(Toronto) Using long pieces of blue fabric, activists disrupted the world’s largest mining convention in Toronto yesterday to call attention to the industry’s record of harming important watersheds and to denounce efforts to further expand mining into ecologically sensitive areas.
Tens of thousands of mining industry players are in downtown Toronto this week for the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada’s (PDAC) annual conference, which brings together representatives from hundreds of companies and dozens of countries to talk trends and advance the interests of Canadian mining, globally.
The mining industry is increasingly painting itself as the solution to the climate crisis – a gatekeeper to securing the metals and minerals used in energy transition technologies like battery storage, wind, and solar power. At the same time, a mining boom currently underway is pushing projects into more and more ecologically-sensitive and fragile areas, impacting key watersheds, glaciers and periglacial areas, peatlands, eskers, high-altitude wetlands, oceans, lakes, deserts, and other areas critical for regulating the climate. Activists say that framing more mining as a way to address the climate crisis is a false solution.
“What is being promoted during PDAC 2023 will have lasting and global impacts, including a deepening of resource extraction in the midst of a climate crisis,” says Merle Davis, an organizer with the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN). “We must organize to protect ecologically sensitive and culturally significant places: the Attawapiskat river, Peehee Mu’huh, the Pacific Ocean, and beyond. Real action to address the climate crisis requires less mining, not more.”
Organizers with the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN) and allies used long swathes of blue fabric painted with fish to block entrances to the trade show booths and obstruct escalators on Sunday. Organizers of the protest were physically and violently removed from the Metro Convention Centre by approximately a dozen security guards who continued to harass the organizers outside and physically restrict them from leaving the premises.
In an accompanying statement, MISN highlights: “While capital flows back to Toronto, Canadian mining operations and the governments that support and enable them are shifting the flow of the world’s waterways and polluting the rivers that flow into the oceans – our planet’s life support system and one of our most important natural solutions to mitigate climate change.”
Canada (and PDAC) prioritizes more mining at the expense of the planet
The Canadian mining industry has long enjoyed unfettered support from all levels of the Canadian government. But the industry as a whole – itself responsible for some of the worst environmental disasters in Canadian and global history – is benefiting from massive government investments in mining and processing “energy” metals like lithium, nickel, copper, graphite, and cobalt. Through its recently-released Critical Minerals Strategy, the federal government has promised to give more public money to mining companies to encourage mineral exploration and development, in the face of decades of environmental deregulation. The mining-heavy jurisdictions of Ontario and Quebec have also released similar provincial strategies, with Ontario moving to gut already-weak protections for the environment and Indigenous rights.
“Mining companies are using the pretext of the energy transition to push through projects without consent, in areas where there is longstanding community opposition,” says Viviana Herrera, Latin America Program Coordinator for MiningWatch Canada. “People across the world are fighting to protect their critical life sources – water – to sustain this generation and those to come. We must take the extractive pressure off.”
Highlights from keynote speeches during PDAC 2023 include a session on “All minerals are critical” and a discussion on whether the industry should entirely abandon the Environmental Social Governance (ESG) principles framework and focus primarily on lowering emissions as part of climate goals.
“The industry narrowly focusing on reducing its own carbon emissions while simultaneously promoting a major expansion of destructive resource extraction clearly shows where the industry’s priorities lie,” says Merle Davis of MISN. “It’s time to stop ‘business as usual’ - and that means disrupting PDAC.”
- Rachel Small, Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN), [email protected]
- Val Croft, Communications Coordinator, MiningWatch Canada, [email protected], 416-707-5986
A snapshot of a few PDAC attendees and their current or proposed projects
GLACIERS AND PERIGLACIAL AREAS
PDAC sponsor Barrick Gold jointly operates the Veladero gold mine in northern Argentina, in violation of Argentina’s own Glaciers Law. This law prohibits mining in periglacial areas due to the significant risks of harming the underlying permafrost, among other issues. Downstream communities have documented at least five toxic spills of chemicals used in gold processing, contaminating the watersheds hundreds of kilometres downstream with cyanide and mercury. A letter sent by the UN Special Rapporteur on Toxics and Human Rights to the company and respective governments says, “We are especially concerned that these spills severely affect the right to life, the right to the highest possible degree of health, the right to food, the right to access to information, the right to environmental justice, the right to potable water, the right to work and secure working conditions, and the right to a clean, healthy, sustainable environment free of toxic substances.”
Wyloo Metals (formerly Noront Resources) is the major proponent of mining development in Treaty 9 territory in northern Ontario in the area known as the ‘Ring of Fire.’ Mining could put at risk the "Breathing Lands" – the carbon-rich peatlands of the James Bay Lowlands, which store about 35 billion tons of carbon in one of the world’s largest wetland complexes. Draft terms of reference for mining in the area have been developed without respecting the decision-making protocols and processes of all First Nations in the region, nor allowing for their free, prior, and informed consent.
Sayona Mining is pushing ahead with plans to build an open-pit lithium mine beside the Saint-Mathieu-Berry esker in Quebec – known as one of the purest sources of drinking water in the world. The company has also acquired another operating lithium mine in the region and has claims on the unceded territory of Long Point First Nation, all in an effort to build a major hub for lithium extraction in Quebec. Eskers play a crucial role in the groundwater recharge of the region and protect important biodiversity. Due to their highly porous nature, however, they are fragile and any contamination from mining activities could quickly impact the groundwater across the region.
HIGH-ALTITUDE WETLANDS (PÁRAMOS)
Dundee Precious Metals is aggressively promoting its Loma Larga copper-gold mine in the páramo de Kimsakocha in southern Ecuador – a project which independent experts call a ‘ticking time bomb’ for almost certain arsenic contamination. Páramos are high-altitude wetlands that play a fundamental and intricate role regulating and recharging the region’s water cycle and provide fresh water for tens of thousands of people in the region. Dundee is also planning on building the Timok gold mine in Serbia, which would put at risk four major regional rivers whose watersheds are in the project area. Affected communities are concerned that the project will contaminate the River Mlava, which sustains a major agricultural region.
The Metals Company is racing to be the first to mine one of the most ecologically-sensitive areas on the planet – the deep seabed – in the Clarion Clipperton Zone of the Pacific Ocean, between Hawaii and Mexico. Over 700 scientists have warned that deep sea mining activities could cause irreversible, widespread environmental damage and biodiversity loss throughout the ocean, and risk disturbing the world’s largest carbon sink. Pacific Islanders say that deep sea mining would harm their communities, their livelihoods, cultural practices, and wellbeing. In spite of the strong and growing global movement calling for a moratorium or ban on deep sea mining, The Metals Company is already conducting underwater tests – tests that resulted in unauthorized dumps of waste into surface waters and which scientists say were tainted by flawed monitoring.