Category: Asia

Canadian mining companies, behaving badly

By admin, February 8, 2010 10:29 am

Title: Canadian mining companies, behaving badly
Author: Janet Bagnall
Category: Resource Extraction
Date: 2/5/2010
Source: The Gazette
Source Website:

African Charter Article# 21: All peoples shall freely dispose of their wealth and natural resources for their exclusive interest, eliminating all forms of foreign economic exploitation.

Summary & Comment: In Africa, South America, Mexico, Asia, and Australia nearly two in every three mining projects – more than 3,000 – are run by Canadian corporations. Their practices put commerical gain first and corporate responsibility at a distance. DN


Canadian mining companies, behaving badly
- Liberal bill would try to rein in some ruthless international practices

Canadian mining companies are fast becoming Canada’s international calling card. They’re everywhere – in South America, Mexico, Africa, Asia, and Australia. Nearly two in every three mining projects around the world – more than 3,000 – are run by Canadian corporations. This might be a point of pride if it weren’t for the allegations that keep cropping up in connection with Canadian mining activity, suggesting that if we’re not thugs ourselves, we countenance violence for commercial gain.

These allegations include very serious accusations:

  • the killings of anti-mining activists in El Salvador and Mexico;
  • forcible eviction of residents near a Barrick Gold Corp. mine in Papua New Guinea;
  • environmental damage in Guatemala;
  • death threats and assaults in Ecuador.

Three Ecuadoreans have taken their case to an Ontario court, the Toronto Star reported in November, alleging that their opposition to Vancouver-based Copper Mesa Mining Corp.’s planned copper mine resulted in their being threatened and assaulted. The company, through a lawyer, insisted to the Star that its practices met “the highest standards of ethical behaviour and corporate social responsibility.” Pacific Rim Mining Corp., a Vancouver-based mining company, also insisted it behaved properly in its effort to open a mine in El Salvador.

Yet anti-mining activists were met with death threats and finally killings. In December, two anti-mining activists were shot and killed: Dora Recinos Sorto, 32 and eight months pregnant, and Ramiro Rivera, vice-president of the Environmental Committee of Cabanas. A third activist had been killed earlier in 2009. The deaths were widely covered in El Salvador and Canada.

Barrick Gold Corp. likewise said it had no role in the forced evictions by Papua New Guinea police in 2009 of residents living near the Porgera mine. Barrick Gold has a 95-per-cent stake in Porgera gold mine through the Porgera Joint Venture, Amnesty International reported last year. This week, according to Reuters, Amnesty called on Papua New Guinea’s government to investigate the evictions and criticized Barrick for not withdrawing the logistical support it provides police through a subsidiary.

But most allegations, no matter how serious, fall into a legal void, both in Canada and elsewhere. In 2008, Supreme Court Justice Ian Binnie told a Canadian Bar Association/Department of Justice panel discussion on human rights that alleged victims have no recourse, and neither do Canadian companies wrongly accused. (His talk was reported by the Lawyers Weekly.) “My point simply is that you cannot have a functioning global economy with a dysfunctional global legal system,” said Binnie. “There has to be somewhere, somehow, that people who feel that their rights have been trampled on can attempt redress – and if the complaints turn out to be unfounded, so be it.”

Canada has done little about the problem, even though the Commons subcommittee on human rights and international development said nearly five years ago that it has long known about many of these allegations. In 2005, the committee wrote: “mining activities in some developing countries have had adverse effects on local communities, especially where regulations governing the mining sector and its impact on the economic and social well-being of employees and local residents, as well as on the environment, are weak or non-existent, or where they are not enforced.”

Asked for a response, the Harper government in October issued voluntary guidelines for corporate social responsibility. International Trade Minister Stockwell Day appointed a federal counsellor to help companies meet the guidelines. It’s not clear how useful a step this will prove: Any review the counsellor might want to initiate has to be agreed to by the company. Into this breach stepped Liberal MP John McKay last year. He introduced a private member’s bill, C-300, that would bar the federal government from supporting ruthless Canadian mining companies either through tax support or investments through the Canada Pension Plan. The Commons human rights and international development committee would determine whether a company had violated corporate responsibility standards, as McKay’s bill proposed.

Before the House of Commons prorogued in December, Bill C-300 had passed the second of three necessary readings. Now, however, McKay told cable network cp24.com

, he thinks his bill won’t get past the newly Conservative-controlled Senate. “If this gets royal assent, it will be a Lord’s miracle,” he told cp24.com. One Canadians might want to pray for.

Contact:
jbagnall@thegazette.canwest.com

URGENT ALERT: CID RAIDS ARRESTED JOURNALIST’S RESIDENCE

By admin, January 31, 2010 9:48 pm

Please forward through your networks

30.01.2010

Read the blog post – http://jdsrilanka.blogspot.com/2010/01/urgent-alert-cid-raids-arrested.html

URGENT ALERT: CID RAIDS ARRESTED JOURNALIST’S RESIDENCE

Officers attached to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) who had previously arrested the editor of the “Irida Lanka” newspaper, Chandana Sirimalwatte, have tried to break into his residence a short while ago. According to initial reports, the officers who had visited his residence tried to search the premises without a search warrant. But the wife of the journalist had refused to grant permission since the officers failed to produce a valid search warrant. She has given her protest in writing to the officers.

In the meantime, another group of CID officers have raided the “Irida Lanka” newspaper office on Saturday (30) morning for the second time, after sealing off the premises to visitors. Earlier on Friday (29) afternoon, following the arrest of the editor, the CID broke into “Irida Lanka” office and had searched the premises extensively. They had brought the arrested journalist along with them and had forced him to hand over files that contain sensitive information. According to our sources, the second CID raid is still going on and the officers are questioning every staff member despite their protest.

Notwithstanding the repeated condemnations issued by international media rights groups in the wake of the fresh intimidation campaign, it is obvious that the Sri Lankan government is determined to continue their extremely coercive policy of cracking down on the dissenting media. The journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka urge all the responsible governments and rights group with utmost urgency to demand an immediate stop to the increasing harassment unleashed against “Irida Lanka” and to release it’s editor Chandana Sirimalwatte immediately.

Please make phone calls and send emails to:

The President of Sri Lanka – + 94 112447400/ email -president@presidentsoffice.lk

Secretary to the President – +94 112 2326309 / email – prsec@presidentsoffice.lk

Minister of Information Anura Yapa – + 94 0773 814470 (mobile) / +94 112596557 (Office)

Inspector General of Police Mahinda Balasuriya – +94 112 421750 / +94 773088400 email – igp@police.lk

Spokesman Mr. Nimal Madiwake (Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police) – +94 72 2248235

SSP I.M. Karunarathne (Assistant Media Spokesman) – +94 11 4236161 +94 772 602897

(please send copies of your emails to journalistsfordemocracy@gmail.com)

Executive Committee
Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka
30.01.2010

Massacre in Maguindanao; Report from the Field

By admin, January 18, 2010 3:27 pm

On November 23, 2009, 57 civilians including 31 journalists and media workers and two women lawyers were brutally killed in Ampatuan, Maguindanao. The perpetrators involved belonged to a private army of a warlord in one of the so-called election hotspots in the country. The four prime suspects in the massacre of these unarmed civilians now claim that “they neither participated in the planning nor took part in the murder of innocent civilians,” asking for a dismissal of the multiple murder complaint filed against them.

KNOW THE TRUTH FROM THE FACTS

JOIN US IN A COMMUNITY FORUM

Massacre

IN maguindanao

Report from the Field

With Guest

Marie Hilao-Enriquez

Chairperson

KARAPATAN

(Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights in the Philippines)

1:30 PM

Saturday, 23 January 2010

OPSEU Region 5 Membership Hall

31 Wellesley St.

(Just across the Wellesley subway station)

Refreshments and light snacks will be served.

SPONSORED BY

Community Alliance for Social Justice, The Philippine Reporter,

Philippine Solidarity Network-Canada, Filipino Migrant Workers’ Movement

and Bayan-Canada

FOR INFORMATION CALL BEN.416-690-2116; HERMIE.416-461-8694; TAN.647-833-1023

The US and China: One Side is Losing, the Other is Winning

By admin, January 4, 2010 12:14 am

The US and China: One Side is Losing, the Other is Winning

by James Petras / January 3rd, 2010

http://dissidentvoice.org/2010/01/the-us-and-china-one-side-is-losing-the-other-is-winning/

Asian capitalism, notably China and South Korea are competing with the US for global power. Asian global power is driven by dynamic economic growth, while the US pursues a strategy of military-driven empire building.

One Day’s Read of the Financial Times

Even a cursory read of a single issue of the Financial Times (December 28, 2009) illustrates the divergent strategies toward empire building. On page one, the lead article on the US is on its expanding military conflicts and its ‘war on terror’, entitled “Obama Demands Review of Terror List.” In contrast, there are two page-one articles on China, which describe China’s launching of the world’s fastest long-distance passenger train service and China’s decision to maintain its currency pegged to the US dollar as a mechanism to promote its robust export sector. While Obama turns the US focus on a fourth battle front (Yemen) in the ‘war on terror’ (after Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan), the Financial Times reports on the same page that a South Korean consortium has won a $20.4 billion dollar contract to develop civilian nuclear power plants for the United Arab Emirates, beating its US and European competitors.

On page two of the FT there is a longer article elaborating on the new Chinese rail system, highlighting its superiority over the US rail service: The Chinese ultra-modern train takes passengers between two major cities, 1,100 kilometers, in less than 3 hours whereas the US Amtrack ‘Express’ takes 3 ½ hours to cover 300 kilometers between Boston and New York. While the US passenger rail system deteriorates from lack of investment and maintenance, China has spent $17 billion dollars constructing its express line. China plans to construct 18,000 kilometers of new track for its ultra-modern system by 2012, while the US will spend an equivalent amount in financing its ‘military surge’ in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as opening a new war front in Yemen.

China builds a transport system linking producers and labor markets from the interior provinces with the manufacturing centers and ports on the coast, while on page 4 the Financial Times describes how the US is welded to its policy of confronting the ‘Islamist threat’ with an endless ‘war on terror.’ The decades-long wars and occupations of Moslem countries have diverted hundreds of billions of dollars of public funds to a militarist policy with no benefit to the US, while China modernizes its civilian economy. While the White House and Congress subsidize and pander to the militarist-colonial state of Israel with its insignificant resource base and market, alienating 1.5 billion Moslems,1 China’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew 10 fold over the past 26 years.2 While the US allocated over $1.4 trillion dollars to Wall Street and the military, increasing the fiscal and current account deficits, doubling unemployment and perpetuating the recession,3 the Chinese government releases a stimulus package directed at its domestic manufacturing and construction sectors, leading to an 8% growth in GDP, a significant reduction of unemployment and ‘re-igniting linked economies’ in Asia, Latin America and Africa.3

While the US was spending time, resources and personnel in running ‘elections’ for its corrupt clients in Afghanistan and Iraq, and participating in pointless mediations between its intransigent Israeli partner and its impotent Palestinian client, the South Korean government backed a consortium headed by the Korea Electric Power Corporation in its successful bid on the $20.4 billion dollar nuclear power deal, opening the way for other billion-dollar contracts in the region.4

While the US was spending over $60 billion dollars on internal policing and multiplying the number and size of its ‘homeland’ security agencies in pursuit of potential ‘terrorists,’ China was investing $25 billion dollars in ‘cementing its energy trading relations’ with Russia.5

The story told by the articles and headlines in a single day’s issue of the Financial Times reflects a deeper reality, one that illustrates the great divide in the world today. The Asian countries, led by China, are reaching world power status on the basis of their massive domestic and foreign investments in manufacturing, transportation, technology and mining and mineral processing. In contrast, the US is a declining world power with a deteriorating society resulting from its military-driven empire building and its financial-speculative centered economy:

1. Washington pursues minor military clients in Asia; while China expands its trading and investment agreements with major economic partners – Russia, Japan, South Korea and elsewhere.

2. Washington drains the domestic economy to finance overseas wars. China extracts minerals and energy resources to create its domestic job market in manufacturing.

3. The US invests in military technology to target local insurgents challenging US client regimes; China invests in civilian technology to create competitive exports.

4. China begins to restructure its economy toward developing the country’s interior and allocates greater social spending to redress its gross imbalances and inequalities while the US rescues and reinforces the parasitical financial sector, which plundered industries (strips assets via mergers and acquisitions) and speculates on financial objectives with no impact on employment, productivity or competitiveness.

5. The US multiplies wars and troop build-ups in the Middle East, South Asia, the Horn of Africa and Caribbean; China provides investments and loans of over $25 billion dollars in building infrastructure, mineral extraction, energy production and assembly plants in Africa.

6. China signs multi-billion dollar trade and investment agreements with Iran, Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru and Bolivia, securing access to strategic energy, mineral and agricultural resources; Washington provides $6 billion in military aid to Colombia, secures seven military bases from President Uribe (to threaten Venezuela), backs a military coup in tiny Honduras and denounces Brazil and Bolivia for diversifying its economic ties with Iran.

7. China increases economic relations with dynamic Latin American economies, incorporating over 80% of the continent’s population; the US partners with the failed state of Mexico, which has the worst economic performance in the hemisphere and where powerful drug cartels control wide regions and penetrate deep into the state apparatus.

Conclusion

China is not an exceptional capitalist country. Under Chinese capitalism, labor is exploited; inequalities in wealth and access to services are rampant; peasant-farmers are displaced by mega-dam projects and Chinese companies recklessly extract minerals and other natural resources in the Third World. However, China has created scores of millions of manufacturing jobs, reduced poverty faster and for more people in the shortest time span in history. Its banks mostly finance production. China doesn’t bomb, invade, or ravage other countries. In contrast, US capitalism has been harnessed to a monstrous global military machine that drains the domestic economy and lowers the domestic standard of living in order to fund its never-ending foreign wars. Finance, real estate, and commercial capital undermine the manufacturing sector, drawing profits from speculation and cheap imports.

China invests in petroleum-rich countries; the US attacks them. China sells plates and bowls for Afghan wedding feasts; US drone aircraft bomb the celebrations. China invests in extractive industries, but, unlike European colonialists, it builds railroads, ports, airfields and provides easy credit. China does not finance and arm ethnic wars and ‘color rebellions’ like the US CIA. China self-finances its own growth, trade and transportation system; the US sinks under a multi-trillion dollar debt to finance its endless wars, bail out its Wall Street banks, and prop up other non-productive sectors while many millions remain without jobs.

China will grow and exercise power through the market; the US will engage in endless wars on its road to bankruptcy and internal decay. China’s diversified growth is linked to dynamic economic partners; US militarism has tied itself to narco-states, warlord regimes, the overseers of banana republics and the last and worst bona fide racist colonial regime, Israel.

China entices the world’s consumers. US global wars provoke terrorists here and abroad.

China may encounter crises and even workers rebellions, but it has the economic resources to accommodate them. The US is in crisis and may face domestic rebellion, but it has depleted its credit and its factories are all abroad and its overseas bases and military installations are liabilities, not assets. There are fewer factories in the US to re-employ its desperate workers. A social upheaval could see the American workers occupying the empty shells of its former factories.

To become a ‘normal state’ we have to start all over: Close all investment banks and military bases abroad and return to America. We have to begin the long march toward rebuilding industry to serve our domestic needs, to living within our own natural environment and forsake empire building in favor of constructing a democratic socialist republic.

When will we pick up the Financial Times or any other daily and read about our own high-speed rail line carrying American passengers from New York to Boston in less than one hour? When will our own factories supply our hardware stores? When will we build wind, solar and ocean-based energy generators? When will we abandon our military bases and let the world’s warlords, drug traffickers and terrorists face the justice of their own people?

Will we ever read about these in the Financial Times?

In China, it all started with a revolution

  1. Financial Times, page 7. []
  2. FT – page 9. []
  3. FT, page 12. [] []
  4. FT, page 13. []
  5. FT, page 3. []

James Petras, a former Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York, owns a 50-year membership in the class struggle, is an adviser to the landless and jobless in Brazil and Argentina, and is co-author of Globalization Unmasked (Zed Books). Petras’ most recent book is Zionism, Militarism and the Decline of US Power (Clarity Press, 2008). He can be reached at: jpetras@binghamton.edu. Read other articles by James, or visit James’s website.

This article was posted on Sunday, January 3rd, 2010 at 9:01am and is filed under China/Tibet, Imperialism, Military/Militarism, Revolution.

Rich countries once used gunboats to seize food. Now they use trade deals

By admin, December 25, 2009 11:47 am

Rich countries once used gunboats to seize food. Now they use trade deals: The world’s hungriest are the losers as an old colonialism returns to govern relations between wealthy and poor nations

by George Monbiot, The Guardian, August 26 2008


In his book Late Victorian Holocausts, Mike Davis tells the story of the famines that sucked the guts out of India in the 1870s. The hunger began when a drought, caused by El Niño, killed the crops on the Deccan plateau. As starvation bit, the viceroy, Lord Lytton, oversaw the export to England of a record 6.4m hundredweight of wheat. While Lytton lived in imperial splendour and commissioned, among other extravagances, “the most colossal and expensive meal in world history”, between 12 million and 29 million people died. Only Stalin manufactured a comparable hunger.

Now a new Lord Lytton is seeking to engineer another brutal food grab. As Tony Blair’s favoured courtier, Peter Mandelson often created the impression that he would do anything to please his master. Today he is the European trade commissioner. From his sumptuous offices in Brussels and Strasbourg, he hopes to impose a treaty that will permit Europe to snatch food from the mouths of some of the world’s poorest people.

Seventy per cent of the protein eaten by the people of Senegal comes from fish. Traditionally cheaper than other animal products, it sustains a population that ranks close to the bottom of the human development index. One in six of the working population is employed in the fishing industry; about two-thirds of these workers are women. Over the past three decades, their means of subsistence has started to collapse as other nations have plundered Senegal’s stocks.

The EU has two big fish problems. One is that, partly as a result of its failure to manage them properly, its own fisheries can no longer meet European demand. The other is that its governments won’t confront their fishing lobbies and decommission all the surplus boats. The EU has tried to solve both problems by sending its fishermen to west Africa. Since 1979 it has struck agreements with the government of Senegal, granting our fleets access to its waters. As a result, Senegal’s marine ecosystem has started to go the same way as ours. Between 1994 and 2005, the weight of fish taken from the country’s waters fell from 95,000 tonnes to 45,000 tonnes. Muscled out by European trawlers, the indigenous fishery is crumpling: the number of boats run by local people has fallen by 48% since 1997.

In a recent report on this pillage, ActionAid shows that fishing families that once ate three times a day are now eating only once or twice. As the price of fish rises, their customers also go hungry. The same thing has happened in all the west African countries with which the EU has maintained fisheries agreements. In return for wretched amounts of foreign exchange, their primary source of protein has been looted.

The government of Senegal knows this, and in 2006 it refused to renew its fishing agreement with the EU. But European fishermen – mostly from Spain and France – have found ways round the ban. They have been registering their boats as Senegalese, buying up quotas from local fishermen and transferring catches at sea from local boats. These practices mean that they can continue to take the country’s fish, and have no obligation to land them in Senegal. Their profits are kept on ice until the catch arrives in Europe.

Mandelson’s office is trying to negotiate economic partnership agreements with African countries. They were supposed to have been concluded by the end of last year, but many countries, including Senegal, have refused to sign. The agreements insist that European companies have the right both to establish themselves freely on African soil, and to receive national treatment. This means that the host country is not allowed to discriminate between its own businesses and European companies. Senegal would be forbidden to ensure that its fish are used to sustain its own industry and to feed its own people. The dodges used by European trawlers would be legalised.

The UN’s Economic Commission for Africa has described the EU’s negotiations as “not sufficiently inclusive”. They suffer from a “lack of transparency” and from the African countries’ lack of capacity to handle the legal complexities. ActionAid shows that Mandelson’s office has ignored these problems, raised the pressure on reluctant countries and “moved ahead in the negotiations at a pace much faster than the [African nations] could handle”. If these agreements are forced on west Africa, Lord Mandelson will be responsible for another imperial famine.

This is one instance of the food colonialism that is again coming to govern the relations between rich and poor counties. As global food supplies tighten, rich consumers are pushed into competition with the hungry. Last week the environmental group WWF published a report on the UK’s indirect consumption of water, purchased in the form of food. We buy much of our rice and cotton, for example, from the Indus valley, which contains most of Pakistan’s best farmland. To meet the demand for exports, the valley’s aquifers are being pumped out faster than they can be recharged. At the same time, rain and snow in the Himalayan headwaters have decreased, probably as a result of climate change.

In some places, salt and other crop poisons are being drawn through the diminishing water table, knocking out farmland for good. The crops we buy are, for the most part, freely traded, but the unaccounted costs all accrue to Pakistan.

Now we learn that Middle Eastern countries, led by Saudi Arabia, are securing their future food supplies by trying to buy land in poorer nations. The Financial Times reports that Saudi Arabia wants to set up a series of farms abroad, each of which could exceed 100,000 hectares. Their produce would not be traded: it would be shipped directly to the owners. The FT, which usually agitates for the sale of everything, frets over “the nightmare scenario of crops being transported out of fortified farms as hungry locals look on”. Through “secretive bilateral agreements”, the paper reports, “the investors hope to be able to bypass any potential trade restriction that the host country might impose during a crisis”.

Both Ethiopia and Sudan have offered the oil states hundreds of thousands of hectares. This is easy for the corrupt governments of these countries: in Ethiopia the state claims to own most of the land; in Sudan an envelope passed across the right desk magically transforms other people’s property into foreign exchange. But 5.6 million Sudanese and 10 million Ethiopians are currently in need of food aid. The deals their governments propose can only exacerbate such famines.

None of this is to suggest that the poor nations should not sell food to the rich. To escape from famine, countries must enhance their purchasing power. This often means selling farm products, and increasing their value by processing them locally. But there is nothing fair about the deals I have described. Where once they used gunboats and sepoys, the rich nations now use chequebooks and lawyers to seize food from the hungry. The scramble for resources has begun, but – in the short term, at any rate – we will hardly notice. The rich world’s governments will protect themselves from the political cost of shortages, even if it means that other people must starve.

monbiot.com

* guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2008

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