Canadian Mining Mischief in the Americas

Several stories on Canadian mining companies here. An urgent action we are republishing on EnCana in Ecuador, and some information on a Canadian Company in Guatemala. The Ecuador first:

URGENT ACTION

Environmental Irresponsibility, Corruption and Human Rights Abuse: Canada's EnCana Corporation's contribution to Ecuadorian Development

TAKE ACTION AGAINST CORPORATE ABUSE

Canada's largest private oil company, EnCana Corporation, in their Ecuadorian operations is violating the very principles that it has sworn to uphold in their offshore business ventures. Not only is it causing severe environmental damage, it is violating democratic principles and human rights in the communities in which they work. For these reasons Accion Ecologica (Ecological Action) an Ecuadorian environmentalist organization,is calling upon EthicalFunds to disinvest in EnCana, whose business practices are clearly unethical.

Background

EnCana is the largest foreign investor in Ecuador's oilfields with large land holdings in the Northern Amazonian region and a 31.4% share in the heavy crude pipeline (OCP) being built from the Amazon to the Coast. The OCP is slated to be finished in September of this year shipping 450,000 barrels of heated crude petroleum per day. ("In Whose Interests" Dr. Leslie Jermyn Global Aware Cooperative http://www.globalaware.org)
Through its longstanding operations in the Ecuador EnCana has gained a reputation for environmental contamination and social disruption. Despite its horrendous environmental record it was granted concession in the Tarapoa Block in Sucumbios Province in the late 1990s which has a surface of 36,000 hectares of which approximately 15,000 hectares fall within the unique and fragile Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve. (Matthew McClearn "Down the Tube" Canadian Business Magazine February 17th, 2003).

The Present Situation

EnCana Corporation has a reputation for environmental and social consciousness within the investment community of Canada. The company claims to uphold certain values, one of which is to ensure that their activities are consistent with sound environmental management and conservation practices...

...However, a report released on September 13th, 2002, and written by the actual author of the World Bank's main social and environmental safeguard policies, Robert Goodland, substantiates the ways in which the OCP pipeline has violated World Bank environmental and social standards. The report concluded that alternative routes were not adequately considered, as it was decided on before the environmental impact assessment of the pipeline was even completed.

The chosen route of the pipeline has raised wide-spread opposition as it encroaches on indigenous territories, and cuts through 11 protected ecological reserves, among them the Mindo Nambillo Reserve, with its high concentration of endangered bird species. The OCP pipeline crosses 94 seismic fault lines and landslide areas making the possibility of oil spills extremely high. The Environmental Coordinator of the OCP estimates that a single rupture could spill 3050 barrels of oil before being controlled.

Just recently, on March the first the OCP consortium's environmental protection officer confirmed that the at the OCP's main Amazonian pumping station 60 barrels of crude petroleum were spilled during the TESTING PHASE of the station's operations.

Communities that live along the pipeline's route are extremely worried about the threat it will pose when running at full capacity (El Comercio Monday 3rd of March, 2003).
EnCana is also in the process of developing its oil reserves in the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve. According to scientific study the Cuyabeno Reserve is one of great importance due to its high level of biodiversity. The reserve alone contains fourteen unique ecosystems, some of which are without par in the world. (Valencia, 1994). Cuyabeno plays an important role as a refuge to several endangered bird, mammal and fish species. The Reserve is so fragile that one spill could destroy the entire area.

EnCana is now in the process of seismic testing which consists of around 6000 dynamite detonations within the Reserve (Author's calculation). The detonations damage subterranean aquifers which are the fundamental source of water for the ecologically and biologically unique lake system of the region. The testing furthermore uses highly invasive technology, which requires clear-cutting of vast areas of forest, destruction of the delicate tropical topsoil, and vegetation. The seismic testing undertaken by EnCana is unconstitutional, since it undermines articles 86, 88 and 23 (6) of the Ecuadorian Constitution. It also infringes on Principles 3 and 15 of the Rio Declaration on the Environment and Development, to which Ecuador is a signatory.

EnCana vowes to ensure meaningful and transparent consultation with all stakeholders and to integrate their corporate activities with local communities as good corporate citizens...

...However, the company's presence has been detrimental in dividing native communities whose ancestral territory lies within the reserve. A document released to the press in January of 2003 by two of the four remaining Siona communities, Biana and Orahuaya, stated that they were not consulted in the negotiation process between The Organization of the Siona Indigenous Nation (ONISE) and EnCana. The contract between the two is therefore illegal according to Ecuadorian Constitutional Law which grants communities the right to consultation.

Complaints filed by residents living in Encana's oil concession blocks regarding recent contamination of water and severe air pollution that kills their crops as a direct result of Encana's activities have not been responded to (FOCAN: Federation of the Peasant Organizations of Aguas Negras).

Due to severely contaminated water supplies, residents in oil-producing areas report frequent skin problems, birth defects and the highest rate of cancer and malnutrition in the country.

Encana has furthermore stated its principle not to make improper payments and bribes and that it will refrain from participating in any corrupt business practices...

...But local groups claim that instead of providing social services the company has used it's Foundation Nanpaz (Road to Peace) as a means to buy off leaders of community organizations with jobs in the foundation, thus perpetuating the 'divide and conquer' techniques it is known for. On Saturday, January 25th the Ecuadorian press revealed that ONISE gave each member of only the two Siona communities that supported EnCana $1, 162 USD in exchange for their support. (El Comercio, January 25, 2003.)
EnCana claims to support and promote the protection of international human rights within its sphere of influence...

...Yet in the spring of 2002 a peaceful occupation of the treetops of Mindo by local residents as well as national and international supporters was broken up by police. The protests resulted in the arrest of 29 protesters both national and foreign who were transported to jail in OCP private buses, and the deportation of 17 activists, including Canadians, who blockaded the OCP pipeline route.

Over 200 affected people met with Ecuador congressmembers complaining of intimidation and imprisonment, police brutality, women and children being assaulted by police, battering with machine guns, and police throwing tear-gas canisters into occupied homes, provincial authorities and the Interior Minister claimed that he could not be held responsible for police actions because the police were under the control of, and paid by the EnCana-led OCP Consortium. ("Goodland Report," September 13, 2002.) It was later discovered that the same OCP security forces that detained the environmentalists were actively involved and later imprisoned for their involvment in drug trafficking (La Hora Thursday, January 30, 2003). Allegations have recently arisen that the judge in charge of handling the environmentalist's legal case against the OCP has received several threats both written and verbal (Accion Por La Vida, Mindo, Ecuador).

The tactics employed by the EnCana-led consortium to obtain illegitimate 'consent' for development on indigenous territories has divided families and communities. Added to this, the invasion of migratory workers and the loss of traditional land tenure systems leads to gross violations of the fundamental rights indigenous peoples hold under international agreements such as ILO 169 and the UN Declaration on Human Rights to which Ecuador is signatory.

For the above stated reasons, including disregard for environmental standards, the improper use of funds, manipulation, and violation of human rights, Accion Ecologica (Ecologica Action) believes that EnCana should not be listed as an an ethical fund in the investment market. Canadians need to become aware of the impact Canadian business has abroad and if their own money is fueling this process of abuse.

RECOMMENDED ACTION:

Please send appeals urgently in your own words calling of EthicalFunds to deinvest their shares in EnCana.

To:
Robert Walker
Vice President, SRI Policy & Research
Ethical Funds Inc.
1441 Creekside Drive, 8th Floor
Vancouver, British Columbia V6J 4S7
Tel: 604 714 3833
Fax: 604 714 3861
Email: rwalker@credential.com

Copies to:
Margaret Yee
President and Chief Operating Officer
Ethical Funds Inc.
1441 Creekside Drive, 8th Floor
Vancouver, BC V6J 4S7
Canada

Gwyn Morgan
Chief Executive Officer
EnCana Corporation
1800, 855 - 2nd Street SW
PO Box 2850
Calgary, Alberta T2P 2S5
Phone: 403-645-2000
Fax: 403-645-3400

And now the information on Guatemala, which we had posted as an En Camino bulletin:

We share the following message which illustrates (again) Canadian corporate involvement in human and indigenous rights abuses. This is not a "bad apple" but policy and routine. Not unlike Haiti, Afghanistan or general Canadian foreign policy and involvement. The state of denial and cover-up by Canadians on their imperial role requires to be recognized, exposed and resisted. Yet, Canada continues to engage in "democracy promotion" and presents itself as a "peace-keeper" and an independent nation. Nothing further from the truth:

From Simon Granovsky-Larsen:

This week, Guatemalan military and police violently evicted around 500 families who had been protesting the Canadian mining company Skye Resources by occupying land used by Skye's Guatemalan subsidiary, Guatemala Nickel Company (CGN). Below is more information from the Guatemala Human Rights Commission, along with a pre-written urgent action letter that you could all send very easily.

Also see...

A recent two-part Dominion article on Skye/CGN:
Part 1
Part 2

Skye's press release on the eviction

And a 2006 Amnesty International report on land occupations and evictions in Guatemala

Video interviews with campesino leaders

A video on the evictions.

Please also CC urgent action emails to the Canadian ambassador to Guatemala:

gtmla-gr@dfait-maeci.gc.ca

GHRC/USA - URGENT ACTION!
January 12, 2007

483 Families Evicted by the Guatemala Nickel Company (CGN)

On January 8, 430 police officers and roughly 200 military personnel arrived in the communities of La Unión and La Pista, located in the municipality of El Estor in the eastern department of Izabal, to carry out an eviction order of 308 Maya Q?eq?chí families. The following day, on January 9, at 10:00am, 175 more Maya Q?eq?chí families were violently expelled from the nearby communities of La Revolución and La Paz.

The Guatemala Nickel Company (CGN), a subsidiary of the Canadian Skye Resources Nickel Mining Company, pressed for the evictions. CGN claims that the families have trespassed and overtaken the company?s land. Technically, CGN does own the land. Nevertheless, the dispute over the territory dates back to the 1960s when another Canadian mining giant, named INCO, began to coax and violently force out campesinos from their plots. Until recently, the vacated lands had been unused and unproductive for decades. In September of 2006, hundreds of families previously living in the overcrowded town of Chichipate, located just west of El Estor, decided to reclaim their ancestral lands and make use of the deserted soil. All they desired was enough land to support their families through subsistence agriculture.

The first eviction of La Unión families was carried out in a mostly confined manner. Public Prosecutor Rafael Andrade Escobar read the eviction notice aloud while workers - contracted by CGN-Skye Resources - carefully disassembled the housing structures. Nevertheless, at the second eviction of the day in La Pisa, where community members had decided to flee before the police arrived, officers began to carelessly destroy and burn some of the dwellings.

However, the major calamity came the following day, during the eviction of the 175 families of La Revolución. Helicopters hovered at low altitudes so as to intimidate the community members. Police trucks lined the roads dawning four or more fully armed, black-clad police officers. CGN security guards traveled in a white pickup, wearing company t-shirts. Other security guards were positioned on the cliffs along roadsides.

Instead of sending the Public Prosecutor to read the eviction order, squads of riot police entered La Revolución, moved up the river that runs through the center of the community, and encircled the area. Surrounded by police, roughly fifty individuals waited for the Public Prosecutor to arrive and decree the eviction. Among them were about a dozen women and a handful of infants and children. Finally, when the Prosecutor did arrive, CGN contracted employees began to set houses on fire across the river. As the thick brown smoke rose into the air, the Public Prosecutor tried to call the employees to make them stop, but claimed that his cell phone had no signal. The community members watched as eighteen of their homes were reduced to smoldering ashes and charred wood. Finally, the two-dozen people hired by CGN to destroy the homes were stopped.

As the flames trickled to a glow, the Public Prosecutor ordered that the remaining homes in La Revolución and the nearby community of La Paz be dismantled. While some community members fought back tears, others stood quietly. Speaking as tears ran down his face, one man said, ?They just burned my home. Where will my children sleep tonight?? His tears joined with sprinkles from heaven, as an intense afternoon shower drenched the families still taking down their homes. There was nowhere to go for shelter. The families stood alongside the highway with what was left of their belongings.

This violent eviction is not the first of its kind. On November 12, 2006, members from the National Civil Police (PNC) arrived in Chupon and La Revolución - without an eviction order signed by a judge, required by Guatemalan law, or the presence of the Public Prosecutor - and began to violently expel families, causing injury to several people.

The manner in which these evictions have been carried out is cause for grave concern and action. It is an injustice that peoples? homes were illegally burned and intimidated by the show of force from CGN contracted employees, police officers, and military personnel. Even more disheartening is the fact that 483 families were made homeless in less than forty-eight hours.

The fear is that more evictions are planned by CGN in the upcoming days and more people will be left with no place to go and no source of livelihood, only accompanied by the weight of despair and uncertainty.

TAKE ACTION HERE!

GHRC and our counterparts in Guatemala are urging you to take action. We ask that you profess your solidarity with the 483 Maya Q?eq?chí families evicted from their ancestral lands by sending an email, hand written letter, or fax to the President and CEO of Skye Resources Nickel Mining Company ? ultimately responsible for CGN, the Interior Minister of Guatemala, and the President of Guatemala:

- Denouncing the Guatemala Nickel Company?s and the Guatemala government?s manner in which several families were violently expelled from their homes, and left with minimal possessions and nowhere to go;
- Demanding the immediate formation of an investigative team to identify the contracted CGN employees responsible for burning 18 homes, and requiring that they be brought to justice;
- Urging the CGN and the government to compensate the affected communities for or repair the damage caused to their homes and possessions,
- Demanding that CGN and the government terminate all evictions and begin to negotiate with expelled families over the disputed land and reach a compromised and just solution;
- and, Stipulating that if evictions are to proceed, that authorities ensure that international standards are adhered to ? in particular that no excessive force is used and that law enforcement officials protect evictees from acts of violence from third parties.

Unless we take action today, CGN and the Guatemalan government will not radically change their current strategy and tactics, and the ramifications of this conflict will continue to intensify. You can send your own message or send GHRC?s drafted message, pasted below. Moreover, we ask that you carbon copy your email, or send a copy to the Guatemalan Ambassador to the US and GHRC?s office at ghrc@ghrc-usa.org - so that we may be able to thank you for taking action. Thank you for your time and solidarity with Guatemalan victims of human rights abuses.

[Parts of this Urgent Action come from the National Indigenous and Campesino Coordinating Committee (CONIC), and Dawn Paley from Rights Action. We appreciate their contributions to this Urgent Action!]

DRAFTED MESSAGES READY TO SEND!

Ian Austin, President and CEO
Skye Resources Nickel Mining Company
Suite 1203-700 West Pender Street
Vancouver, BC, Canada, V6C 1G8
info@skyeresources.com

Dear Mr. Ian Austin,

I condemn the recent evictions of 483 Maya Q?eq?chí families in El Estor, Guatemala, carried out by the Guatemala Nickel Company (CGN), a subsidiary of Skye Resources Nickel Mining Company. I recently learned of the evictions of La Unión, La Pisa, La Revolución, and La Paz that took place on January 8 and 9, 2007 due to a dispute over land. I am deeply troubled that CGN ? Skye Resources contracted employees used a show of force and aggression against the communities and burned 18 houses to the ground. CGN-Skye Resources has violated the human rights of the families and has not adhered to international standards in executing evictions. This is unacceptable.

I understand that CGN technically owns the land that the communities are occupying. Nevertheless, the lands have been unused and unproductive for decades and are the ancestral lands of the families. Moreover, the families were coaxed and forced off those lands during the 1960s and are only searching for land to use for subsistence agriculture, in order to survive. Now they have nothing.

I denounce the manner in which CGN contracted employees and the Guatemalan government carried out the evictions, violently expelling several families from their homes - leaving them with minimal possessions and no where to go. Furthermore, I demand that Skye Resources implement an investigative team to identify the contracted CGN employees responsible for burning 18 homes, and require that you aid Guatemalan authorities in bringing them to justice. Moreover, due to the force used by CGN employees, I urge you to compensate the affected communities for or repair the damage caused to their homes and possessions. In the same token, I demand that CGN and the Guatemalan government terminate all evictions and begin to negotiate with expelled families over the disputed land and reach a compromised and just solution for all involved parties. Finally, if future evictions are to be carried out, I require that you ensure that international standards are adhered to ? in particular that no excessive force or intimidation is used.

I remind you that the rest of the international community concerned about human rights and I are watching. We are in solidarity with victims of human rights abuses and will not stand by in silence or inaction. I urge you to comply with the aforementioned requests so that CGN and Skye Resources remains in good standing with consumers, investors, and the international community.

With grave concern,

YOUR NAME AND ADDRESS HERE

Presidente de la República de Guatemala
Licenciado Óscar Berger Perdomo
Casa Presidencial, 6 a. Avenida, 4-18 zona 1
Ciudad de Guatemala GUATEMALA
presidente@scspr.gob.gt

Excelentísimo Sr. Presidente/Dear President

I condemn the recent evictions of 483 Maya Q?eq?chí families in El Estor, Guatemala, carried out by the Guatemalan government and the Guatemala Nickel Company (CGN). I recently learned of the evictions of La Unión, La Pisa, La Revolución, and La Paz that took place on January 8 and 9, 2007 due to a dispute over land. I am deeply troubled that the Guatemalan government used a show of force and aggression against the communities and did not stop the burning of 18 houses. The Guatemalan government has violated the human rights of the families and has not adhered to international standards in executing evictions. This is unacceptable.

I understand that CGN technically owns the land that the communities are occupying. Nevertheless, the lands have been unused and unproductive for decades and are the ancestral lands of the families. Moreover, the families were coaxed and forced off those lands during the 1960s and are only searching for land to use for subsistence agriculture, in order to survive. Now they have nothing.

I denounce the manner in which the Guatemalan government carried out the evictions, violently expelling several families from their homes - leaving them with minimal possessions and no where to go. Furthermore, I demand that the Public Prosecutor implement an investigative team to identify the contracted CGN employees responsible for burning 18 homes, and require that the Guatemalan authorities bring them to justice. Moreover, due to the force used by the Guatemalan government and CGN employees, I urge you to compensate the affected communities for or repair the damage caused to their homes and possessions. In the same token, I demand that CGN and the Guatemalan government terminate all evictions and begin to negotiate with expelled families over the disputed land and reach a compromised and just solution for all involved parties. Finally, if future evictions are to be carried out, I require that you ensure that international standards are adhered to ? in particular that no excessive force or intimidation is used.

I remind you that the rest of the international community concerned about human rights and I are watching. We are in solidarity with victims of human rights abuses and will not stand by in silence or inaction. I urge you to comply with the aforementioned requests so that the Guatemalan government remains in good standing with the international community.

With grave concern,

YOUR NAME AND ADDRESS HERE

Minister of the Interior / Ministro de Gobernacion
Carlos Vielman
6a.Avenida 4-64, zona 4, nivel 3
Ciudad de Guatemala
Guatemala
Fax: 011 502 2362 0237
ministro@mingob.gob.gt

Estimado Sr. Ministro / Dear Minister

I condemn the recent evictions of 483 Maya Q?eq?chí families in El Estor, Guatemala, carried out by the Guatemalan government and the Guatemala Nickel Company (CGN). I recently learned of the evictions of La Unión, La Pisa, La Revolución, and La Paz that took place on January 8 and 9, 2007 due to a dispute over land. I am deeply troubled that the Guatemalan government used a show of force and aggression against the communities and did not stop the burning of 18 houses. The Guatemalan government has violated the human rights of the families and has not adhered to international standards in executing evictions. This is unacceptable.

I understand that CGN technically owns the land that the communities are occupying. Nevertheless, the lands have been unused and unproductive for decades and are the ancestral lands of the families. Moreover, the families were coaxed and forced off those lands during the 1960s and are only searching for land to use for subsistence agriculture, in order to survive. Now they have nothing.

I denounce the manner in which the Guatemalan government carried out the evictions, violently expelling several families from their homes - leaving them with minimal possessions and no where to go. Furthermore, I demand that the Public Prosecutor implement an investigative team to identify the contracted CGN employees responsible for burning 18 homes, and require that the Guatemalan authorities bring them to justice. Moreover, due to the force used by the Guatemalan government and CGN employees, I urge you to compensate the affected communities for or repair the damage caused to their homes and possessions. In the same token, I demand that CGN and the Guatemalan government terminate all evictions and begin to negotiate with expelled families over the disputed land and reach a compromised and just solution for all involved parties. Finally, if future evictions are to be carried out, I require that you ensure that international standards are adhered to ? in particular that no excessive force or intimidation is used.

I remind you that the rest of the international community concerned about human rights and I are watching. We are in solidarity with victims of human rights abuses and will not stand by in silence or inaction. I urge you to comply with the aforementioned requests so that the Guatemalan government remains in good standing with the international community.

With grave concern,

YOUR NAME AND ADDRESS HERE

PLEASE SEND CARBON COPIES TO:

Ambassador Jose Guillermo Castillo
Embassy of Guatemala
2220 R St. NW Washington DC 20008
Fax: 1 202 745 1908
email: ambassador@guatemala-embassy.org

Guatemala Human Rights Commission- USA
GHRC-USA
3321 12th St, NE Washington, DC 20017
202-529-6599
202-526-4611 fax
ghrc-usa@ghrc-usa.org
www.ghrc-usa.org

Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA
GHRC/USA
3321 12th St, NE Washington, DC 20017
202-529-6599
202-526-4611 fax
ghrc-usa@ghrc-usa.org
www.ghrc-usa.org

To subscribe to our bi-weekly Guatemala Human Rights UPDATE please call or email today!

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