Saturday, December 8, 2007

Corporate rights trump human rights - alleged that Canadian Barrick Gold security forces intentionally buried alive 52 artisanal miners in Tanzania.

Harper visits a foreign Barrick Gold operation for a second time this year

DAR ES SALAAM, TANZANIA, November 30, 2007: The Stephen Harper government is working quietly to stifle legislation in the Senate that would force companies like Barrick Gold, whose controversial operations he visited here this week, to respect human rights and the environment.

Harper had visited a Barrick operation in Chile in July. There, he met with company officials overseeing the Pascua-Lama mining project, which straddles the mountain border with Argentina and has been condemned by Chileans, as well as international environmentalists. In Tanzania, Barrick is strike-bound and the source of massive public protests for its employment and environmental practices. The Bulyanhulu Gold Mine there was the site of massive displacements of small-scale artisanal miners in the 1990s, and it is alleged that 52 of these miners were intentionally buried alive by company security forces.

"There is nothing more contested than resource extraction in the developing world," Gerry Barr of the Canadian Council for International Cooperation told . "Developing countries give up a lot and get very little out of resource extraction, so it is a zone of intense social debate in Tanzania, no less so than anywhere else." He said a government review is underway there that may result in stricter rules for mining companies. "Until recently the nation has been very very permissive, with very modest royalties coming to the Tanzanian state as a result of mining."

Meanwhile Chile"s lawmakers are demanding a review of the Pascua- Lama project, where critics charge that three glaciers near the site have already shrunk by up to 70 percent due Barrick"s exploratory activities. Andes Mountains indigenous groups have complained to the Organization of American States that environmental damage from the mine will ruin their lands.

"The thing that has us scratching our heads is not so much that Mr. Harper is visiting resource extraction centres in the developing world but that his government has maintained a silence on the outcomes of a very remarkable process sponsored by its own Department of Foreign Affairs - a round table dialogue on resource extractions." He says the group "produced remarkable consensus-based recommendations." Representatives from industry, civil society groups and government "all agreed Canada needs a national corporate social responsibility framework with the expectation that all Canadian operators would comply with a key set of principles that would take account of human rights, labour standards, and a host of other issues including environmental impact and the rights of indigenous populations and communities to benefit from development."

Harper uses Senate to block Parliamentary legislation

At the same time, the Harper Conservatives are using procedure to block the the Canadian Senate from ratifying a bill that might put fetters on companies like Barrick. Bill C-293, the Development Assistance Accountability Act, is a private member"s bill that received third reading in the House of Commons last March but has not gone to the Senate for approval due to government opposition.

Here is the full article.