Mining, CIDA partnership in Peru is pacification program, not development: Local indigenous rep writes to World Vision, Barrick Gold, CIDA asking them to stop.,
March 5th, 2012
Controversy erupted recently about new funding arrangements announced by the Canadian International Development Agency that would hook CIDA up with the mining industry and have both channelling funds to South America and Africa via a handful of international NGOs.
One of those projects connects CIDA, Barrick Gold, and World Vision in Peru.
But little coverage has focused on the real story behind this ‘development’ initiative targeting community members in the district of Quiruvilca, north-west of the capital city of Lima.
Opposition to Barrick’s presence in the Quiruvilca district goes back several years. For example, on Feb. 9, 2007 some 3,000 people demonstrated against ongoing Barrick operations in the district.
Barrick is currently seeking to open a new open-pit mine in an area known as Laguna Sur. In 2011 the company carried out 366 perforations in a wet zone close to five small lakes that comprise a catchment area providing clean water for some 8,000 farmers downstream.
In response to these developments the municipality of Santiago de Chuco passed an ordinance in June 2011 providing for a conservation zone for the catchment area. Barrick’s response to this ordinance was to immediately contest it by appealing to the Third Constitutional Court in Lima.
Opposition to Barrick’s presence in the Quiruvilca district is mounting. On Feb. 3 a contingent of farmers and rural dwellers from the district walked and caught rides covering a distance of 557 kilometres, and arrived in Lima on Feb. 9 to join thousands of others from across Peru in the National March for Water.
The demands of the national march included a new Peruvian mining law to replace the one instituted by the corrupt Fujimori regime. Quiruvilca-area farmers had their own chant prepared for the mega-march: "Water is life, and we are going to defend our lakes."
Rights trump ‘development’
Having recently caught wind of the World Vision-led project to be financed jointly by CIDA and Barrick Gold, Miguel Palacin, the general co-ordinator of the Andean Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations, sent a strongly worded letter of concern to World Vision-Canada and Barrick Gold headquarters in Toronto, as well as to International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda.
Mr. Palacin represents a group that is the co-ordination nexus for the indigenous organizations of Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru, with a mandate to work to promote and defend the rights of indigenous peoples internationally.
This letter, in part, makes the following points:
“Unfortunately, Canadian mining companies have a bad track record in our [Southern] countries, where companies such as Barrick Gold are the source of many conflicts because of the dispossession of lands, destruction of water sources, and the ignoring of international rights (ILO Convention 169, the UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples, among others), that lead to multiple environmental and social impacts on our communities.
“The solution is not to mediate and negotiate based on what has already been done, and no ‘social works’ carried out with the mining companies can compensate for the damage done, particularly in the face of rights having been violated.
“So for these reasons we ask that you, World Vision Canada/Barrick Gold/CIDA, refuse to take any part in this development policy, and instead that you take responsibility to ensure that Canadian companies respect, and demand that States respect, the rights of the indigenous peoples affected before anyone seeks mining concessions in our countries.”
For this World Vision-led ‘development’ project to go ahead in the district of Quiruvilca in the face of concerted opposition locally and nationally would be tantamount to running a pacification program, and not a development project, in advance of the eventual destruction of a people’s way of life—all for gold.
As Mr. Palacin is strongly suggesting, World Vision-Canada should focus its efforts on Canada. It should join with other organizations working to bring about needed legislation at home to hold Canadian mining companies responsible for damages done abroad.
World Vision-Canada would be welcome to participate in Walking the Talk: Human Rights Abroad, a conference to be held on Parliament Hill on March 16. It’s meant to be a multi-sectoral dialogue (including leaders from the Global South) focusing on corporate practices abroad, and on related international violations of human and environmental rights.
The conference is to discuss NDP MP Peter Julian’s private member’s bill, C-323, which had first reading last fall. The bill would provide international communities with the option to pursue legal recourse in Canadian federal courts. It’s modelled on current US legislation known as ATCA, the Aliens Tort Claims Act.
Rick Arnold was born in Venezuela. He has worked for a number of Canadian international NGOs, and has just retired as co-ordinator for Common Frontiers-Canada, a group that confronts, and proposes an alternative to, the social, environmental, and economic effects of economic integration in the Americas.