Development

Mapping the Reach of Canadian Mining

In Emilie Teresa Smith’s cover story "Oh, Canada!" (Sojourners, May 2015), she describes the results of Canadian mining practices around the world, which include murder, kidnapping, and the destruction of sacred lands. The map below shows just how widespread Canadian mining operations are. There have been moments of success—for instance, a Canadian court ruled that the company Hudbay could be held legally responsible for gang rapes and murders of members of the Indigenous Mayan Q'eqchi' population at its former mine in Guatemala. But the battle to end destructive mining is far from over, and there are many more battles ahead. 

Zoom into this interactive map to capture the scope of mining: More than 2,000 mining projects in 31 countries, generating more than 200 local conflicts. 

Where is the closest mine to you?

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Canada's Shameful Exports

CANADIAN MINING companies have left a trail of destruction around the world—mostly in places where people are poor and vulnerable.

The earliest conflicts caused by Canadian mining exploded in Guatemala in the early 1960s when the nickel company Inco dug into the northern mountainside of Guatemala’s largest freshwater lake, Lago Izabal. Almost 155 square miles of traditional Kekchi-Maya land was expropriated to create Inco’s Exmibal mine. As the region descended into bitter war, Guatemalan oligarchs and their military, with the support of Canadian-mining and U.S. geopolitical interests, exterminated all popular dissent. Dozens of Kekchi leaders were killed or disappeared; four prominent leaders who had published a report condemning the Inco-Exmibal deals were brutally assaulted and two of them assassinated. The Exmibal mine operated for three years before Inco abandoned it, never paying a nickel in royalties to Guatemala.

Meanwhile, in the Philippines, Vancouver-based Placer Dome arrived on Marinduque Island and sunk in a filthy copper mine. Over the next three decades, Placer Dome operated the Marcopper mine, devastating the local environment and its communities. From 1975 to 1991, Placer Dome dumped 200 metric tons of toxic waste into Calancan Bay, and in March 1996 a massive rupture from the tailings pond flooded 60 villages with toxic waste, permanently destroying community lands, rice fields, and shrimp marshes. The Boac River was declared dead, and the U.N. pronounced it a major environmental disaster. The entire Marcopper mine project was abandoned; no major attempt at clean-up ever took place. In 2006, Placer Dome was taken over by the giant, Toronto-based Barrick Gold, one of the world’s largest mining companies. In 2008, the provincial government of Marinduque began a lawsuit, but Barrick has fussed and delayed, dragging the court case on endlessly.

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Oh, Canada!

DOÑA DIODORA STANDS on the side of the mountain, shivering. She’s tending to her skinny cows. A simple adobe hut stands here on the edge of her land in the Guatemalan highlands—“so I can stay and look after the animals,” she says. “But I don’t know what I am going to do about water. They’ve taken away the water.”

Tears drip down out of her good eye. She dries them on a thin sleeve. The other eye socket, shattered where the bullet went through, seeps with yellow pus. “Me siento un poco triste—a little sad,” she explains in her halting, quiet Spanish. It is cold on the mountain, achingly so. And, mysteriously, the water has gone: Old streams and wells are dusty. The cows look ill.

Just down the crumbling mountain, the tailings pond from the Marlin mine glows a weird shade of neon green.

I first heard about the Marlin mine—operated by Vancouver’s Goldcorp—in 2005, before it opened. That year I was going to Guatemala with a youth group from my diocese, and we were warned: Don’t wear anything that identifies you as Canadians. What? Canadians? We’re supposed to be the good guys in the story. Well, not anymore.

The great global economic shift in the mid-1990s, a free-for-all (if you were already rich) of unbridled neo-liberal capitalism, unleashed an invigorated predatory wave of miners—from Canada—all around the planet to sniff out new places to dig. Canada is the place to raise venture mining capital—the heaps of cash needed to fund these monstrously expensive projects.

Canada has few laws or functioning regulations to control investments or protect human rights and the environment far from our shores. Thus it’s not surprising that 75 percent of international mining companies are registered in Canada and 60 percent are listed on Canadian stock exchanges. In Latin America alone there are around 1,500 mining projects, involving 230 Canadian companies.

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NYT Magazine Article Misleads on D.C.'s 'Economic Boom'

Washington, D.C., rowhouses, Kim Seidl / Shutterstock.com

Washington, D.C., rowhouses, Kim Seidl / Shutterstock.com

Annie Lowrey's recent New York Times magazine article "Washington's Economic Boom, Financed by You" provides a stimulating look into Washington, D.C.'s "economic boom" of the last few years. As D.C. residents, many of us encounter the ongoing transformation of our city every day. We know the area's economy has grown about three times as much since 2007 as the country — largely a result of expanded government spending (primarily in the form of two foreign wars). We also know that the greater metropolitan region is one of the richest in the country. As Lowrey noted, the Washington metro area has seven out of the top 10 highest-income counties in the U.S., including the three highest.

However, Lowrey only tells one side of the story — the rich side. The "economic boom" has largely passed by D.C.'s poor and working people. By not mentioning D.C.'s grossly high poverty rates, the article is misleading.

Amid Washington's economic boom, there is also massive economic displacement, increased economic inequality, and higher rates of poverty.

Go Play!

The big red barn on the King family farm in New Hampshire.

The big red barn on the King family farm in New Hampshire.

The big red barn on my family’s farm was built in the 1880’s.

The wood beams (almost nine feet off the ground), were wide enough for my mom, her siblings and a few other kids from nearby homes to run along. One of their favorite games was a modified sort of dodge ball with one person standing on the barn floor taking aim at the others running on the beams.

It was not safe. But...it was a lot of fun.

As kids ourselves, my brother and I tried to imitate this game in the barn and my mother soon got upset with whichever one of our uncles had told us about it.

My brother and I climbed trees much higher than reasonably advisable and spent hours wandering in the woods unsupervised. During the winter we built “jumps” for sledding runs that were dangerous enough that they routinely spilt blood.

Minor injuries were a regular part of our play. And, it was fun.

One Reason the U.S. Must Continue Funding Foreign Aid

"For every 5 percent drop in income growth in a developing country, the likelihood of violent conflict or war within the next year increases by 10 percent. Poverty-focused development assistance supports economic growth, protects vulnerable people, and helps curtail desperation that may lead to violence" (Bread for the World).

On Wednesday, the Senate will vote on the budget for foreign aid. Should the proposed cuts occur, it would prove disastrous for the rest of the world, potentially leaving millions without food, education, and livelihood.

Please, contact your Senators today and tell them to continue funding poverty-focused development assistance.

News: Morning Quick Links

Social justice index: USA No. 27 of 31. Democrats in Congress attempt to eat on $4.50 a day to protest potential budget cuts. Republicans shift focus from jobs to God. OpEd: Obama, the G20 and the 99 percent. In Congress, the rich get richer. The Shadow Superpower. And the U.S. sues South Carolina over immigration law.

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