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Canadian Miners, Explorers Taken to Task by African NGOS

Financial Times

October 10, 2006

A call has been made to the Canadian government by African civil society organisations for it to regulate Canadian mining companies operating internationally.

In a communique released Monday, NGOs, members of the African Initiative on Mining, Environment and Society (AIMES) and academics from Cameroon, Congo Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Zambia and Zimbabwe called on the Canadian government to "develop mechanisms that will influence and regulate companies from the country involved in mining, oil and gas exploration which are reportedly perpetuating gross human rights violations'.

"Africa has become one of the major destinations for Trans-national mining companies, following liberalization of the mining sector about two decades ago. Canada is one of the leading countries that play host to mining companies operating in Africa,' said the communique. "While some of these companies may be contributing to national and community development in their areas of operations several of them have been severely implicated in cases of human rights violations and environmental abuses such as destruction of farmlands, water resources, protected forests, injuries and threats to death.'

The communique follows an Africa-wide meeting on communities affected by mining organised by Third World Network-Africa and hosted by Environmental Rights Action (ERA) in September in Port Harcourt, Nigeria.

At the meeting, communities from Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Tanzania gave harrowing testimonies of human rights violations, environmental abuses and livelihood destructions perpetrated by Canadian mining companies.

"Nearly all of these companies including non-Canadian ones and national governments rely on voluntary mechanisms, especially in Africa where the standards of operations are low, for addressing community interest, livelihood challenges, environmental and human rights abuses. However, the systematic pattern, pervasiveness and persistence of these violations and abuses in the areas of their operations in Africa are pointing to the failure of voluntary mechanisms and national regulating standards,' said the communique.

It said the need for the Canadian government to intervene was "compelling and imperative due to three factors as follows: Africa was endowed with relatively large mineral and petroleum potentials and yet the least economically developed continent; it was a continent with weak extractive sector governance, policy and regulatory framework; and Canadas own image as a beacon of good values, democracy, good governance and champion of peace would be severely undermined by the activities of Trans-national mining companies incorporated in Canada or listed on Canadian Stock Exchanges.'

"We therefore wish to call on the Government of Canada to use the opportunity offered by its own multi-stakeholder processes to develop mechanisms for influencing and regulating mining companies that are listed and or home to Canada but operating internationally in particular Africa,' said the communique.

Whether the respective Governments in the African countries cited will agree with this assessment by NGO groupings basically opposed to mining, remains to be seen, but where abuses are substantiated, companies and governments need to take rapid action.

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