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Calls grow for Canadian government to address mining abuses in Latin America

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Calls grow for Canadian government to address mining abuses in Latin America

In the last week, one theme has caught the attention of internationalhacktivist group Anonymous and The New YorkTimes, following years of reports and activism by a host of international organizations.Pressure is mounting on the Canadian government to address a host of abuses allegedlycommitted by Canadian mining corporations in Latin America.

Questionable business practices in the region by Canadian minershave been alleged for years, with multiple lawsuits now in play. is in the shooting death of an aboriginalleader in Guatemala, while Tahoe ResourcesInc. is under fire in the shooting of two protesters at its silver-gold-lead-zincmine in Guatemala. Goldcorp Inc.is also plagued by allegations of human rights abuses at its Marlin gold-silver mine, also in Guatemala.

Problems exist beyond Guatemala, with conflicts over mining reportedin Peru, Mexico, Chile and elsewhere in Latin America.

Though it's not just Canadian companies that have been affectedby conflict with locals — MMG Ltd.'sLas Bambas in Peru and Mexico'sSouthern Peru Copper Corp.'sTia Maria copper-goldmine have also had trouble — Canada's hefty mining presence in Latin America hasleft it wide open for criticism. Canadian mining firms have generated approximatelyUS$18.7 billion from mining in Latin America, the International Business Times reported.

There are several reasons why pressure on Canadian mining firmsfor their activities in Latin America is building, Mercedes Garcia, a research associateat Washington, D.C., think tank Council on Hemispheric Affairs, told SNL Metals& Mining on April 4.

"Latin American societies are becoming more and more aware,"Garcia said. "They've also demanded more and more change in their own countriesand in the activities of foreign companies."

The increase in the number of NGOs focusing on these issues hashelped, she said.

"The Canadian group MiningWatch has widely reported theseissues, as well as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Rights Action,"Garcia said. "But it's also that Canadian society has become more demandingof what their companies are doing abroad, which has helped Latin Americans becomemore defensive of their rights as well."

A change in governmentat the Canadian level has also helped, Garcia said.

"We believe the new Canadian government [under Liberal PrimeMinister Justin Trudeau] is more progressive, and we really hope there's a changein policy, and they don't concentrate only on defending their economic interestas they seemed to do under [former prime minister Stephen] Harper."

Canada claims to be a human rights defender, Garcia added. "Thisis the opportunity for them to do so, hold their companies accountable abroad."

Though there is no indication that Trudeau's government is planningto re-table Bill C-300anytime soon, the Inter-American Development Bank said March 31 that Canada hascommitted C$20 million over five years to establish the Canadian Extractive SectorFacility to improve extractive governance in Latin America.

"Canada and countries in Latin America and the Caribbeanshare the conviction that natural resources can help boost inclusive economic growthin the long-term when the sector is handled with transparency, openness, and efficiency,"Executive Director for Canada at the IDB Guillermo Enrique Rishchynski said in thestatement.

The initiative aims to strengthen compliance with regulatoryframeworks in at least three unspecified countries.