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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