RoyalOr Stakes a Claim on Mont-Royal
On Monday May 11th, the mining company RoyalOr formally staked a claim to a large portion of the Mont-Royal park in the heart of downtown Montreal with plans to develop a large scale open-pit gold mine.
RoyalOr surveyors stake a claim to Mont-Royal, in the heart of downtown Montreal.
RoyalOr is composed of members of various communities around the world confronting projects developed by Canadian mining companies — including Barrick Gold, Goldcorp, New Gold, and Osisko. Affected community representatives came to Montreal from the Valle de Siria, Honduras; Valle de Huasco, Chile; Porgera, Papua New Guinea; San Luis Potosi, Mexico; and Malartic, Quebec.
Left to right: Javier Pardo (Argentina/Pascua Lama Project - Barrick Gold), Carlos Amador (Honduras, San Martin Project - GoldCorp), Enrique Rivera Sierra, Cerro de San Pedro Project - New Gold Inc.), and Sergio Campusano (Chile, Pascua Lama Project - Barrick Gold) were among the affected community representatives which took part in staking a claim to Mont-Royal.
By starting an open-pit mining project that would destroy the heart and defining feature of Montreal, the people behind RoyalOr illustrated the legal and governmental support Canadian mining companies enjoy here and abroad.
Daviken Studnicki-Gizbert (second from left), a McGill history professor and one of the organizers behind this event, addressed the crowd saying that they hoped that this would give the people of Montreal "a momentary sense of what it must be like to wake up one morning to a mining company busily at work destroying one’s land and community,”
The act of staking a claim to Mont-Royal’s mineral rights is perfectly legal within the regulations set out in Quebec’s mining code and the claim will be duly filed within the regulations set out in Quebec’s mining code with the Ministere des Resources Naturelles du Quebec.
RoyalOr's claim to the mineral rights on Mont-Royal is perfectly legal according to the regulations of Quebec's mining code.
According to the members of RoyalOr, the problem begins here in Canada where 75% of the worlds mining and exploration companies are headquartered and receive the lion’s share of their financing. Hundreds of millions of dollars come from our public pension funds such as the Canadian Pension Plan and the Caisse de Depot et de Placements. They take advantage of strong tax incentives and the permissive rules of the Toronto Stock Exchange. They also benefit from active financial support of the Canadian government through its Crown Corporation, Export Development Canada, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), and strong diplomatic support.
William Sacher (centre) is one of the authors of the book “Noir Canada: Pillage, Corruption et Criminalite en Afrique.” The authors and publishers of this book are currently being sued for libel by Barrick Gold and another gold mining company, Banro Corporation, for a total of $11million. “Noir Canada” brings together and analyzes national and international documents already available to the public concerning various abuses from several Canadian companies working in Africa, in particular in the mining and oil areas.
Canada still has no mechanism to hold its mining companies to legal accountability. Communities that have seen their livelihoods lost and their lands and waters contaminated have no means of seeking justice in Canadian courts. In Canada, debate over whether and how to regulate the mining industry has been stifled by SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) lawsuits launched by Barrick Gold and Banro Corp. against the authors and publisher of the book Noir Canada. The book quotes numerous allegations of violations and abuses committed by Canadian companies in Africa.
Carlos Amador is from the Siria Valley in Honduras, where local residents suffer from a variety of health impacts triggered by the contamination of the water by GoldCorp's San Martin Project. Local farmers and ranchers have seen their farms collapse because of the drying out of the rivers and wells linked to the mine's massive consumption of water. A study by the Honduran government in January 2008 revealed that residents of the Siria Valley contained dangerous levels of mercury, arsenic, and lead that far exceeded permissible levels.
Jethro Tulin, from Porgera, Papua New Guinea, hammers in the final stake to claim the mineral rights of Mont-Royal. Grave allegations of human rights abuses and environmental contamination are associated with Barrick Gold's Porgera open-pit gold mine. The UN special raporteur on corporations and human rights is currently investigating the murders of five individuals as well as a number of rape cases that were alleged to have been committed by the companies private security forces.
Enrique Rivera Sierra is from Cerro de San Pedro, Mexico, where a number of serious allegations of corruption and human righst violations have been reported surrounding a gold mine owned by New Gold (formerly Metallica Resources). In 1996 Baltazar Loredo, the mayor of Cerro de San Pedro, was murdered after opposing the mine project. Enrique Rivera Sierra, a lawyer, was forced to seek asylum in Canada after having been brutally beaten and receiving death threats. The project is currently under investigation by the Commission of Environmental Cooperation which has accepted the citizen's submission which alleges that the Mexican goverment has not enforced its laws on environmental protection.
Nicole Kirouac is from Malartic, Quebec, where Osisko Mining Corporation is currently developing an open-pit gold mine. To do so Osisko will have to relocate over 200 houses and 5 public buildings. The work of relocation began in the summer of 2008 before the company had informed the community at large of the potential consequences of this kind of project and before securing the necessary permits from the government of Quebec.
Albadina Carmora from the Huasco Valley in Chile, where Barrick Gold is planning to open a large-scale open pit gold mine (the Pascua Lama Project) amongst the glaciers of the highest summits of the Chilean Andes. The company has not obtained the formal and legitimate consent of the indigenous Diaguita Huascoaltinos, despite the fact that their ancestral rights in the region have been recognized. In 2005, Chile's national water commission reported that the glaciers which feed the Huasco River had been reduced by between 50% to 70% following Barrick Gold's exploration and development operations. Despite vocal opposition, Barrick continues to develop this project, extending its operations into the traditional lands of the Diaguitas and creating deep splits within their communities by by-passing the authority of their local and regional leaders.
“We feel powerless against these mining companies that come to our lands to destroy our heritage and consume and pollute our natural resources. As natives of our lands, we do not like these companies coming in to take away the very basis of our traditions and our family economy,” explains Albadina Carmona, of the Diaguita Huascoaltino people in the Huasco Valley, Chile.
"The Porgera Mine has destroyed our land, our water, our safety and our ability to feed ourselves," explains Jethro Tulin, an indigenous Ipili and member of the Akali Tange Association, a human rights organization in Porgera, Papua New Guinea. "Now, indigenous land of the villages surrounding Barrick Gold's Porgera open pit mine are being violently evicted by a police and military operation with 200 troops called for by Barrick Gold."
Festivities begin after the final stake has been driven in
Members of RoyalOr break out a bottle of champagne to celebrate their formal claim on the mineral resources on Mont-Royal.
The champagn flows as representatives of communities impacted by Canadian mining companies officially stake a claim to Mont-Royal.
Sergio Campusano, the elected president of the Diaguita Huascoaltino indigenous community in the Huasco Valley of Chile, explains that "in staking the Mont-Royal we want to make Montrealers reject the harms done by Canadian mining companies in our lands and we hope they will also become more active about these conflicts here in Canada."
Gouvernement du Quebec Claim #5-246-894
Steps towards a solution:
In the view of the various organizations that participated in this event, there are ways provide communities with leverage, whether they are facing mining projects here or overseas:
1) Mining code reform.
2) Assuring the accountability of Canadian mining companies operating abroad, through the improvement and then passing of Bill C-300
3) Providing space for a public debate free of the fear of SLAPP suite (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) by the rapid passing and application of the Quebec government’s “Loi no. 9″
For more on communities impacted by the global mining industry, see: Someone Else’s Treasure