divulged to the communities for discussion.”

The MoU does not indicate community support for the project, but provides a formalized conduit for dialogue between parties that did not appear to be in place before. The MoU is open to Diaguita communities and associations with recognized status. However, one of the project’s most vocal opponents – the Huascoaltinos – are unrecognized, and thus excluded from the agreement. Such exclusiveness could mitigate the company’s chances of obtaining broad community support. According to Barrick, the Huascoaltinos are “not among the 22 recognized Indigenous Diaguita communities in Huasco province because they are organized as an Agricultural Community under Chilean legislation…While members of this community have objected to the MoU and are opposed to the Pascua-Lama project, Barrick remains open to engagement with the Huascoaltinos on issues of concern to them.”

Sources: Mint Press News

This post is excerpted from First Peoples Worldwide’s Corporate Monitor, a monthly report on key trends affecting companies interacting with Indigenous Peoples. To sign up for monthly e-mail updates, click here.

Jan26

The Importance of Culture

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For several years, the Wixarika Peoples of Mexico have urged First Majestic Silver Corporation to cancel a planned mining project on Wirikuta, a sacred mountain that has been the site of ceremonial pilgrimages for generations. In November 2014, the company made headlines again when a film about the Wixarika’s ongoing struggle was released.

In its response, the company claims to have a “high level of commitment with the communities of the locations where we operate” and is “open to establishing a mutually respectful dialogue with the Wixarika.” The company also claims to be building museums and “improving the area as a tourist destination” to “give the local community long term jobs and improve their standard of living.” It is paramount that the company obtains the Wixarika’s consent for this (as well as the mining project itself), as tourism can impact Indigenous Peoples just as negatively as mining, especially when sacred sites are involved. Additionally, the company donated 761 hectares “to protect the sacred sites of the Wixarika groups.” However, it is unclear if the donated area encompasses Wirikuta, which appears to be the focal point of the Wixarika’s grievance with the company.

Sources: Intercontinental Cry

This post is excerpted from First Peoples Worldwide’s Corporate Monitor, a monthly report on key trends affecting companies interacting with Indigenous Peoples. To sign up for monthly e-mail updates, click here.

Jan13

Canada Launches CSR Strategy

The Canadian government is launching a CSR strategy to enhance the reputation and viability of Canadian companies doing business around the world. The Canadian Minister of International Trade is appointing a CSR counsellor, and has promised to give its ombudsman “some teeth by insisting companies cooperate with the office or lose the support of the government.” The minister asserts that social and environmental responsibility is integral to the “Canada brand” and warns “if you don’t play ball by doing business the Canadian way, then we won’t go to bat for you.”

This is probably a response to the increasingly poor reputation of Canadian companies overseas, particularly in the mining sector. A recent report by the Council on Hemispheric Affairs alleges that “mining operations by Canadian firms across nine Latin American countries are causing serious environmental impacts…as well as forcibly displacing people, dividing and impoverishing communities, making false promises about economic benefits, endangering people’s health, and fraudulently acquiring property. Some who protest such projects have been killed or seriously wounded…others persecuted, threatened or accused of being terrorists.”

Sources: Globe and Mail, The Guardian

This post is excerpted from First Peoples Worldwide’s Corporate Monitor, a monthly report on key trends affecting companies interacting with Indigenous Peoples. To sign up for monthly e-mail updates, click here.

Dec24

14 Grantees to Celebrate in 2014!

Happy Holidays from First Peoples Worldwide! As 2014 comes to a close, we are honored to share just a few of the Indigenous organizations that our Keepers of the Earth Fund supported this year. Totaling $220,059, our grants reached 43 organizations in 29 countries. Every year we are more amazed and thankful for the amazing things Indigenous communities are doing across the globe.

CKGR village of Molapo

CKGR village of Molapo

Ditshwanelo (Botswana) –The Basarwa/San peoples who inhabit the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) in Botswana have faced forcible relocations to designated re-settlement areas, and as a result, their traditional hunter-gatherer lifestyle is at risk. Ditshwanelo, the Botswana Centre for Human Rights, has teamed up with the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) NGO Coalition to develop a program that would help ease tensions between the Basarwa/San tribes and the CKGR authorities. KOEF provided funding to support this initiative, which maps land use in the CKGR and would allow the Basarwa/San peoples to actively take part in the preservation and environmentally-responsible use of the CKGR’s delicate ecosystem. Two drafts of the mapping program have already been presented to the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP), and KOEF’s funding will allow Ditshwanelo to continue its work in land use mapping.

 

AWISH Community Brushing for IVS Rice Project

AWISH Community Brushing for IVS Rice Project

A World Institute for a Sustainable Humanity (AWISH) and the Coalition for Community Transformation and Development (Sierra Leone) – Although AWISH continues to strive to reestablish the Inland Valley Swamp Rice network in Sierra Leone after a decade of civil war, it has been severely hampered by the Ebola epidemic. Working alongside the CCTD, the coalition deployed Ebola prevention and protection measures through provision of food, water, medicines and disinfectants along with training for mass groups of community peoples on how they can protect themselves against contracting the virus. In this instance, First Peoples Worldwide loosened its usually rigid granting parameters and provided two small grants from Keepers of the Earth Fund in response to an international crisis for humanity.

 

Grand Houroumi Initiative (Algeria/Niger/Nigeria) – Twice per year, the nomadic Farfarou Peoples, along with their life-supporting herds of animals, traverse the Grand Houroumi, a 2,000-kilometer stretch of land through Algeria, Niger, and Nigeria. The Farfarou experience mounting pressures to sedentarize by governments that do not understand the ecological and cultural importance of their lifestyles. With support from KOEF and the ICCA Consortium, the Farfarou are using participatory mapping and modern GPS technologies to delineate the Grand Houroumi. The project is a crucial step towards acquiring recognition of the Farfarou’s collective rights to use and conserve the Grand Houroumi, and will be guided by pulaaku, a code of conduct that emphasizes patience, self-control, discipline, prudence, modesty, respect for others, wisdom, forethought, personal responsibility, hospitality, courage, and hard work.

 

Mission Shalom International (Senegal) – This project serves the Diola Peoples that inhabit the coastal plain between the Gambia and Sao Domingo rivers of Senegambia and Guinea-Bissau. These wet-rice farmers, predominantly women, have a long-established tradition of farming together, growing food to feed their families. Five rural Indigenous women networks in five villages in the Casamance region, supported by Shalom International, conducted community building workshops to rebuild the Diola values system in improving food production, and adapting knowledge and local contexts to conform to Diola values and beliefs.

 

“Sain Tus Center” Business Management Training Course, May 23-24, 2013 – Khuvd, Mongolia

“Sain Tus Center” Business Management Training Course, May 23-24, 2013 – Khuvd, Mongolia

 

Sain Tus Center (Mongolia)Sain Tus Center is located in Mongolia, the country with the largest share of Indigenous peoples in the world. They had a long history of development funding for their community, but wanted to work on a project that focused on the preservation of their traditions. Specifically, they wished to preserve the Uriankhai Tuuli, which is a traditional epic, or story told through song, and has been declared “a tradition in urgent need of protection” by UNESCO. With their KOEF grant, Sain Tus will be able to create a documentary about the Uriankhai Tuuli, teach several school children how to deliver the Tuuli, and film a television program to raise local awareness about their traditions.

 

cordilleralogoCordillera Peoples Alliance (Philippines) – The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) represents the Igorot Peoples of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. The CPA believes that music, dancing, theater, and other forms of cultural exchange are the best methods of preserving traditional knowledge, educating their youth and disseminating information about unwanted development in Igorot territories. KOEF funded the CPA to form a cultural youth group that will prepare and perform cultural productions in eight communities threatened with development aggression throughout the CAR. The final performance will be held on Cordillera Day, which is an annual celebration commemorating the death of Macliing Dulag, who was murdered in 1980 for his opposition to the Chico River Dam Project.

 

Tribes Defenders 2Tribes and Natures Defenders (Philippines) – The project is located at the Higa-onon and Manobo tribal communities. Previously, this community received a grant to support its Hilltop Tribal School project that enabled Filipino children to attend school. With its second grant, TRINAD will implement its sustainable economic development project to reestablish farms destroyed by typhoon Yolanda (internationally known as Haiyan) in order to recover from hunger created by this natural disaster. The basis of this project is recovering the food system based on traditional Higa-onon values and beliefs and capacity-building for community people in implementing a tribal farming system.

 

Centro de Mujeres Aymaras (Bolivia) – Although traditional laws and customs emphasize respect for women in Aymara communities, Aymara women in La Paz, Bolivia frequently experience inequality, discrimination, and abuse. With support from KOEF, the Centro de Mujeres Aymaras will facilitate the written documentation of traditional laws regarding women. They will then spread awareness of these laws to traditional and legal authorities, and to Aymara communities throughout the region, through a combination of seminars, conferences, radio programs, and days of reflection.

 

Fundacion Mujeres del Agua (Venezuela) – In southeastern Venezuela’s Gran Sabana (Great Savannah), the traditional lifestyles of the Pemon Peoples are rapidly transforming due to the influx of mining to the region. As young men go to work in the mining industry and become increasingly influenced by mainstream culture and the cash economy, women are left as the primary guardians of Pemon traditional values, which emphasize peace, self-sufficiency, and respect for the earth. KOEF supported Fundacion Mujeres del Agua to convene gender-focused and culturally-oriented leadership trainings aimed at enhancing the presence of Pemon women in traditional and contemporary political forums throughout the Gran Sabana.

 

img_1883Cultural Survival (Guatemala) – Cultural Survival’s community radio program is designed to unify and strengthen communication among Mayan communities in Guatemala, many of which live in remote and rural areas of the country. KOEF supported Cultural Survival to produce and broadcast radio programs on Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC). The programs, which are developed by community members and aired in Indigenous languages on more than fifty radio stations, informed Mayan communities about their government’s granting of concessions on their traditional territories, alerted them to the potential consequences, and offered strategies for asserting their right to FPIC.

 

downloadIndigenous Lafkenche Community of Llaguepulli (Chile)The Lafkenche-Mapuche peoples of Llaguepulli were already working towards Indigenous autonomy and preservation of their heritage when they began to develop a microfinance institution with the help of Maple Microfinance. With a small school run by the community which teaches students their native Mapudungun language, as well as a history of successful self-managed development, starting their own community financial institution seemed like the next step for the Lafkenche-Mapuche peoples. The community received generous support from several funders, in addition to the funds received from First Peoples. Their KOEF funds will specifically support a stipend for two female community managers to work on the microfinance institution.

 

FamiliaAwUnidad Indigena de Pueblo Awa (Colombia) – The Awa Peoples of southwestern Colombia experience massive and systematic violations of their rights due to the presence of various armed groups in their katza su (territories). KOEF supported the Unidad Indigena de Pueblo Awa to organize a forum of leaders from various Awa reservations to exchange traditional seeds and discuss the history and mythology behind them. The leaders then began the process of planning and creating a self-sustaining Awa farm, which will infuse their traditional farming practices with contemporary permaculture techniques. The farm will serve as a model for other farms in Awa territories, and as a means of combating poor nutrition, environmental degradation, and cultural deprivation in Awa communities.

 

Chickee Completed! [Photo Credit: Seminole Sovereignty Protection Initiative]

Chickee Completed! [Photo Credit: Seminole Sovereignty Protection Initiative]

Seminole Sovereignty Protection Initiative (United States) The Seminole Sovereignty Protection Initiative (SSPI) is a community organization located in Oklahoma that strives to support the local Native peoples, which include the Seminole and Muscogee Creek tribes. KOEF provided funding for the SSPI to participate in the rebuilding of a Seminole chickee—a structure used for housing, cooking, and eating—that had been damaged by a lightning strike. The financial assistance provided by KOEP allowed for the transportation of traditional cypress and palm fronds that were used to rebuild the chickee in time for the 2nd Annual Corn Conference and the 40th anniversary celebration of the International Indian Treaty Council Conference (IITC).

 

Hui Malama I Na Kupuna o Hawai’I Nei (United States)The “Hui” is a Native Hawaiian organization working to identify and repatriate the remains of Native Hawaiian ancestors. The people are ‘Oiwi, which literally means “of the bone” and refers to one’s parents, their parents, and their parents, ad infinitum (ancestry). They believe in an interdependent relationship between themselves and their relatives, and the responsibility of care and protection between the living and deceased. The organization received a second grant to continue its work in identifying Hawaiian skeletal remains, specifically in the collections at Oxford University, Museum of Natural History in England. The organization waited four years for a determination from the University as to whether or not four skulls thought to be Native Hawaiian were indeed Native Hawaiian. Three of the skulls were determined to be Native Hawaiian and two of these were repatriated with funds awarded in the first KOE grant. One of the remaining two was found to be Native Hawaiian and one Egyptian. The second grant was used to repatriate the third skull. By returning the ancestors home for reburial, the Hui restored and strengthened the Native Hawaiian ancestral foundation.

 Stay tuned for more news from FPW in January 2015!

 

 

Nov26

RepRisk Reports on Indigenous Peoples

In September 2014, RepRisk published a report on “the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks businesses face in their encounters with Indigenous communities.” The report identified the sectors and countries that are most exposed to these risks, based on the RepRisk Index, which is a “quantitative risk measure that captures criticism and quantifies risk exposure related to ESG issues. It is based on the number and frequency of the risk incidents captured by RepRisk, the severity and novelty of the criticism or incident, as well as the source of the news.” RepRisk identified the most exposed sectors as food and beverage, forestry, mining, oil and gas, and utilities, and the most exposed countries as Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Peru, and the Philippines. Additionally, the report includes six case studies that “analyze the effects of hydropower in Brazil, tar sands in Canada, forestry in the Democratic Republic of Congo, mining in Guatemala, palm oil in Indonesia, and transgenic crop production in Paraguay.”

Sources: RepRisk

This post is excerpted from First Peoples Worldwide’s Corporate Monitor, a monthly report on key trends affecting companies interacting with Indigenous Peoples. To sign up for monthly e-mail updates, click here.

Mar03

Canadian Mining Industry Recognizes the Benefits of Transparency

In January 2014, the Canadian mining industry released recommendations on mandatory disclosure of payments from Canadian mining companies to governments.  The recommendations, which are endorsed by the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, the Mining Association of Canada, the Revenue Watch Institute, and Publish What You Pay, urge the Canadian government to require publicly-listed Canadian mining companies to disclose their payments to governments around the world.

Companies should embrace transparency for its potential to resolve some of the chronic issues that arise from unaccountable governments.  Frequently, community opposition to resource extraction is fueled by the belief that companies are not equitably distributing the benefits of their operations.  In reality, companies relinquish significant portions of their revenues to governments, but those revenues fail to reach affected communities.  When communities are informed about the distribution of revenues generated from their lands, they are able to gauge when governments, rather than companies, are the reason for their discontent, and direct their grievances accordingly.  Consequently, governments will be pressured to enact policy reforms better suited to “win-win” business models.

Sources: Financial Post, International Council on Mining and Metals