Anakbayan, anti-mining groups, denounce OceanaGold ‘bullying’ tactics

Community News & Features Jun 13, 2016 at 8:56 pm
Jennifer Moore (fourth from left) of Mining Watch Canada.

Jennifer Moore (fourth from left) of Mining Watch Canada.

By Lui Queano

ANAKBAYAN, a militant youth organization in Toronto strongly denounced along with several anti-mining activists, Canadian-Australian mining company OceanaGold’s “bullying” tactics against El Salvador and the Philippines at a June 9-rally held in front of the Fairmont Royal York Hotel where the mining company’s shareholders meeting was held.

The group of 40 anti-mining activists were protesting OceanaGold for suing El Salvador for US$250 million at a World Bank tribunal after it failed to obtain a mining permit from the Salvadoran government. Previous Salvadoran governments have committed not to issue mining permits in response to a nationwide opinion poll opposition to metal mining that found 80% Salvadorans not in favor of the mining projects there.

“Aside from the environmental issues, mining operations often involve a lot of human rights violations and often indigenous people, are being forcibly displaced. Those who stay are subjected to unhealthy living conditions, while those who resist are suppressed by paramilitary forces,” Lesley Valiente of Anakbayan Toronto said in a statement read during the protest rally.

Ysh Cabana, Lesley Valiente and Kim Abis of Anakbayan-Toronto

Ysh Cabana, Lesley Valiente and Kim Abis of Anakbayan-Toronto

According to Valiente the instances of mining and land disputes in El Salvador, in Canada, in Guatemala and in the Philippines are not isolated events. “These constitute a a pattern of imperialist powers aggressively taking resources from around the world, destroying communities, and violating human rights in the name of profit and capital.

“And this has been made possible by the pressure from the imperialist countries for developing nations to sign on to unequal bilateral or multilateral trade agreements,” Valiente added.

Foreign corporations could sue governments for millions of dollars provided for under international investment agreements such as TransPacific Agreement (TPA), the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and others. These foreign corporations can do so if they can argue that a change in domestic law or policy at national, state or local level will ‘harm’ their investment, known as Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS).

Jennifer Moore, the Latin America Projects Coordinator for Mining Watch Canada, an international organization that does advocacy and policy work around the social and environmental impacts of mining, said in an interview before the rally that last year a delegation from El Salvador met with Canadian government about Canadian companies operating destructive mining operations. But since then there has not been any direct conversation about the matter.

“It’s a global issue and it’s going to take more than dialogue, it’s going to take a lot of protests, it’s going to take a lot of organizing and we know that it is part of the neoliberal agenda of the government that they have been putting in place for 25 years. There are a lot of protests going around the whole free trade framework that allows companies to sue governments when they make decisions they don’t like. And I think we should scrap these agreements not just the ones that have been ratified but to get out of the ones that we’re part of like NAFTA and many other agreements signed that put corporate interests over the people’s interests ” Moore said.

“When Canadians hear about companies that sue governments over public policy decisions that are meant to protect environment and public health, they get pretty outraged. It’s also a threat to Canadians because there are companies that are doing it here. That’s why this is an ongoing campaign in terms of the solidarity work with organizations in El Salvador including growing alliances with Filipino organizations and Australia against OceanaGold’s destructive mining operations,” Moore added.

Connie Sorio  of KAIROS and ICHRP-Canada  speaking at  anti-mining rally in front of the Fairmont Royal York Hotel.  (Photo:  Ricky  Esguerra)

Connie Sorio of KAIROS and ICHRP-Canada speaking at anti-mining rally in front of the Fairmont Royal York Hotel.

Connie Sorio of KAIROS-Canada shared her actual experience when she visited Disdipio, Nueva Viscaya, Philippines where OceanaGold’s large-scale gold mining operation is located. Sorio said that anti-mining advocates and activists in the Philippines have been waging protests against the mining company for years over illegal demolition of homes affected by the construction of tailings pond and contamination of the Didipio River and nearby bodies of water.

“OceanaGold persistently ignored the pleas of the indigenous community who were displaced from their ancestral land, loss of water supplies and people get sick from respiratory illnesses due to the effects of destructive mining on the community and equally destroy our country’s patrimony,” Sorio said.

To date there are 15 environmental activists killed in the Philippines including two anti-mining activists Cheryl Ananayo and her cousin Randy Nabayay from Didipio Eathsavers’ Multipurpose Association (DESAMA), a people’s organization opposing 17,626-hectare gold-copper project of the mining firm OceanaGold Corp in Kasibu, Nueva Viscaya. Nabayay, a small-scale miner, was reportedly killed due to differences with OceanaGold over his property.

Kim Abis of Anakbayan Toronto

Kim Abis of Anakbayan Toronto

President-elect Rodrigo R. Duterte during his victory party held last month in his southern hometown of Davao City declared opposition to big mining firms in the Philippines saying these mining companies have to stop as they are destroying Mindanao particularly in Surigao del Norte where mining operations are rampant. Anti-mining activists await Duterte’s action when he finally sits as the new Phillippine President on July 1, Canada Day.

“But it is not just simply to gather us around here to protest and bring this issue before the annual OceanaGold stockholders’ meeting here in Fairmont Hotel. They will never give in for their interest is served more on profits and capital. We have to be more militant by educating the community so that they will understand the issue of how these mining corporations violate human rights, destroy the land and waters and terrorize community leaders and organizers for corporate interests. We have to educate, organize and mobilize the community to fight and resist,” Kim Abis, another member of Anakbayan Toronto said.

The protest action was convened by the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN), Council of Canadians , MiningWatch Canada, the United Church of Canada, Migrante Canada and Anakbayan Toronto.

Lesley Valiente

Lesley Valiente

Viel Paulo Perida

Viel Paulo Perida

Rev. Tina Conlon (in black eyeglasses) and  Rev. Bob McElhinney (in blue jacket)  United Church and ICHRP-Canada

Rev. Tina Conlon (in dark eyeglasses) and Rev. Bob McElhinney (in blue jacket) United Church and ICHRP-Canada

Anti-mining activists protesting in front of Fairmont Royal York Hotel, site of the OceanaGold shareholders meeting chanting “No More secrets, no more lies! NO TO OCEANA MINES!”  (Photos by Ricky Esguerra)

Anti-mining activists protesting in front of Fairmont Royal York Hotel, site of the OceanaGold shareholders meeting chanting “No More secrets, no more lies! NO TO OCEANA MINES!” (PHOTOS: Ricky Esguerra)

Photo9