From State of Mine:
Canada is a global mining giant. In fact, it is the world’s major force in mining, dominating the industry on every continent except Antarctica. Fifty-seven per cent of the world’s public mining companies list on the Toronto Stock Exchange, representing over 9990 mining projects world wide.
This giant is growing. In 2007, the TSE financed mining companies to the tune of $17 billion.
Supported by tax breaks and favourable legislation at home, and assisted by official development aid and diplomatic support abroad, mining companies have long found Canada to be *the* place to do business.
Mining, however, comes at an often devastating cost to communities that lie in its path. As resource prices rise, so do the stakes; conflict is escalating.
Canadian mining companies are heavily invested in Africa, and particularly in the DRC. Denis Tougis provides an overview of Canadian mining in Africa in Canada in Africa: The mining superpower.
Canada’s image as a moderate country and disinterested development partner in Africa is now thoroughly outdated.
Zahra Moloo describes some of the documented support for rebel groups and massacres by Canadian mining companies in Canada’s Contribution to Congo’s Wars:
The Congolese government surprised many when it announced early last year that it would be conducting a review of 63 mining contracts that were signed during the Second Congo War.
The review aimed to revisit the conditions under which mining concessions and contracts were granted during the bloodiest years of the conflict, which is also known as Africa’s World War, during which as many as 5.4 million people have been killed since 1998.
It is expected that the review will call for the re-negotiation of about 25 mining contracts and the possible cancellation of about 22 others. The release of the review was originally scheduled for October, but has been delayed since fighting broke out in the east of the country, displacing about half a million people.
The Second Congo War was fueled in large part by a scramble for resources. The war involved eight African states, multiple rebel groups and several very powerful multinational companies, among them Canadian companies. The war officially came to an end in 2003; conflict remains prevalent throughout the country; and according to the International Rescue Committee, 45,000 people die each month from war-related causes.
Moloo provides examples of Canadian mining companies’ involvement in funding and supporting the violence:
Anvil Mining employees were taken to Congolese courts
in June 2007 over allegations that they had provided logistical assistance and ground transportation to the Congolese Armed Forces during an assault on a fishing town called Kilwa in October 2004 in which 70 to 100 civilians were killed.
According to a report by MiningWatch Canada and Entraide Missionnaire, the company’s vehicles were used, among other things, to remove corpses in the aftermath of the assault.
Despite multiple eyewitness testimonies, the company employees were acquitted.
The report revealed that in 2002, AngloGold Ashanti – a company partnered with Canada’s Barrick Gold – was negotiating with two rebel groups, the UPC (Hema Union des Patriotes Congolais) and the FNI (Front des Nationalists Integrationnistes) to have access to gold-abundant areas that were out of control of the central government in Kinshasa.
At the time, these rebel groups were carrying out massacres of civilians in the hundreds; The UPC killed about 800 civilians from late 2002 to early 2003, while the FNI forces killed some 500 civilians in May 2003 in a “48-day war.” In return for granting concessions to the company, the FNI were provided with logistical, transportation and housing assistance.
Moloo’s article was written this November. One has to wonder about the timing of the recent escalation of violence. What is the relationship between the October escalation of violence and the planned October release of the review of the mining contracts?
Moloo has also written an excellent history of mineral exploitation in the Congo: The Democratic Republic of Congo’s Economic War: Investigating the Origin of Anonymous Commodities in the Global Capitalist System.
Mikhael Missakabo writes in Congo-Kinshasa: Footprints And Paradoxes of Canadian Mining:
According to Alain Denault, author of ‘Noir Canada: Pillage, corruption et criminalité en Afrique’, Canadian mining firms operating in Africa are involved in levels of abuse worse than those perpetrated by the former colonial empires.
Today, Canadian firms own in excess of $300 billion worth of assets in the DRC, most of it acquired through dodgy contracts signed with mining parastatals.
Approximately 60% of mining companies operating in Africa are Canadian-owned or funded with Canadian capital. Everywhere that mining takes place in Africa there are serious problems. These challenges are not only socio-economic. They are also ecological, and the impact on human rights. Obviously, Africa does not deserve that which is good for Canada, an attitude which seems to pervade the decisions and actions of companies operating in the continent.
One wonders why the legal and moral obligations that apply to mining companies in Canada are not applicable in the tropics. It is obvious that the mining companies’ primary objective is profit. But this should not preclude the respect for the engagement conditions of host countries. These companies largely resort to means that would be scarcely acceptable in Canada: rapacious financial practices, human rights violations, violations of ecological standards, stockpiling of undervalued resources. All of these place the future of Africa at risk.