Leon Dulce: IPCM 

The 2016 World Social Forum recently held in Montreal, Canada became an important opportunity to develop an important global undertaking: the forging of an international people's campaign to hold accountable the global harm aggressively spurred by Australian-Canadian mining giant OceanaGold.

leonMember organizations of the International People’s Conference on Mining led the initiative at the WSF through a discussion-workshop on building global strategies addressing Canadian mining impacts across the world, focusing on the case of OceanaGold. 


Confronting the crises

A junior mining company that is now emerging as a significant global mining player, OceanaGold has mining interests in the Philippines, New Zealand, El Salvador, and recently in the United States. OceanaGold’s continued growth amidst the continuing global minerals industry crisis has been characterized by community dislocation, environmental degradation, and human rights violations. As such, it has been confronted by vigorous people’s opposition both in its host and home countries.

In the WSF workshop, Mr. Pedro Cabezas of the International Allies to Stop Mining in El Salvador discussed how the El Salvadoran people came together in rejecting the entry of all mining projects into their country, culminating in the imposition of a national moratorium on mining by their national government, including the proposed project of OceanaGold’s proxy company Pacific Rim.

This defiance, however, was met with a $301-million lawsuit filed by OceanaGold before the World Bank International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes, a harassment case drawn out over seven long years that has already incurred the El Salvador government at least $15 million in legal costs.

The impacts of OceanaGold’s operation in the Philippines that this author discussed were exactly the harm that El Salvador sought to prevent: A rapid environmental investigative mission conducted by the national environmental network Kalikasan and scientist group AGHAM just six months after the start of OceanaGold’s commercial operations confirmed the massive pollution of river systems that run through their mining tenement.

Both experiences revealed the fascist aggressiveness of OceanaGold: even during the exploration stage, their operations ‘eased out’ community opposition through the torching of hundreds of homes, the strafing of barricaders with bullets, and ultimately through the alleged extrajudicial killings against anti-mining activists opposed to their entry.

Brainstorming for solutions

Mr. Ian Thomson, Resources and Rights coordinator of KAIROS Canada, started the strategy brainstorming by discussing their ‘Canada is Open for Justice’ campaign, an initiative together with their fellow members of the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability lobbying the Canadian government for justice mechanisms accessible to communities affected by Canadian large-scale miners.

A core concern was the need to come up with a comprehensive pool of knowledge and information that campaigners both in the host and home countries can utilize in their various strategies. A ‘one-stop shop’ for narratives of people’s struggles, scientific and policy researches, legal case documents, and other important publications can be the handy starting point for popularized primers, lobbying briefers, and evidence for legal remedies.

The need to enhance the technical capacities of the people’s movements was also reiterated. During the first IPCM gathering in August last year, participants passed resolutions to build committees on scientific, legal, and academic extension work.

A flashpoint struggle where participants have agreed to come together for an international day of action would be on the impending resolution on OceanaGold’s World Bank Tribunal case. People’s movements in the Philippines and El Salvador will simultaneously hold protest actions across the Pacific together with solidarity groups in Australia, United States, and Canada to defeat the harassment suit.

Fighting the free-trade agenda

A running sentiment in the discussions is that the case of OceanaGold presages what a free-trade economic regime would be like: the 100-percent foreign ownership of mineralized lands in ‘resource-cursed’ countries, the lowest regulatory standards, and investor-state dispute systems undermining the sovereignty of nations are just among its alarming features.

The growing international people’s struggle against the free-trade agenda of OceanaGold is thus seen as a critical case against the various mega free-trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which were the among the major concerns during the WSF’s convergence assembly on extractives.

We will return to the Philippines knowing full well that we are not alone in this struggle against the brand of extractivism perpetuated by OceanaGold, and that thousands of like-minded social movements are collectively working to defeat corporate plunder and injustice. Padayon!#

Leon Dulce represented the secretariat of the International People’s Conference on Mining, a global gathering in 2015 of activists, advocates, experts, and grassroots leaders hailing from 29 different countries that have united in opposing large-scale and destructive mining plunder, at the World Social Forum 2016 in Montreal. The IPCM workshop at the WSF was supported by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature - Netherlands through the ‘Shared Resources, Joint Solution’ Philippines program.