Corruption often goes hand-in-hand with large mining projects. Whether it is getting caught bribing officials, or more above-ground methods like campaign finance or the revolving door between industry and government, articles in this section showcase the ways in which decision-makers are incentivized to work outside the public interest.
Mining Corporations will often claim that environmentalists oppose mining operations at the expense of the economic development of the communities they purport to represent. The reality of mining, however, often conflicts with this false dichotomy. Mining often relies heavily on government subsidies for water and energy, and the royalties that mining company’s pay are often significantly less than other industries. In this section you will find testimonies and articles that reveal the true nature of the “economic development” that mining produces.
Gold mining is a highly consumptive and environmentally destructive industry. In addition to the landscapes that is destroys, gold mining (especially open pit gold mining) creates massive amounts of toxic waste that often causes acid mine drainage and heavy metal contamination.
Gold mining and metal processing also uses vast amount of water and energy, often subsidized. It also utilizes dangerous chemicals such as cyanide in its leaching processes, posing a threat to local water systems.
- Acid Mine Drainage
Open pit mining creates great waste for a small yield. On average, it takes 79 tons of waste to extract one ounce of gold, according to a conservative estimate by the No Dirty Gold campaign, a project of EarthWorks and Oxfam. The process involves grinding up ore, and then exposing it to cyanide in order to extract the gold. Sulfides in the crushed rocks interact with air and water to create sulfuric acid, which in turn creates acid mine drainage (AMD). In and of itself, AMD is harmful to ecosystems because it makes water too acidic to support life. Additionally, the sulfuric acid in AMD leaches out other substances from the waste ore, such as arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury, which can have disastrous health effects, and can contaminate both air and water. Gold mining has been linked to 96 percent of the world’s arsenic emissions.
Cyanide is the chemical-of-choice for mining companies to extract gold from crushed ore, despite the fact that leaks or spills of this chemical are extremely toxic to fish, plant life and human beings. Cyanide is a deadly chemical, used in the gas chambers of the Second World War and on death row in the United States between 1930-1980. The chemical has caused havoc in water systems across the world with over 30 spills in the last five years.
- Water Depletion
Water depletion is a major negative consequence of gold mining. The large amount of water required to run a gold mining operation exacerbates its impact on local communities, many of which are already experiencing drought. As well, water is often contaminated by mining operations.
Often the human rights violations at Barrick’s mine site disproportionally impact women and girls. Specifically, Barrick has been accused of, and has even acknowledged, widespread sexual assault at both their Porgera and North Mara mines.
Gold mines are dangerous for both the people surrounding them and the people who work them. Already, 50 people have died working construction on the Pascua Lama project, strikes in Peru have been met with violent police repression, and mine workers in Tanzania have been dismissed en masse for demanding better working conditions.
Human rights abuse used to be the work of repressive governments, but increasingly corporations are getting into the act. Barrick has benefited from a number of these abuses, and their mine security and mine-paid police have taken lives and abused locals in Peru, Tanzania, and Papua New Guinea with regularity. In late 2005, Canada’s Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs lamented that “Canada does not yet have laws to ensure that the activities of Canadian mining companies in developing countries conform to human rights standards, including the rights of workers and indigenous peoples.
An estimated 50 percent of mining operations occur on native lands. For many indigenous people, who often rely on their environment for food and necessities, mining threatens not only their livelihood, but also their traditional way of life. Their lands tend to be vulnerable to encroachment because of their lack of power within their country’s political system; their land and water rights are often ignored while their resources are exploited and their environments destroyed.
Canada, where Barrick is based, is home to 75 percent of the world’s mining and exploration corporations, which run operations across the globe. Despite being a leader in this industry, Canada has not taken the lead on mediating or taking responsibility for the behaviour of their corporations abroad. Meanwhile, other countries have a hit and miss record for enforcing their countries environmental regulations and human rights protections.