Press Responses: September 19, 2007

Stop 'rogue' Canadian mining operations abroad, MP urges

Mike De Souza
CanWest News Service

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

OTTAWA - The federal government should immediately crack down on the unethical and destructive practices of Canadian mineral extraction companies that profit from weak laws and regulations in developing companies, NDP foreign affairs critic Alexa McDonough said Wednesday.

At a joint news conference with representatives from an advocacy group and a mining industry watchdog, McDonough said the Harper government is dragging its feet on the issue, six months after a government task force issued a call for intervention.

The task force, a round table of experts focused on general issues of corporate responsibility, called for a new standard for Canadian companies and the appointment of an independent ombudsman to verify compliance.

"It doesn't have to be this way," said McDonough, who just returned from a fact-finding trip to Honduras, noting that there were many examples of "rogue" companies with destructive mining practices operating in the Central American country.

"In Honduras, their (impacts) included water polluted with arsenic and cyanide, and at least one community displaced from their land to a situation of uncertain tenure."

The majority of mining companies are good corporate citizens and want the task force's recommendations implemented, the MP said. But although she said the parliamentary secretary to the foreign affairs minister assured her last spring that the government would act within weeks, no action is yet apparent.

A spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier referred questions to International Trade Minister David Emerson, but a spokesperson for Emerson said he needed to get updated on the file.

Mary Durran, an advocacy and research program officer at the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, stressed that the task force recommendations were widely praised as a consensus accepted by the industry and civil society. She added that most of the locals in Honduras have lost faith in the industry.

"I don't think we met one person who said, 'Mining is important to our economy,'" said Durran. "Nobody seems to think it will be the end of the world if mining companies would leave."
© CanWest News Service