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Gold-mining giants leave Africa to clear up mess: report

PARIS, Oct 9 (AFP) Oct 09, 2007

Open-cast gold-mining operations in Africa by multinationals have created an ecological and health time-bomb and failed to help local people out of poverty, campaigners said at a book launch Tuesday.

"It's an ecological time-bomb," said Swiss journalist Gilles Labarthe, the author of "Black Gold", which is being published in collaboration with Oxfam France-Agir and the association Survie (Survival).

"The accumulation of ecological degradation and the damage to health caused by open-cast gold-mining is going to ruin the producing regions for generations to come," he added.

Cyanide and mercury contamination of the groundwater had led to cases of paralysis, blindess and numerous miscarriages, he said. The two toxic substances are used to purify the minerals during mining.

In two villages in the southwestern region of Sadiola in Mali, four out of five women miscarried, said Kaou Sissoko, general secretary of the association of Sadiola expatriates in France.

The region hosts one of Mali's main mining operations.

It would cost 16 billion dollars (11.4 billion euros) to clean up the polluted groundwater in Africa, said Labarthe, adding that he feared the countries concerned would have to foot the bill.

Africa holds half the world's known gold reserves and produces 600 tonnes a year -- a quarter of the world's output.

But 80 percent of the major African mines were controlled by multinational companies, which made big profits because of the cheap cost of labour and the tough working conditions, said Labarthe.

He identified the three main companies as AngloGold of South Africa; Barrick Gold of Canada; and US company Newmont Mining. All three were financed by major banks such as UBS of Switzerland and France's Societe Generale. Gold also served to finance armed movements as in the Democratic Republic of Congo, said Labarthe. And because it can be melted down repeatedly, it is harder to trace back to its origin, he added.

Oxfam France-Agir is the French wing of Oxfam, while Survie is a campaigning group dedicated to exposing French policy in Africa.

A report last month by the International Federation for Human Rights on mining and human rights in Mali commented: "Mali is the third largest gold producer in Africa but harvests only dust."

Under a World Bank-supported scheme, mining companies enjoyed large tax breaks, "depriving the State of the resources that could have been obtained from this economic activity," said the report.

Mali ranks 175th among 177 countries in terms of human development, it noted.


Forest Service, BLM targeted Environmentalists
allege gov't collusion in S. Idaho phosphate mining pollution

By Kristen Moulton
The Salt Lake Tribune Article Last Updated:

A regional environmental group accused the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management on Thursday of colluding with phosphate-mining companies in southern Idaho to cover up decades of serious pollution.

The result, said Marv Hoyt, the Idaho director of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, is that mining continues to leach selenium into streams and the aquifer - while 17 Superfund sites from past mining go untouched.

Lynn Ballard, spokesman for the Caribou-Targhee National Forest and BLM, denied there was any collusion with the mining industry to cover up the pollution.

"We've never operated that way," he said.

Mining for phosphate exposes rocks rich in selenium, which, once exposed to rain and snow, flows into streams and underground aquifers. It can build up in plants, reaching high concentrations that can kill livestock and wildlife and harm the people who eat them.

The Greater Yellowstone Coalition and Caribou Clean Water Partnership released a report written by a retired federal hydrologist, who pored over thousands of documents obtained from federal agencies through the Freedom of Information Act.

Edgar Imhoff, the hydrologist, during a press conference via telephone Thursday, said he was astounded by the toxic levels of selenium found as long as two decades ago in streams near phosphate mines north and east of Soda Springs.

"Given the dangers, the mining company and federal agencies had to be aware they had a serious problem on their hands," Imhoff said, referring to the owner of one of three active phosphate mines, Boise-based The J.R. Simplot Co.

Hoyt said the documents showed the federal agencies didn't just fumble their jobs. "This was something a lot more deliberate that just dropping the ball," he said.

The documents did not reveal secret deals, but rather a pattern of downplaying or obscuring the gravity of the pollution, Imhoff said.

He gave examples. Imhoff said in his report that data collected by the Forest Service's Intermountain Research Station in Logan in 1990 - it showed extremely high concentrations of selenium in surface water downstream from a mine - was not shared with the Environmental Protection Agency until 1997.

It was only after animals began dying that mining companies and federal agencies began acknowledging the pollution, casting it as a newly discovered problem, Hoyt said.

"People actually did know about this long before they say they did."

The Forest Service's Ballard said 1996 horse deaths prompted the Forest Service to "focus resources on a full investigation [of] what was causing the selenium impacts."

The agency also has required and received yearly water reports from Simplot, which opened the Smoky Canyon mine in the early 1980s.

He could not say whether the Forest Service considered selenium levels reported in those yearly documents as acceptable.

A Simplot spokesman could not be reached for comment.

The new report is aimed at preventing Simplot from expanding the Smoky Canyon mine near the Idaho-Wyoming state line.

A final environmental impact statement is due out within 30 to 45 days and is expected to endorse mining under certain conditions.

"There are mitigations placed in there that Simplot would have to do," Ballard said.

The environmental coalition also wants to light a fire under government agencies to force the owners of the 17 Superfund sites - including Simplot, whose Smoky Canyon mine has been declared a Superfund site - to clean up past messes.

FYI – Please do what you can.

Dear _____ ,


By signing up for, you've become an integral part of the movement to raise awareness about mountaintop removal coal mining - and you've helped to expose the more than 470 mountains that coal companies have already destroyed in Appalachia.

Today, I want to tell you about a place that is ground zero in the fight to stop mountaintop removal coal mining , a place called Coal River Mountain.

Located in westernmost Raleigh County, West Virginia, Coal River Mountain is under threat from Massey Energy.

Massey has applied for two mountaintop removal permits, and is considering a third, that would destroy nearly 6,000 acres of Coal River Mountain, effectively decapitating it. They would fill 18 Appalachian valleys with toxic coal mining waste and destroy the tallest peaks ever to be mined in West Virginia.

But a coalition of grassroots organizations, led by Coal River Mountain Watch, have joined together to protect Coal River Mountain - and bring the attention of the nation to the ongoing tragedy that is mountaintop removal coal mining.

You can help. Will you forward this email on to just one person you know, and ask them to add their voice to the more than 20,000 Americans who are standing up to raise awareness about mountaintop removal coal mining?

Simply forward this email right now, or click on this link to send an invite from your personal action page on Take Action!

The effort to stop the Coal River Mountain project is gaining momentum at the local level. Just last week, more than 100 local citizens filled the bleachers at a public hearing held by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection at the Clear Fork Elementary School to speak their minds about the massive proposal.

There has never been such a turnout to a public hearing on a mine permit in West Virginia... but even more incredibly, every single citizen who spoke, spoke in opposition to the mine.

There are many reasons that local citizens oppose the mine: it will pollute their drinking water, heighten the risk of local flooding, and destroy the mountains and the beautiful landscape that have been their family home for as many as nine generations.

The mine, too, would destroy the long-term economic future of Coal River Mountain. As many citizens said at the hearing, for just a few years worth of jobs and a few years worth of coal, the mine would wipe out the opportunity to build a wind power facility that could provide long-term jobs and enough power to meet the needs of more than 90,000 homes forever. (Click here to learn more about the alternative wind power facility.)

Yet despite the united - and, at the hearing, unanimous - opposition to the plan to destroy Coal River Mountain, local citizens hold little hope that their testimony alone will stop the mine - because the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has never denied a permit application for a mountaintop removal mine. Never.

That's why it is absolutely critical that you forward this email on to at least one friend or family member today.

Even though most Americans would never support the destruction of this beautiful mountain and irreplaceable landscape, the people living near Coal River Mountain believe that their mountain will be destroyed because most Americans simply don't know what's happening in the hills and hollows of Appalachia.

The power to change that lies in your hands, right now. Please, forward this email to your friends and family, and ask them to join you in standing up to end mountaintop removal coal mining. They can join by clicking here:

Thank you for taking action and standing with the people of Coal River Mountain .

Mary Anne Hitt

Contribute to today!


FYI. A recent report on the the debate going into Barrick's second quarter report/shareholder conference call.


August 2 marks the publishing date of Barrick Gold's second quarter results. With profits down by 14 percent, the Pascua Lama project delayed, and Norway's pension fund considering pulling their investment on ethical grounds, things aren't looking good for this gold mining giant. But, are any of these developments a big surprise? There are many shareholders who might think so, but that is only because Barrick has been systematically hiding vital information from them through glaring omissions and outright lies.

Glaring Omissions

The first place to look for Barrick's reporting on shareholder's issues would be their 2006 annual report, seemingly complete with a section listing "Litigations and Claims." However, Barrick failed to even mention a costly lawsuit with landowner Rodolfo Villar, a stumbling block that could prove costly (around the tune of $300 million) and one which will possibly delay the Pascua Lama project, a proposed mine on the border of Chile and Argentina, according to the Valaparaiso Times.

But that's not all, Barrick also failed to mention a 2005 complaint filed with the Organization of American States (OAS) on behalf of the Diaguita indigenous communities. It alleges that the Pascua Lama project poses a grave risk to the subsistence rights of the Diaguita indigenous communities in the area, and that the Chilean government would be breaking its international commitments if it approves the project. The Diaguita also had a lawsuit filed in 2001 that lays claim to disputed land needed for the project. Despite this litigation, formal complaints, and two letters written by Diaguita leadership to Barrick and the President Bachelet of Chile in 2006, the Diaguita Indigenous group are not mentioned once in any of Barrick's Annual reports since 2001.*

In the U.S., Barrick failed to mention a lawsuit brought by the Te-Moak Tribe, the Western Shoshone Defense Project, and Great Basin Mine Watch against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management that Barrick is also party to. At the center of the lawsuit is the Bureau of Land Management's approval of Cortez Gold Mines' gold mining exploration proposal on and around Mt. Tenabo and Horse Canyon, important spiritual areas for the Western Shoshone. It causes one to wonder if Barrick will mention to their shareholders that the 135-year-old hard-rock mining law that grants Barrick cheap mining in the U.S. is now being reviewed by the U.S. Congress. A change in the law could impose the first-ever royalty fees and environmental restrictions for mining on public land.

Outright Lies

From the Washington Post ...

When Rodolfo Villar sold 20,000 acres to Barrick Gold for its Pascua Lama gold mining project, the mineral speculator signed a contract that he thought would pay him $1 million. Instead, the contract gave him only $19, and a fine-print stipulation that if he tried to obtain rights to any other lands in the surrounding area, he would face a $95,000 fine.

Aided by legal team of 30, including some of Chile's most prominent lawyers, Villar sued Barrick and won. Rather than getting the million dollars, he got his land back and is now asking $300 million for it. "Literally, we are sitting on a gold mine," remarked one of his lawyers to the Washington Post. Barrick is appealing the case.

Beyond the omissions – of which there are too many to mention here – there are lies that Barrick continues to peddle to the press and shareholders about their operations. Among the most visible, literally, is the mystery of the depleted glaciers near Pascua Lama. This issue has recently been getting a lot of press in both Chile and Argentina , as a recent study has revealed a 50 to 70 percent depletion in the glaciers near Barrick's exploration activity. While Barrick continuously blames Global Warming, a simple comparison with other glaciers in the same area (but not near Barrick's activities) illustrates that this is not the case. (see picture)

The real reason for the depletion is the dust kicked up by the construction activity, acccording to Luís Faura Cortes, a Councilperson from Alto del Carmen. According to Faura, the dust kicked up from Barrick's activites settles on the glaciers, causing them to absorb heat rather than reflect the sun rays, causing them to melt at a faster rate. (see picture)

Will anyone hold Barrick accountable for these lapses in their own reporting? WIll Barrick finally own up to the difficulties that they face and acknowledge resistance to their mining operations? Or will this be another Bre-X case where shareholders are merely left with the lesson and reminder of the lax regulatory standards that Canada's mining corporations face.

* a remark about methodology, I downloaded every annual report since 2001 and used a search function to find mention of the Diaguita.

(pictures shown on indybay link)
"Believing that they possess consciousness, men have not exerted themselves very much to acquire it." - Nietzsche, The Gay Science

Not all that glitters is good

By Al LewisWayne Murdy
Denver Post Staff Columnist
Article Last Updated: 08/05/2007 06:42:00 PM MDT

Wayne Murdy built a gold-mining empire at Newmont. (AP file)

Life is good for Wayne Murdy.

In 6½ years, he built Denver-based Newmont Mining Corp. into one of the world's largest gold producers. During his tenure as CEO, gold soared from about $250 to $665 an ounce.

On June 30, Murdy, 63, retired with a pension valued at $19 million, plus stock and options worth millions more.

Ripping open the earth and extracting its gold is a messy business. It sometimes means dealing with corrupt governments, accidentally spilling cyanide and mercury, destroying traditional livelihoods and displacing the little people from their native lands.

Yet after leading these activities on a global scale, Murdy is about to be honored as a humanitarian.

Murdy On TV

* Watch Post business columnist Al Lewis on 9News on Sunday.

has been chosen to receive the University of Denver International Bridge Builders Award at the 10th annual Korbel Dinner, a glitzy fundraiser for DU's Graduate School of International Studies at the Denver Marriott City Center on Aug. 30.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will give the keynote address. The dinner, after all, is named after her father, Czech diplomat Josef Korbel, who founded the international-studies school and became its first dean. Albright was unavailable for comment for this column.

Philanthropists Robert and Judi Newman - whose names are on DU's $72 million performing-arts center - will receive DU's Josef Korbel Humanitarian Award. The award Murdy will receive isn't exactly for humanitarianism. It's for building relationships between Denver and the rest of the world.

Nevertheless, the Korbel Dinner awards and DU's international-studies program are so inextricably linked to the humanitarian ideals they profess that many people don't see the difference.

Kara Martinez, a 2003 graduate, says she's insulted that her alma mater would whitewash a gold-mining company.

"I went to DU for a degree in international human rights," she said. "DU giving this award to Newmont is completely contradictory to that value. ... It's a revictimization of the communities Newmont has harmed."

Newmont routinely battles protests, lawsuits, sanctions and even criminal charges. The Western Shoshone of Nevada, for example, have been pressing claims against Newmont that sound remarkably like what cowboys have been doing to Indians for centuries. And claims from groups in Indonesia, Ghana and Peru are so horrible and strikingly similar that Newmont's own shareholders have passed a resolution demanding that the company address them.

To be sure, Newmont is perpetually under attack from activists. Not all of the mud sticks. In April, an Indonesian court acquitted the company and one executive on criminal charges for allegedly dumping arsenic and mercury into a bay where villagers ate fish that made them sick. Prosecutors are appealing the verdict.

"At best it's ironic and at worst it's hypocritical for a human-rights program to give an award to Wayne Murdy," said Glenn Morris, a professor at the University of Colorado at Denver.

Morris, who is also an attorney and sits on the leadership council of the American Indian Movement of Colorado, said he will help organize protests outside the Marriott on Aug. 30. Other groups say they will help organize protests as well.

"During Wayne Murdy's tenure, we have not seen Newmont take significant steps to address the needs and rights of local communities," said Paula Palmer, executive director of Global Response, a Boulder-based group that aids people impacted by Newmont's activities. "I think most of the changes have been on paper."

I think Newmont does what it can to mitigate the consequences of its activities - but in the end, it's a giant corporation on a mission to get the gold. People affected by this naturally fail to appreciate this sort of enterprise.

"The cost is too high for these communities," Palmer said. "It's not as if we all desperately need gold. ... Most gold is just used for ornamentation and is enjoyed by wealthy people."

Murdy was not available for comment, said Newmont spokesman Omar Jabara.

"It's unfortunate that an opportunity to help the University of Denver is being used to advance a bizarre agenda," Jabara said. "Like most people, Wayne Murdy believes business success and economic development are only sustainable through the protection of human rights. In addition, it's a well-established fact that economic development, like the kind we bring to many underdeveloped areas, is a catalyst for improved human rights."

In the past, the Bridge Builders award has gone to less controversial executives such as former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb and Ralph Peterson, the affable CEO of engineering giant CH2M Hill.

I asked Tom Farer, dean of the international-studies school, if he regretted choosing Murdy.

"Most of my colleagues wish that I hadn't recommended Murdy ... for the award," he said. "I've taken a fair amount of abuse for it."

Many professors in his department signed a letter asking him to reconsider. But he says he's willing to take the heat.

Farer is no stranger to humanitarianism. He once served as president of the human- rights commission of the Organization of American States.

He said he chose Murdy because - believe it or not - under Murdy, Newmont has improved. Farer offers the award as a carrot, instead of using a stick, and hopes it will inspire Newmont to hold itself to higher standards.

Already, DU's Daniels College of Business works as a consultant to Newmont, teaching its top executives such subjects as corporate strategy, social responsibility and environmental sustainability.

Bruce Hutton, dean of the business school, said he believes it's better to involve a company like Newmont in this sort of education than to simply beat on it as so many activists do.

"There are no perfect companies out there," he said. "Our job is to bring them in, work with them and move forward."

But do you really have to give a gold miner a humanitarian award?

"Wayne Murdy has to be responsive to 1,000 voices," Hutton said. "Sometimes, things good happen. Sometimes, things bad happen. We think we should give him credit when things good happen."

DU's business school is well-known for its work in corporate ethics and responsibility. Hutton and Farer hope to launch this fall a project called the Global Institute for Sustainable Development.

I asked Farer if he had sought funding from Murdy or Newmont for this effort.

"I certainly plan to," he said.

So the institute will ask corporations for money, which it will then use to investigate corporate abuses. Is this really going to work?

"Corporations that give us money will have to believe that if we research them objectively, they'll look better than they would if they're simply subjected to attacks from militant groups," Farer said.

But what if you research them and the facts are damning? I asked.

"Well, then they may regret it," he said. "Universities are committed to honest research. We pull no punches."

But you do give prizes.

Al Lewis' column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Respond to him at 303-954-1967 or



Lawmakers to discuss 1872 law reform Under the law, companies
haven't paid taxpayers $245B on minerals from public land

By John Miller The Associated Press Grouse Creek Mine
from Salt Lake Tribune

Grouse Creek MineThe Grouse Creek Mine near the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, is shown... (John Miller)

ATLANTA, Idaho - A small plane dodging wildfire smoke over Idaho's Rocky Mountains affords a view of an unnatural wonder few hikers ever see: Huge open pit mines.

Jim Kuipers, a former mining engineer-turned-industry critic, and Montana environmentalist Bonnie Gestring, offered a sky tour a week before a U.S. House subcommittee tackles a long-standing beef of American environmentalists. On Thursday, lawmakers will discuss a bill to dismantle the General Mining Act of 1872, signed by President Ulysses Grant to help develop the West's mineral deposits in the 19th century, but unchanged since.

Under the law, private companies haven't paid royalties to taxpayers for an estimated $245 billion worth of minerals extracted from public lands in the last 135 years. It also allows companies to buy public land for as little as $5 an acre. And it elevates mining's importance above other uses of public land, making it difficult for agencies like the U.S. Forest Service to deny any mine applications, environmentalists say.
Democrats won Congress last November, so reform efforts have gained momentum. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-West Virginia, and chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, is its sponsor and aims for a vote by December.

The wild card, however, is U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader from Nevada. A gold miner's son, Reid waxes sentimental about his hard-rock roots - and has stifled efforts to revamp the 1872 law before.

So last week, Kuipers and Gestring chartered a plane from a Colorado nonprofit, Ecoflight, to tour sites deep in Idaho's forested public lands they call ''poster children'' for why changes to the 1872 law are overdue.

''What's needed is a comprehensive system of environmental standards and reclamation criteria, so our public lands are adequately protected,'' said Gestring, of the Missoula, Mont.-based Earthworks.
Still, mining is worth $5 billion yearly to Nevada and industry is wary. Reid got more than $100,000 in campaign contributions from mining interests between 2001 and 2006, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Given these realities, most say Rahall's bill will be altered - if it's to become law.

Antiquated law

In the past, Reid has described working with Rahall on hard-rock mining as ''difficult.'' Now, he says he's more optimistic.

''Congressman Rahall's bill represents a good start to the debate, but certainly we have a long way to go,'' Reid told The Associated Press via e-mail.

Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., and co-sponsor of Rahall's bill, said after next week's hearing, he'll meet with Reid in Elko, Nev., on Aug. 21 for another public meeting and a separate tour of hard-rock mines.
''Unless it's a 'motherhood resolution,' where there's no debate, there's always a difference of opinion,'' Costa said in an interview. ''Anything that involves making changes - especially when there haven't been any changes since 1872 - is difficult by definition.''

From the passenger seat of the Cessna 210 over Idaho, Kuipers points toward 3 o'clock.
Bruce Gordon, the pilot, does a tight circle as the Stibnite Mine, an open-pit gold mine once run by Mobil Oil, emerges from the haze. Shuttered for a decade, groundwater here still has some of the highest concentrations of arsenic in the nation, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

Thirty miles to the southeast, the Grouse Creek Mine is perched on a mountaintop industrial site. Coeur d'Alene, Idaho's Hecla Mining Co., is investing $40 million into cleanup and says the effort will continue for years.

And above the 40-soul hamlet of Atlanta, Idaho, a Forest Service-owned hillside is etched with roads, tailings and shafts from mining since 1863. A Canadian company wants to build a new $40 million, cyanide-leach mine to capitalize on gold prices hovering at $680 an ounce - more than double 2000 prices.

Boise, 100 miles to the west, gets a fifth of its drinking water from the Boise River that's fed by tributaries near the proposed Atlanta mine. Mayor Dave Bieter pushed a resolution opposing it.

''Unfortunately, the resolution was largely symbolic,'' Bieter said this week. ''Antiquated federal regulations don't give enough consideration to the potentially negative effects of mining operations on the environment and livability of downstream communities.''

Future of mining

Rahall's changes would impose environmental requirements, give more rejection power to federal land managers and assess an 8 percent royalty to pay for cleaning up abandoned mines.

But with Bieter and environmentalists on the offensive, mining companies are leery of Rahall's plan, dubbing it unofficially ''The No-More Mining Act of 2007.'' Some changes in the 1872 law are needed, they say, but an 8 percent royalty would drive the U.S. industry to financial ruin.

''We have to be cost competitive,'' said Carol Raulston, spokeswoman for the National Mining Association in Washington, D.C. ''We want to pay more to the government. But sooner or later, you have to ask, 'Have we come to a tipping point when it's no longer feasible to mine in this country?' "
Atlanta Gold officials didn't immediately return phone calls.

But Hecla Mining's CEO Phillips Baker said many mining companies have acted responsibly under the existing law.

''We've spent about $40 million in closure costs and reclamation [at Grouse Creek],'' Baker said. ''Within Idaho, since 1969, there has not been a company that has started a mine and closed it where taxpayer money has been required. I would say we've had an extremely effective system of monitoring and regulating the opening and closing of mines in the state of Idaho.''

Environmentalists counter that money paid by companies to remediate mining pollution on public land won't be enough to cover future catastrophes, in Idaho or elsewhere. They point to cleanups in states including Montana, where estimated remediation costs at an open-pit complex near Ft. Belknap exceed the company's bonds by $33 million.

The West has changed, they say; so should the 1872 mining law.

''The 1872 mining law was written to help promote the development of the West,'' said John Robison, of the Idaho Conservation League that's fighting the Atlanta mine. ''As you can see, the West has already been developed.''

"Anything that involves making changes - especially when there haven't been any changes since 1872 - is difficult by definition."

California Democrat

Mining companies digging our pockets

Guest Opinion

by Ryan Alexander
Thursday, June 21, 2007

When lawmakers make legislative mistakes, it can take a long time to fix the error. That's the nature of a deliberative body. Wednesday was the "birthday" of one piece of legislation that has taken longer to fix than any other we know of - the General Mining Act of 1872 (more commonly referred to as the 1872 mining law).

The "granddaddy" of federal subsidies is alive and going strong, but rest assured we won't be throwing it a party or buying it presents. No, the only ones getting presents today are the gold, copper and other mineral companies that are the beneficiaries of 135 years of subsidies and giveaways.

The 1872 mining law robs taxpayers by allowing companies to "patent" - take title of - public lands for the rock bottom price of $5 an acre (that's a measly 31 cents per acre when adjusted for inflation!), a giveaway signed by Ulysses S. Grant as a way to help populate the western United States.

Once they have purchased this practically free land, mining companies are allowed to extract metals and minerals - an estimated $245 billion worth over the years - without paying a dime in royalties.

To be clear, we are not talking about subsidies going to the old '49ers who set up camp during California's gold rush back in the 19th Century. Today, minerals are mined by big companies making even bigger profits.

Every year, billions of dollars of gold, silver, and copper are taken from public lands, and Uncle Sam is literally giving the stuff away.

In 2006, Australian-based Rio Tinto reported profits of $7.9 billion and Canadian-based Barrick Gold Corporation sold over $4.4 billion worth of gold. It total, these two companies alone hold 39,322 claims covering 785,490 public acres in the United States.

Unlike other extractive industries, hard rock mining companies can dig for gold, silver and other precious metals and minerals on taxpayer-owned lands for free. Coal, oil, and natural gas companies must pay a royalty back to the U.S. Treasury that runs as high as 16 percent of the value of the resource they extract.

It only makes sense that these companies pay a royalty. Taxpayers should not give away free commodities that private companies will turn around and sell. And it shouldn't be any different for mining companies.

According to a recent analysis of government mining records, just 10 mining interests, five of which are foreign-owned corporations, own more than one-sixth of all claims.

These 10 companies hold 86,396 claims, representing 1,720,380 acres of public lands. In 1993, the largest of these companies, Barrick Gold Corporation, patented claims in Nevada for a mere $10,000. The estimated mineral value of those claims was $10 billion.

Adding insult to injury is that taxpayers foot the bill for billions of dollars in cleanup costs when mines are stripped bare and abandoned. One estimate puts the total cleanup cost at between $32 billion and $72 billion.

Reform of the 1872 mining law is more urgent than ever. Taxpayers have already given away many billions of dollars worth of metals and minerals, and new energy trends indicate the pace of the giveaway could accelerate without congressional action.

With the nuclear power industry pushing to increase their market share, companies looking to mine uranium have staked hundreds of new claims on public lands in the West hoping to cash in. Speculation in recent years has already caused uranium prices to double, and with gold and silver prices riding high, the pressure is like never before to exploit the bygone 1872 mining law for private gain.

As that mining law grows another year older, Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.V.) is leading an effort to modernize it. You can be sure that the deep pockets of the mining industry will fight like crazy to keep the subsidies flowing, so it's going to take a lot of hard work to ensure that substantial reforms are enacted and taxpayers are protected. Let's just hope we don't have to wait another 135 years for reform.

Ryan Alexander is president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a non-partisan federal budget watchdog. Column distributed by

EARTHWORKS Protecting Communities and the Environment

Alan Septoff
Research/IT Director
202-271-2355 (mobile)
202-887-1875 (fax)
1612 K St., NW, Suite 808
Washington, D.C. 20006
United States

=== EARTHWORKS Protecting communities and the environment from the adverse impacts of mining, digging, and drilling === Alan Septoff EARTHWORKS Research/IT Director 1612 K St., NW, Suite 808 Washington, D.C., USA 20006 p: 202-887-1872x205 f: 202-887-1875 e: w:

Mining project cancelled after long environmental protest.

Famatina, Provincia of La Rioja, Argentina
May 16, 2007

Vecinos de Famatina Autoconvocados en Defensa de la VIDA
Coordinadora de Asambleas Ciudadanas por la VIDA de Chilecito
Vecinos Autoconvocados de Pituil
Vecinos Autoconvocados de Chañarmuyo
Vecinos Autoconvocados de La Rioja Capital
ONG Oeste de Chilecito.

In Famatina, province of La Rioja, in the republic of Argentina, we hereby communicate:

Through telephone communication carried out between representatives of the criminal Transnational corporation Barrick Gold and the Chilecito departmental Judge Alfredo Ramos, we have been informed that as of Monday May 14, 2007, Barrick Gold Corp was definitively withdrawing their "Famatina project." They have asked for twelve days beginning Monday May, 21 to dismantle the mining camp which was under construction in the site "Cueva de Perez." An official document will be signed between representatives of the company, the sub-secretary of human rights, the federal justice and representatives of our assemblies.

It is fitting that our different assemblies in the area have carried out a permanent blockade at Peñas Negras on El Famatina mountain for the past two months and eight days, preventing Barrick the route to the mines of La Mejicana. Tourists and local people have enjoyed free passage, but not personnel of Barrick Gold, as since the beginning of the blockade there have only remained two guards to care for the incampment.

We inform this corporation and all similar companies (plunderers and criminals), that on our Riojan territory, come what may, whatever governors, officials, judges whomever may come... They will never have social support. Now that society is conscious of the consequences that this type of exploitation generates, we will never permit more plunder of our common resources and contamination of our earth, air and water.

We ask too, from our earth to our sister provinces equally affected by mega-mining: Don't give up the fight, let us all keep fighting to expel these bloodsuckers from our territories. In these mountains are the sources of our life -- in this fight we all fight together or we don't fight at all. We are obligated to leave our lands healthy and beautiful for our future generations to inherit.






Buenos Aires, Argentina

La Nacion, 16 May, 2007

Mining project cancelled after long environmental protest.

Canadian firm Barrick Gold decides to abandon the controversial exploration of Famatina.

LA RIOJA - The tenuous fight of environmentalists of Chilecito and Famatina has caused the definitive end to exploration operations which Barrick Gold Corp the Canadian mining corporation was carrying out in the region.

Within twelve days, according a communication signed yesterday by the provincial government, the personnel and machinery of the gold mining giant will be evicted from their operations in the mountainous Famatina Range.

Company access to the mining encampment was cut off in "Peñas Negras" on the road to the La Mejicana mines two months ago by area residents opposed to Barrick's plan to operate an open-pit mine with cyanide. The project put the water reserves of this arid and agricultural region into grave risk. Until now, the route had been "partially" blockaded, the assemblies permitting the two Barrick guards remaining to change shift guarding the camp, every Saturday.

But days ago, the assembly of residents had said that if Barrick did not abandon the project a total blockade would be initiated beginning this Saturday.

Yesterday, the sub secretary of human rights of the province, Domingo Bordón, participated in a meeting with members of the autonomous assemblies of residents and producers of Chilecito and Famatina, "to ensure that the camp is removed and that (the residents) permit the withdrawal o personnel and machinery on part of the Canadians from the Peñas Negras camp."

Chilecito judge Alfredo Ramos informed the environmentalists about the request made by Barrick to lift the blockade, and about the 12-day timeline set for the withdrawal operation. The residents asked the judge to have the company sign an official notice regarding their withdrawal.

Not Necessary

Questioned by the La Nation, the company stated that "explorations at Famatina are one of over 100 projects that the company has in exploration around the world, and in this contest, "is not a priority project." Now, except for Barrick Gold's operations in neighboring San Juan, "the rest o the explorations are complementary and not crucial,"

Barrick had set up shop in La Rioja after signing an agreement in April 2005 with the Yamiri, in which the local government had a 20% participation. Many of the details of this agreement were only made public at the beginning of this year, and became the root for a political struggle between the governor Angel Maza and vice-governor Luis Beder Herrera.

Now ex-governor Maza was first suspended and then stripped of his role by a political process, accused of the crime of corruption with State goods (illegally selling public land to the miners). Now Beder Herera is the governor.

In the infamous accord, according to an investigation published by the newspaper El Independiente, Barrick Gold was awarded exclusive rights to exploration and operations in the Famatina range. In return, the company was to pay off $500,000 over five years.

As governor, Angel Maza was a fervent promoter of "responsible mining" in his province, often visiting Canada to attract projects. In April of 2006, Carlos Araneda, Latin American vice-President or Latin America of Barrick Gold, visited the then-governor Maza: "Up to now we are satisfied with results of the Famatina project," Araneda had said, with Barrick already having invested over two million out of a scheduled ten million dollars.

"We have passed the initial stage, and this next stage is crucial for the project," said Araneda at that time, adding that in 2007 the company would decide whether or not the province had "an economically viable level of minerals." This past March 8, the provincial Legislature, dominated politically by Beder Herrera, passed a law demanded by the environmentalists: To prohibit the operation of open-pit mines using cyanide.

At the same time, the date of July 29 was chosen as the date of a popular consult in Chilecito and Famatina to decide to reject or accept that law. A investigative commission was created to investigate the relations of Yamiri, and to annul the agreement with Barrick. Maza denied any irregularities in the agreement which favored Barrick so.

On March 10, with movement in the mining zone blockaded by residents, in a tense and highly-charged meeting, a Barrick representative and environmentalists arrived at an agreement: Barrick promised to begin to dismantle the mining camp within seven days. Two months later and eight days later, the environmentalists now want to be certain that the transnational company will keep its word this time.

By Arturo Ortiz Sosa

La Rioja Correspondent


Native American Group
Wants Barrick Gold Corporation Off Sacred Lands

2 May 2007

For more information, contact:
Helen DaSilva, Press Officer
617-331-2984 (mobile)


TORONTO — Today at its annual shareholders meeting, the Barrick Gold Corporation will have to answer some tough questions from the Western Shoshone Defense Project (WSDP), a grassroots Native American group based in Nevada and supported by Oxfam America, an international relief and development organization. Dedicated to protecting the land rights and preserving the homelands of the Western Shoshone people, the WSDP is concerned about Barrick’s plans to mine on Mount Tenabo and Horse Canyon, important spiritual areas in Northern Nevada and home to Shoshone creation stories. “As the world’s largest gold mining company, Barrick should be an industry leader and respect the rights of communities to give their free, prior, and informed consent to all mining projects proposed on their lands,” said Keith Slack, senior policy advisor for Oxfam America. “Respecting the right of consent is critical for protecting indigenous peoples’ sacred sites.” "The United Nations has recognized that the U.S. government and the mining companies are violating Western Shoshone land rights,” said Larson Bill, community organizer for the Western Shoshone Defense Project. “We have repeatedly tried to engage with Barrick regarding their plans to mine on Mount Tenabo, but all they have done is bring in more drilling rigs and put up fences.” “We are bringing a petition signed by over 18,500 people telling Barrick to stop all activity on Mount Tenabo and Horse Canyon. These are people all over the country who understand that this is Western Shoshone land and the mining companies have no right to destroy it,” said Bill. Slack continued, "Today's meeting is an opportunity for the WSDP to take their concerns directly to Barrick and its shareholders." Oxfam America works to ensure the oil, gas, and mining industries respect the rights of community members impacted by extractive industries projects, and that projects contribute to the long-term reduction of poverty. For more information, or for an interview with Keith Slack or Larson Bill, please contact Helen DaSilva at, (617) 728-2409 (office) or (617) 331-2984 (cell). Article Tools: Printer-friendly Printer-friendly Email this article Email this article

E&E Daily: mining reform bill

Friday, May 11, 2007
Debra Kahn, E&E Daily reporter

5. MINING: House bill would revamp 1872 hardrock law

The chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee introduced legislation yesterday aimed at reforming the 1872 hardrock mining law that allows companies to avoid paying royalties on minerals taken from public lands.

Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) and Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee Chairman Jim Costa (D-Calif.) are sponsoring the "Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2007," H.R. 2262, which would impose an 8 percent royalty on the net production of minerals on claims filed under the law. It would also identify types of federal land to place off-limits to mining and require mine operators to submit reclamation plans before they receive mining permits.

"It is far past the time for responsible reform of the Jurassic Park of all federal laws," Rahall said at a news briefing.

Tiffany & Co. Chairman and CEO Mike Kowalski, who appeared with Rahall and Costa, said his company's support for the bill was "motivated by self-interest."

"We desperately need new mines in this country," Kowalski said. "This bill is a hugely important step in the right direction."

The government has missed more than $245 million in royalties on mineral reserves since the mining law was enacted 135 years ago, Rahall said. And taxpayers will eventually be burdened by an estimated $32 billion bill for cleaning up thousands of abandoned mines, he said. The law would affect up to 270 million acres of public lands, Rahall added.

Claimholders can acquire public land through the patenting process for as little as $2.50 per acre under the existing law. Congress has renewed a temporary moratorium on such land purchases every year since 1994.

Gold, uranium and other minerals are selling at record-high prices and production is at historic highs, particularly in Nevada, Arizona and California, Rahall said. The congressman said he has "reached out" to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) -- who has opposed mining reform in the past -- and held "lengthy discussions" on the bill's intent.

Reid told the Associated Press he did not expect a hardrock-mining reform bill to surface in the Senate this year. "We have a lot of things to do," Reid said. "It won't be this year."

Reid opposed efforts in the the mid-1990s to reform the law. He told the AP that such efforts were spurred then by "people ... interested in destroying hardrock mining."

The bill marks the fourth time Rahall has tried to reform the law since 1985. "We are cognizant of factors that stymied the '80s bill," Rahall said, as well as "political problems that plagued" the 1994 Senate conference." He said Reid agreed with him "on the goal of fair returns to the American taxpayers."

Other past efforts to reform the law have included former Reps. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.) and Jim Gibbons' (R-Nev.) attempt to insert language into the House-passed budget in 2005 that would have lifted the moratorium on mining patents and raised the land price to $1,000 per acre (E&E Daily, Dec. 12, 2005).

Costa said he planned to hold at least one field hearing later this year and move the bill to the full Natural Resources Committee by the end of this year or early next.

Along with legislative action, mining companies and retailers are taking voluntary action in the form of nonbinding standards for cyanide and mercury management, labor standards, public disclosure and emergency response. Tiffany & Co., Earthworks, Newmont Mining and BHP Billiton are among the supporters of the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance, which is meeting this fall to draft initial standards. Earthworks President Stephen D'Esposito speculated last week that mining companies were willing to subject themselves to voluntary standards in anticipation of the "regulatory noose" tightening over time (Greenwire, May 4).

The National Mining Association released a statement Wednesday saying it wanted any mining law to recognize existing authority over the closure of areas to mining, as well as ensure "security of title and tenure" throughout a mine's operations. "We look forward to working with Chairman Rahall and ranking member Don Young (R-Alaska) as the House Natural Resources Committee begins consideration of amendments to the law," the industry group said.

Rahall said he would not rule out any potential amendments, which could include "Good Samaritan" provisions for companies that conduct voluntary cleanup efforts. He also said he was not wedded to the royalty method of compensation as the only method of payment. He said he had no feedback from the Bush administration yet.



Mining Law a Dilemma for Sen. Harry Reid

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Faces Political Crosscurrents in Mining Law Rewrite

The Associated Press
May 10, 2007

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, a gold miner's son from the top gold-producing state in the nation, is confronting competing political interests as House Democrats prepare to rewrite an antiquated hard-rock mining law.

The minerals mining industry holds huge sway in Nevada and industry is balking at some of the most far-reaching reforms. Reid must work with environmentalists and fellow Democrats in Congress, but also hang onto support at home or risk the fate of his ousted predecessor, Tom Daschle.

In an interview Reid said he supports reforms to the General Mining Law of 1872 and said he can work with House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall, D-W.Va. Rahall planned to introduce a rewrite of the bill on Thursday.

During the Clinton administration Reid had pitched battles with fellow senators he thought were trying to amend the mining law to hurt the mining industry. Reid always prevailed and the law remained fundamentally unchanged.

"We had people then that were more interested in destroying hard-rock mining," said Reid. He added that he met with Rahall on the issue last week.

"In the past he's been difficult to work with on hard-rock mining issues. He's a coal-mining person, not hard-rock mining, but a lot of things have transpired" since the reform attempts of the mid-1990s, Reid said.

"Nick and I had a long conversation. He'll be easy to work with," Reid predicted.

Rahall spokeswoman Allyson Ivins Groff declined comment in advance of Rahall's press conference Thursday.

Nevada political analysts said Reid will accept reform but nothing the mining industry can't live with.

"It all depends on how you define the word reform. I think Harry Reid supports reform as much as the next person who represents a state with powerful mining interests," said Jon Ralston, a nonpartisan Nevada political analyst and columnist.

"The mining industry considers Harry Reid one of the greatest allies they have on Capitol Hill," Ralston added. "I can't imagine that's going to change after this bill."

Reid got more than $100,000 in donations from the mining industry between 2001 and 2006, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Mining is a $5 billion industry in Nevada and is especially crucial to the economy outside of Las Vegas.

Reid's political support is weak in those areas of rural Nevada anyway, analysts said. Nonetheless Reid, who will face re-election to a fifth term in 2010, must remain continually watchful of political support in his home state, where Republicans slightly outnumber Democrats.

Daschle, the former Senate Democratic leader, lost re-election in South Dakota in 2004 in part because his national role cost him home-state support.

The mineral mining industry, also an important force in Arizona, Utah and other largely Western states, has benefited from a law that has not changed with the times. Unlike with coal, oil or gas, the industry doesn't pay federal royalties on minerals it extracts. There are few environmental protections or reviews. The law allows public lands to be sold cheaply for mining, though Congress has annually imposed a moratorium on that.

Rahall would impose a series of environmental requirements, give more power to federal land managers to deny mining applications, and impose an 8 percent royalty fee that would go into a fund to clean up abandoned mine sites, among other changes.

The National Mining Association says it supports some changes that would add more certainty to permitting and is interested in an abandoned mine cleanup fund. But spokeswoman Carol Raulston said that an 8 percent royalty fee "could be very punitive to the industry."

"I wouldn't want to speak for Senator Reid, but I think you'll find the delegations of all the big mining states are supportive of the industry and want to make sure we can maintain those jobs," Raulston said.

Some attempts to change the law came close during the Clinton years but there has been little action under President Bush. With Democrats now in control of Congress, supporters of reform see a good opportunity for action.

But there's not yet a sponsor for a Senate version of the bill, and Reid indicated Senate action wasn't an immediate priority.

"We have a lot of things to do. It won't be this year," Reid said, adding there could be action in 2008.


Miners stunned, environmentalists cheer after northern uranium project blocked

Wed May 9, 2007
By Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

(CP) - Miners are stunned and environmentalists cheering over a northern regulator's recommendation that a uranium exploration project be denied because it threatens the spiritual and cultural well-being of the area's Dene people.

The Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board says Ur-Energy's (TSX:URE) plan to drill up to 20 holes near the Thelon River should not proceed under any circumstances.

"Although the proposed development is physically small, the potential cultural impacts are not," says the board in a written decision.

It is only the second time in the board's history that it has dismissed a project outright.

It's now up to federal Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice to decide whether to accept the recommendation, which throws doubt on the future of hundreds of mineral leases and claims in a vast area of the Northwest Territories.

"It's a major concern if you can't run a minimal-impact exploration program," Mike Vaydik of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut Chamber of Mines said Wednesday.

"Mineral exploration in the southeast part of the N.W.T. is basically stopped."

Monte Hummel of the World Wildlife Fund agreed.

"This stands to have a serious impact on not just this project," he said. "That's what the people who live there want."

Ur-Energy described the decision as a delay.

In a release, company president Bob Boberg said Ur-Energy is disappointed with the review board's recommendation and "will continue to pursue any and all approaches that will allow us to advance exploration."

Boberg said Ur-Energy would discuss the recommendation with Prentice.

The Thelon Basin is considered one of the earth's last pristine wildernesses.

During hearings on the project, one ecotourism outfitter said he'd spotted six grizzlies, 12 moose, 20 wolves, 100 muskox and 100,000 caribou on a single trip.

Residents from the community of Lutsel K'e described the area as "the place where God began" and "the heart and soul of the Dene."

"(The) Thelon River is Thaydene Nene. Thaydene Nene is our ancestors," elder Bernadette Lockheart said in her testimony.

Even a single exploration camp is too much for such hallowed ground, testified 13-year-old Michael Lafferty.

"If you do find uranium, you'll try to get it, right?" he asked. "It's better just not to check. Just leave it there."

The area drained by the Thelon River, which flows from the N.W.T. into Nunavut, has been the subject of an intense staking rush in recent years.

At least 40 companies are prodding the tundra for uranium after prices for the silvery metal grew from $7 a pound a few years ago to over $100 now. They have registered hundreds of prospecting permits, claims and mineral leases - 1,000 such dispositions on the N.W.T. side alone.

Nunavut has identified 405 prospecting permits that may conflict with ecological values. Some permits overlap proposed conservation areas or territorial parks.

The area is also subject to an agreement between Ottawa and the Akaitcho Dene not to make any decisions on the land for five years pending a land-claim settlement. That interim land withdrawal is currently awaiting cabinet approval.

As well, part of the region has been singled out by Environment Minister John Baird for the creation of East Arm National Park near the east arm of Great Slave Lake.

Earlier this week, Lutsel K'e Chief Adeline Jonasson sent an open letter to all resource companies saying they shouldn't bother asking about development on the Thelon because the Dene aren't interested.

"We are in complete opposition to having a mine in the Thelon area, and therefore will not support even the initial stages of such a possibility," she wrote.

The board says Canada's mining regulations contribute to the problem by allowing prospectors to stake claims before consulting area aboriginals, and then giving those claims precedence in any subsequent land talks.

As the quickening pace of northern industrial development runs head-on into land claims and environmental concerns, it's time the federal government dealt with tough land-use questions, said Hummel.

"As you delay more and more, mineral permits of one kind or another are being issued," he said. "It's fragmenting and reducing the area the (Dene) said they wanted to protect."

From the Daily Grist:

Nevada Mined Newmont Mining Co. will undergo social-responsibility review

It wasn't enough to be acquitted of pollutey wrongdoing in Indonesia; the world's largest gold-mining firm is begging for more green cred. This week, 91.6 percent of Newmont Mining Co.'s shareholders approved an independent review of the company's environmental and social impacts worldwide. Along with the high-profile trial in Indonesia, Newmont's operations in Ghana, Peru, and Native American lands in Nevada have provoked "a pattern of community opposition," said Julie Tanner of Christian Brothers Investment Service, which introduced the resolution. Tanner noted that protests were beginning to affect stock prices, and giving faith-based shareholders moral qualms. For its part, Newmont took the unprecedented step of advocating for the review. Said a Newmont spokesperson, "We do need to know where we can improve. There's nothing worse than having an issue out there and not knowing about it until it's too late or festered into a big problem."

straight to the source: The Christian Science Monitor, Ben Arnoldy, 26 Apr 2007

straight to the source: The Spokesman-Review, Kevin Graman, 25 Apr 2007

straight to the source: Mineweb, Dorothy Kosich, 25 Apr 2007

Holding Corporations Accountable
May 1, 2007

Barrick's Dirty Secrets:
Communities Worldwide Respond to Gold Mining Impacts

Canadian-owned Barrick Gold, the world's largest gold producer, is exploring, building and operating huge, open-pit gold mines on nearly every continent on the planet.

On average, gold mining today produces 70 tons of waste for every ounce of gold, while also consuming and polluting massive amounts of water. An estimated 50 percent of these mining operations occur on native lands.

For many Indigenous peoples, who often rely on their environment for food and necessities, mining threatens not only their livelihood, but also their spirituality and traditional way of life.

These new "modern mining" projects leave thousand-year legacies of acid mine drainage, destruction of ecosystems, disease, and regional climate change. Riches in the form of gold, silver and copper are exported to first world shareholders, leaving behind poverty, dependency and pollution.

A new CorpWatch report details the operations of Barrick gold in nine different countries, focusing on the efforts on the part of the communities to seek justice from this powerful multinational.

In the report, you will discover:

  • individual profiles on Barrick's operations in Chile, Argentina, Peru, Tanzania, Papua New Guinea, the U.S., Australia, the Philippines, and Canada.
  • how Barrick's Valedero and Pascua Lama projects got placed in a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve;
  • a roundup of mine security and police repression in Peru;
  • how "illegal" miners have had their lives threatened and taken away in Tanzania and Papua New Guinea;
  • how Barrick threatens indigenous spiritual grounds of the Wiradjuri in Australia and the Western Shoshone in the U.S.
  • how Barrick threatens the water sources in water scarce areas in Chile, Argentina, Australia, and Nevada. In New South Wales, Australia, Barrick's mine is licensed to use 17 million liters on water per day. Meanwhile, that region is experiencing their worst drought in the last hundred years.
  • profiles of on-going community struggles against Barrick around the world


Also on May 2nd, as part of an "International Day of Action" against Barrick,  protests will take place in six different countries as well as in Toronto, Canada, where Barrick is based. On the same day, Canada's second largest gold mining company, GoldCorp, will be protested at their annual meeting in
Vancouver. For more information about these actions, go to


Support CorpWatch's work to hold corporations accountable on human rights, labor rights and environmental justice issues through education and activism.

Help us bring the critical information and resources that tens of thousands of you access every month by making a contribution to CorpWatch.

CorpWatch -- Holding Corporations Accountable
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Tel: 510-271-8080
Fax: 510-271-8083
Also check out!

Barrick takes rare loss on hit to unwind hedge
Anti-mine activists arrested outside annual meeting of shareholders

May 03, 2007
Lisa Wright
Business Reporter

Two anti-mining protesters were arrested yesterday outside Barrick Gold Corp.'s annual meeting at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre just as the company celebrated a long-awaited milestone with the elimination of its controversial hedge book.

A woman in her late 20s who was handing out pamphlets about the negative impacts of global gold mining and a Toronto man in his early 40s, who tried to intervene during her arrest, were hauled off in a police van at about 9:30 a.m., accused of trespassing and obstructing officers, police said.

"They're free to get their point across but they were on private property," Sgt. Mark Hayward told the Toronto Star.

"They were asked to leave and they refused to leave so they were arrested," he said, adding a handful of others complied and moved across Front St. The woman was released and not charged, while details of the man's status were not immediately available.

He added that eight officers were waiting at the scene this morning after receiving intelligence of potential protests against Barrick, the world's largest gold miner and a favourite target of environmental
activists for their mining practices.

"We want to raise awareness about the significant ecological damage that their projects have caused in remote communities," said Natalie Lowrey of Friends of the Earth Australia.

A Barrick spokesperson said the police were simply doing their job protecting the public.

Another small rally was held outside Barrick's head office on Bay St. late yesterday to continue the day of protest in tandem with the annual meeting in the John Bassett Theatre, with some environmentalists given time to speak to shareholders.

Barrick reported a net loss of $159 million (U.S.) in the first quarter - its first quarterly loss in five years - after taking a hit of $557 million to unwind its hedge book.

Barrick is now free to sell all production from its 27 mines at spot prices. Gold fell by $2.10 to close at $672.30 yesterday in New York.

The strategy of forward selling production was a $2 billion windfall over the late 1980s and 1990s when bullion continued to tumble. But Barrick's share price took a beating as gold began to climb over the
last five years.

"When you look at the whole ball of wax, in the 20 or so years of Barrick hedging, it's probably been an even sum game for them, but I think the market will take it kindly," said analyst Michael Fowler of
Desjardins Securities.

Flamboyant company founder Peter Munk told the audience Barrick has done "a superb job" in growing to the top of the heap globally and that the lagging stock price should reflect that.

"We're very pleased about what we've accomplished because the market is looking for unhedged producers and there's a very bullish sentiment on the gold price now," said chief financial officer Jamie Sokalsky.

Barrick boosted its annual dividend 36 per cent and has $3 billion in cash. Shares jumped $1.56 (Canadian,) or 5 per cent, the most in almost a year, to close at $32.71 in Toronto.



FYI – Let’s see what happens with this….

Christian Brothers Investment Services: Newmont Is First Mining Company To Urge Shareholders To Vote For Social Resolution, Company Will Produce Report On Impacts Of Mining Operations On Local Communities

April 19, 2007

In a first for a U.S. mining company, Newmont Mining Corporation (NYSE: NEM), one of the world's leading gold producers, will encourage shareholders to support a social resolution sponsored by Christian Brothers Investment Services, Inc. (CBIS) and 10 other faith-based investors. The concerned shareholders are urging the company to produce a report addressing community-based opposition to its operations in the U.S. and around the world. The shareholder resolution will be voted on at Newmont's annual meeting April 24, 2007.

Julie Tanner, corporate advocacy coordinator at CBIS, said: "This is a real breakthrough in that it is the first time that a mining company has agreed to urge shareholders to support a social resolution. This is a bold step by Newmont, and, with the release of a substantive and thorough report, will indicate that the company takes the issue seriously. To be credible, the report will need to include the input of independent experts and the communities affected by the mining operations of Newmont. We look forward to working closely with company officials."

The resolution reads: "Several Newmont projects in developing countries have been undermined by community protests over the years. A pattern of community resistance to the company's operations, especially in Peru, Indonesia, and Ghana, raises concerns about issues such as the company's mining waste disposal practices, the potential for water pollution, development on sacred sites, and community resettlement ... [Therefore] shareholders request that a committee of independent board members be formed to conduct a global review and evaluation of the company's policies and practices relating to existing and potential opposition from local communities and to our company's operations and the steps taken to reduce such opposition; and that the results of that review be included in a report that is made available to shareholders prior to the 2008 annual meeting."

In addition to CBIS, the shareholder resolution is supported by Catholic Health East; Sisters of Saint Joseph of Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia; Mercy Investment Program; CHRISTUS Health; General Board of Pension and Health Benefits; United Methodist Church; Presbyterian Church (USA); Missionary Oblates; Unitarian Universalist Service Committee; Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; and Catholic Healthcare West.

The leading proxy voting service, Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS), has also recommended a vote in favor of the resolution.: "ISS believes that it is important for global companies, particularly those that operate in developing markets or regions with social, political, or economic unrest, to have appropriate and effective policies for interacting with the host governments and local communities that will be impacted by their operations. Successful relationships between a company and such stakeholders can improve the efficiency of operations, expand the company's license to operate in challenging markets, improve the public's perception of the company, and mitigate the risk of controversy, protests and litigation."

The faith-based investors have stressed that the Newmont report will need to be comprehensive and open to many viewpoints in order to be regarded as credible. In addition, the report should include:

* An evaluation of the company's existing systems to identify, assess and control for social and environmental risks;

* A global review of the adequacy and effectiveness of existing social and environmental guidelines, policies, and practices relating to community engagement and to existing and potential opposition from local communities and to our company's operations;

* A review of those issues most often associated with community opposition, including the environmental practices and concerns about potential environmental risks posed by the company's operations, adequacy of timeframes set aside for community engagement from project identification to start up, job creation, revenue sharing, and the development of community investment programs;

* An assessment of the actions of other mining and natural resource extractive companies to minimize community opposition, such as the creation of social guidelines designed to gain the free prior informed consent of communities; and

* A review of the findings, conclusions and recommendations on specific actions or decisions the Board should consider, including steps to strengthen Newmont's engagement policies and procedures and actions to mitigate future community opposition overall, reduce risk, and improve community well being, along with an implementation timeline.

CBIS will also be supporting the proposal put forward by New York City Pension Funds asking for a review of company policy regarding waste disposal at Newmont's mining operations in Indonesia.

For the full text of the CBIS resolution, click here.


Christian Brothers Investment Services, Inc., manages more than $4 billion, combining faith and finance in the responsible stewardship of Catholic financial assets. CBIS' combination of premier institutional asset managers, diversified product offerings, and careful risk-control strategies constitutes a unique investment approach for Catholic institutions and their fiduciaries. CBIS strives to integrate faith-based values into the investment process through a disciplined approach to socially responsible investing that includes principled purchasing (stock screens), active ownership strategies (proxy voting, dialogues, and shareholder resolutions) and community investment. Visit CBIS on the Web at

S.H.A.W.L. Society (Sovereignty, Health, Air, Water, and Land) Goals: To keep toxic waste from ruining our environment; to protect the air, water, and land for our children; and to promote awareness and educate the community about environmental concerns and social injustices.

Deb Abrahamson, Wellpinit, WA (509) 258-8952 Twa-le Abrahamson, Wellpinit, WA (509) 258-4313



Attended by environmentalists from Bolivia, Canada, the United States, England, France, Germany, Iraq, Papua New Guinea and Switzerland as well as most Australian states, the campaign to protect Lake Cowal continues to gain international recognition as momentum grows in the fight to stop the desecration of Indigenous lands and the environmental destruction resulting from gold mining on all continents."

From: Natalie Lowrey;

9 April 2007

14 Protestors Arrested at Wiradjuri Lake Cowal demonstration

Fourteen protestors have been arrested at a demonstration in support of Wiradjuri Traditional Owners who want the Lake Cowal Gold Mine stopped.

Around 100 Aboriginal and environmental supporters demonstrated at the Lake Cowal Gold mine, 47 kms from West Wyalong over Easter to protest against the desecration of traditional Wiradjuri lands and environmental damage caused by gold mining.

Some of the demonstrators locked themselves onto pieces of machinery, shutting down mine operations, while others occupied the mine's offices.

West Wyalong police charged the protestors with entering "inclosed land" under the obscure Inclosed Land Act 1901. The protestors were released on bail on the condition that they did not come within 10 kilometres of the mine.

Wiradjuri Traditional Owners have been holding convergences at Lake Cowal for a number of years as part of their campaign to raise awareness about the destruction of their ancient cultural heritage and their demands for the mine to be closed.

During yesterday's protest, a Barrick Gold mine manager refused to accept an eviction notice from Traditional Owner, Neville "Chappy" Williams. Mine Manager, Bill Shallvey, rudely refused to take the notice, the fourth issued to Barrick since 2002, shouting that Williams and his supporters were "misleading people".

"Our Aboriginal People are being denied access to our sacred ground. Protestors from around the world are here to support our claim for access to our ancient lands. Australian Aboriginal Peoples have the oldest continuing living culture in the world. We Wiradjuri People are also being denied the right of spiritual and religious freedom under s.116 of the Australian Constitution," Mr Williams said.

"Barrick is desecrating our sacred site and Dreaming Place and denying us access to our traditional lands. The company has moved or destroyed more than 10 000 artefacts including marked trees, damaging the integrity of the area forever.

"The company did a deal with five unauthorised Wiradjuri, who signed away the ancient inheritance of over 30 000 people of the Wiradjuri Nation. After signing the secret agreement with Barrick they discontinued their Native Title Claim over the area. Our Mooka and Kalara united families' claim is still active in the Federal Court and is proceeding towards determination. Our claim group is more than several thousand people who have bloodline back to Country over thousands and thousands of years.

"Despite Barrick's assertion that we are misleading people, what we are doing is our ancient cultural duty to protect our sacred Country for the generations to come. We are also raising awareness of the dangers of cyanide leach gold mining and the mine's excessive use of precious water in the middle of the worst drought on record. The fullest dams, in the very parched countryside between Condobolin and the mine, are the toxic tailings ponds west of the open cut pit, which extends into the lakebed.

"I am proud of the courageous and brave protestors who entered the mine, occupied its office and locked onto the conveyor belt, shutting down operations. They had my authority to enter our traditional lands."

The Easter Sunday protest was the climax of the weekend of actions that included a Saturday morning demonstration in Condobolin outside the offices of the Wiradjuri Condobolin Corporation funded by Barrick under the secret agreement.

Attended by environmentalists from Bolivia, Canada, the United States, England, France, Germany, Iraq, Papua New Guinea and Switzerland as well as most Australian states, the campaign to protect Lake Cowal continues to gain international recognition as momentum grows in the fight to stop the desecration of Indigenous lands and the environmental destruction resulting from gold mining on all continents.

Activists are working towards international solidarity against Barrick on 2 May 2007, the day of its Annual General Meeting.

Neville Williams 0416 316 774
Ellie Gilbert 0427 795 639


I, Neville Williams, on behalf of the Traditional Owners of Lake Cowal have already issued Barrick Gold with three Notices to Quit our sacred ground. Under Wiradjuri Custom, Tradition and Law/Lore, you have received your three warnings. You must now respect the unceded sovereignty of the Wiradjuri Nation and cease all operations, restore the landscape; remove all equipment and replace all artefacts to their GPS'd positions. This is to be done under supervision of the Traditional Owners of Lake Cowal. We reserve our right to take further action as necessary.

Signed this day 8 April 2007.

Neville "Chappy" Williams for and on behalf of the Mooka/Kalara united families within the Wiradjuri Nation.

Contacts: Neville Williams 0416 316 774
Ellie Gilbert 0427 795 639

Natalie Lowrey National Liaison Officer Friends of the Earth Australia T: 02 4782 1181 M: 0421 356 067



“Court Remands Archaeological Portion to Board”

“Uranium Exploration Permit on Hold”

April 6, 2007

Rapid City, SD (USA)- A South Dakota state circuit court judge ordered the archaeological portion of a uranium exploration permit back to the SD Board of Minerals and Environment, the same Board who admits they sent the State Archaeologist to the wrong place. The permit they issued is on hold until a valid permit is granted, although opponents want an injunction until the appeal process is finished.

Two volunteer environmental organizations, ACTion for the Environment and Defenders of the Black Hills filed an appeal to the state circuit court, according to the SD Administrative Procedures Act, after attending a hearing with the SD Board of Minerals and Environment on January 17 and 18, 2007. The groups were appealing a decision by the Board granting a permit to Powertech (USA) Inc., a Canadian company, to drill 155 additional deep exploratory wells in the southwestern Black Hills for uranium. The company already has 4,000 wells in this specific area. The Black Hills are considered sacred to many member of the Defenders organization, and also to many Native American nations from the North American continent.

The two organizations filed the appeal citing due process of law and equal protection of the law from the South Dakota laws and the US Constitution. Some of the issues presented to the court in the appeal are:

  • the signing of the permit by the Board prior to the plaintiffs being given the opportunity to present their objections,
  • the failure to consider the plaintiffs written exhibits that were given to the Board,
  • the failure to provide interpreters in the Lakota language for two of the elderly members of Defenders of the Black Hills, or for the Board to be able to understand the concerns of these elders,
  • and the Board‘s practice of allowing the mining company to present data on the quality of the underground water when the mining process will contaminate the water presenting a conflict of interest. It would be in the mining companies best interest for the water to already be contaminated with uranium and radioactive materials.

W. Cindy Gillis from The Law Offices of Mario Gonzalez is the lead counsel for the Defenders of the Black Hills and ACTion for the Environment courtesy of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. The Tribe has already experienced pollution from past uranium mining in the southwestern Black Hills.

The Board is represented by SD Deputy Attorney General Roxanne Giedd, and Powetech (USA) Inc. is represented by Max Main, attorney from Belle Fourche, SD. The Board will conduct a hearing at 10:00 (CDST) on April 19, 2007, at the SD Department of Environment and Natural Resources, 523 E. Capitol Ave., Pierre, SD.

Contact: Charmaine White Face, Coordinator, Defenders of the Black Hills, PO Box 2003, Rapid City, SD 57709, Phone: 605- 399-1868 Email:


Coal Plants - Supreme Court strikes

Karma Duke
Supremes say upgrading coal plants without reducing pollution a no-no

We love the Supreme Court this week. In a unanimous decision yesterday, Big Justice overturned a lower court ruling and declared that Duke Energy did indeed violate the Clean Air Act when it modernized coal plants without paying for pollution-reduction equipment. Duke had claimed it wasn't required to consult the U.S. EPA when upgrading eight plants between 1988 and 2000, as it did not increase their hourly emissions; green groups had sued, arguing that modifications increased the number of hours the plants were in operation, thus increasing annual emissions, thus necessitating a permit. Right you are, said the Supremes, in a ruling that may have a green-colored ripple effect. The case now heads back down to district court. SCOTUS chose not to rule on Duke's backup argument, that federal clean-air requirements should not be triggered by "routine maintenance." And a complete overhaul of a plant is totally routine maintenance, right?


Supreme Court overturns Duke clean air law ruling

By Chris Baltimore
Apr.03, 2007

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A unanimous U.S. Supreme Court on Monday overturned a lower court's ruling that would have allowed utility Duke Energy Corp. to modernize aging coal-fired power plants without reducing air pollutants.

The case had been closely watched by the industry because it could determine whether U.S. electric utilities must spend billions of dollars on emission-reduction equipment and whether similar lawsuits against other U.S. utilities for alleged noncompliance with the Clean Air Act will succeed.

About half of the nation's electricity comes from coal plants, many of which have been operating for decades and need to be overhauled to stay out of mothballs.

The justices set aside a ruling by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals that Duke did not need a permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency because hourly emissions from Duke's plants in North and South Carolina would not increase.

Writing the high court's opinion, Justice David Souter said the appeals court's reading of 1980 regulations "was inconsistent with their terms and effectively invalidated them." The case was remanded to the lower court.

Environmental groups had argued that federal law requires utilities to install anti-pollution equipment if they make plant modifications that change their annual - not hourly - emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and other pollutants.

Those emissions are linked to heart disease, respiratory ailments and other health problems.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, called the ruling a victory and said it will lead to cleaner air in dozens of U.S. states where coal plants operate -- mostly in the Midwest and Southeast.

Charlotte, North Carolina-based Duke said it was disappointed with the ruling.

"We continue to believe we have solid defenses against the government's claims and will show in the lower courts that our power plant projects were not subject to (federal emissions regulations)," Duke Energy's chief legal officer Marc Manly said in a statement.

Between 1988 and 2000, Duke replaced or redesigned tube assemblies at older coal-fired power plants it built prior to 1975 in order to extend their working life.

hose actions spurred a lawsuit from the Clinton administration's Justice Department in 2000, which alleged that Duke violated federal law by failing to get permits.

The Edison Electric Institute, which lobbies for most major utilities, said the ruling leaves intact major regulatory uncertainties which have clouded the industry's path going forward.

However, the court did not rule on a major issue of many federal lawsuits -- whether "routine maintenance" activities at power plants should trigger federal requirements.

"This exclusion was not addressed by the court, and it remains a valid defense for the industry," said Dan Riedinger, a spokesman for the group.

Utility experts say the case does not bode well for the industry's ability to run aging coal-burning plants without retooling them.

"Everything is trending against running cheaper power for longer periods of time," said Kevin Book, an analyst with Friedman, Billings, Ramsey and Co. Inc. "As a proxy for other coal related law suits, this doesn't bode well."

(Additional reporting by Jim Vicini in Washington and Lisa Lee in New York)


FYI – Pondering if the same types of deals/intimidation was made in terms of Western Shoshone lands and Treaty Rights?...The gold mining taking place on Western Shoshone lands is now the 3rd largest in the world.

Note that Indian tribes are involved ~ Once again, here is the proof that your elected officials in D.C. are not interested in protecting the Legal Right's of the American Indian. Almost as if they are more interested in destroying the Sovereign Right's of the Tribes.

Ex-Auditor Says He Was Told to Be Lax on Oil Fees

March 29, 2007

WASHINGTON, March 28 — A former top auditor at the Interior Department accused senior officials on Wednesday of prohibiting him and other investigators from recovering hundreds of millions of dollars in underpayments from oil and gas companies that drill on federal land and in federal waters.

“There’s hundreds of millions of dollars, billions of dollars out there, and I don’t think we should be scared of the oil companies,” said Bobby L. Maxwell, a former senior auditor who, as a private citizen, sued the Kerr-McGee Corporation, claiming it intentionally cheated the government of royalties for oil and gas it produced in the Gulf of Mexico.

In February, a federal jury in Denver agreed with Mr. Maxwell and ruled that Kerr-McGee had underpaid the government by $7.5 million. Under a law intended to encourage whistle-blowers, the company could be liable for more than $30 million, and Mr. Maxwell would be entitled to keep as much as 30 percent of that.

“There were statements made: ‘Don’t bother the oil companies,’ ” Mr. Maxwell told the House Natural Resources Committee, which is investigating allegations of mismanagement in the royalty program run by the Minerals Management Service of the Interior Department.

“The M.M.S. is the proverbial ostrich that has its head in the sand, that sees nothing, knows nothing, but says that no royalties are due,” Mr. Maxwell continued.

Another former auditor, from New Mexico, Kevin Gambrell, told lawmakers that he had been repeatedly blocked from trying to recover payments for oil and gas production that were owed to Indian tribes.

A. David Lester, executive director of a group that represents Indian tribes with oil and gas reserves, said the Interior Department’s enforcement efforts amounted to an “honor system” for oil and gas producers that “unfailingly results in underpayment” to the tribes.

C. Stephen Allred, assistant Interior secretary for land and minerals management, defended the Bush administration’s enforcement efforts. “I am convinced, after my review, that the M.M.S. is collecting the royalties that are set forth in the legislation” that governs the government’s oil and gas leasing program, he said.

Last year, the Interior Department collected almost $12 billion in royalties and lease payments tied to oil and gas production, up from $9.3 billion in 2005, primarily because of high energy prices.

Mr. Allred acknowledged that revenue generated by enforcement efforts had plunged since 2001, but he said most of that decline came after about a dozen major oil companies made huge payments in earlier years to settle charges of cheating.

According to Interior Department data, enforcement revenue averaged well over $100 million a year during the 1990s, peaking at more than $331 million in 2000. In the six years since then, enforcement revenue has averaged about $46 million a year.

In December, the inspector general of the Interior Department scathingly criticized the department’s dwindling use of detailed audits and its growing reliance on softer “compliance reviews” that rely primarily on company statements rather than sales records.

The inspector general estimated that the Interior Department had reduced the number of auditors by 15 percent since 2000 and was completing about 22 percent fewer audits than it did six years earlier.

“It does appear that we’re getting ripped off, plain and simple,” said Representative Nick J. Rahall II, Democrat of West Virginia and chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.

The Interior Department is under fire for other problems in the royalty program as well. It is struggling without much success to correct leasing mistakes that could allow oil companies to escape $10 billion in royalties over the next decade or so.

The Justice Department is investigating evidence of corruption in the fast-growing “royalty in kind” program, under which the government collects about $4 billion a year in royalties in the form of oil and gas rather than cash.

The investigation focuses on evidence that the program’s manager and several other employees had consulting deals with companies that were bidding to market the royalty oil and gas for the government or had romantic ties to company executives.

Mr. Maxwell told lawmakers that Interior officials had instructed him and other auditors not to audit companies that pay in-kind royalties. Interior officials contend that payments in the form of oil and gas are more straightforward than cash payments and require less auditing.

Interior officials have accused Mr. Maxwell and other rebellious enforcement officials of trying to profit by suing oil and gas producers as private citizens.

The Interior Department fired Mr. Maxwell in early 2005, one week after his lawsuit against Kerr-McGee became public. Three other current auditors also have filed suits against more than a dozen oil companies.

This E-mail was posted by:
Larry Kibby
Elko Indian Colony, Nevada

Larry's Information and Directory Center - Larry's Reznews Homepage - Daily Reznews - Indigenous forum - Larry's Trading Post -


Groundbreaking Report on Mining, Oil and Gas Companies Released: Civil Society and Industry Representatives Agree on Good Overseas Practices

March 29, 2007

(Ottawa) Canada could become a world leader on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) if the federal government and other stakeholders accept and act on the recommendations of a groundbreaking report released today.

The report comes out of a ten month government-led roundtable process that included representatives from civil society organizations, industry, academia, labour, and socially responsible investors acting as an Advisory Group, as well as representatives from communities affected by Canadian mining, oil and gas operations in the developing world.

The Advisory Group report lays out recommendations for a CSR framework of good conduct for Canadian mining, oil and gas companies operating abroad.

“There have been growing concerns about the environmental, social and human rights impact of Canadian extractive companies operating in the developing world. The Advisory Group has worked together to develop an effective framework for addressing these issues, achieving an important consensus from industry and civil society representatives,” says Gerry Barr, President and CEO of the Canadian Council for International Cooperation. “We now urge the government to act upon our recommendations.”

“Canada’s extractive sectors are committed to improving their social and environmental performance and adhering to best practices wherever they operate,” states Gordon Peeling, President and CEO of the Mining Association of Canada. “The Advisory Group report acknowledges the fact that in weak governance zones, companies face challenges that require new sets of tools, skills and support and that all stakeholders must work together to achieve positive outcomes.”

If implemented, the CSR framework would establish standards and reporting obligations for Canadian companies. It would also create an ombudsman office to investigate and assess complaints, and to evaluate compliance with the standards. The report lays out procedures for withholding government services to companies in cases of serious non-compliance, while also supporting the development of tools to promote good practice in the extractive sector and adherence to the CSR framework.

“Canadian mining companies listed on Canadian stock exchanges are the largest outward investors, with interests in more than 8,000 properties in over 100 countries around the world,” adds Tony Andrews, Executive Director of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada. “Their activities can help to create new economic opportunities in the developing world. However, it is equally important that they continually improve their performance in line with corporate social responsibility expectations. The Advisory Group’s report will contribute to the development of necessary guidance and tools.”

The roundtables were set up in response to a unanimous report by the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade that called on the federal government to “put in place a process involving relevant industry associations, non-governmental organisations and experts, which will lead to the strengthening of existing programmes and policies in this area, and, where necessary, to the establishment of new ones.”

“Parliamentarians responded to repeated appeals for assistance from villagers and indigenous peoples affected by Canadian mining companies and tasked the Government of Canada to take action,” says Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada. “Industry and civil society members have worked together in an unprecedented way and it is now up to the government to implement these recommendations.”

The report is available at: (English) (French)

For more information contact:
Pierre Gratton
Mining Association of Canada
Phone: 613-233-9392 ext.319
Cell: 613-293-5111

Karyn Keenan
Halifax Initiative Coalition
Phone: 613-789-4447
Cell: 613-301-6899
Sub-topics: Related articles

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External links



Another challenge on the horizone…

Uranium Ignites ‘Gold Rush’ in the West

Published: March 28, 2007
The New York Times

LA SAL, Utah — Given its connotations, Pandora is an oddly inappropriate name for an uranium mine.

Prices for processed uranium ore, also called U308, or yellowcake, are climbing rapidly.

But that does not seem to bother Denison Mines, the company from Vancouver, British Columbia, that owns it. Denison recently reopened this mine about 30 miles southeast of Moab, along with several others in nearby western Colorado, after it lay dormant during the years when the nation shunned nuclear power.

The revival of uranium mining in the West, though, has less to do with the renewed interest in nuclear power as an alternative to greenhouse-gas-belching coal plants than to the convoluted economics and intense speculation surrounding the metal that has pushed up the price of uranium to levels not seen since the heyday of the industry in the mid-1970s.

“There’s a lot of staking going on,” said Mike Shumway, a 53-year-old Vietnam veteran who owns the contracting business that is working the Pandora mine. “It’s like the gold rush.”

Mr. Shumway has personally amassed some 100 uranium claims, including four dormant but potentially rich mines. Some of the claims he bought quietly after less tenacious prospectors could not afford to hold theirs during the long drought while uranium was out of favor. Mr. Shumway’s eyes light up and he cracks a grin as he ponders the fortune he now hopes to gain.

“There’s big money in it,” he said as he probed piles of waste ore at Pandora with a Geiger counter. “What other work do you know of where you can make millions in 30 days?”

Not many. Prices for processed uranium ore, also called U308, or yellowcake, are rising rapidly. Yellowcake is trading at $90 a pound, nearing the record high, adjusted for inflation, of about $120 in the mid-1970s. The price has more than doubled in the last six months alone. As recently as late 2002, it was below $10.

A string of natural disasters, notably flooding of large mines in Canada and Australia, has set off the most recent spike. Hedge funds and other institutional investors, who began buying up uranium in late 2004 to exploit the volatility in this relatively small market, have accelerated the price rally.

But the more fundamental causes of the uninterrupted ascendance of prices since 2003 can be traced to inventory constraints among power companies and a drying up of the excess supply of uranium from old Soviet-era nuclear weapons that was converted to use in power plants. Add in to those factors the expected surge in demand from China, India, Russia and a few other countries for new nuclear power plants to fuel their growing economies.

“I’d call it lucky timing,” said David Miller, a Wyoming legislator and president of the Strathmore Mineral Corporation, a uranium development firm. “Three relatively independent factors — dwindling supplies of inventory, low overall production from the handful of uranium miners that survived the 25-year drought and rising concerns about global warming — all have coincided to drive the current uranium price higher by more than 1,000 percent since 2001.”

Strathmore controls more than three million acres of exploration projects in Canada and previously discovered sources in the United States, primarily around Grants, N.M. In its heyday, the Grants “uranium belt” provided 340 million pounds of uranium, making New Mexico an even larger producer than Utah or Wyoming. Some politicians in the area hope there will be a new wave of mines, mills and jobs.

Strathmore, with a market capitalization of $300 million, is one of about 400 publicly traded uranium stock companies (most of them, like Strathmore, trade on the Toronto Stock Exchange). Many of the companies are much smaller. Some are essentially shells.

“There’s so much money pouring into this sector,” said Julie Ickes, editor and publisher of, which tracks uranium prices and companies. “If you put ‘uranium’ in your company name, you can look like you’re looking for property,” he said. “It’s a lot of talk.”

The feverish trading in speculative uranium company shares harks back to the early 1950s, when some 500 stocks traded on the Salt Lake City Penny Stock Exchange. Moab called itself “the uranium capital of the world.”

“You could say there were more millionaires than people here in Moab,” said Sam Taylor, 73, who has been publisher of the local weekly, The Times-Independent, since he took it over from his father in 1956.

Sitting stooped over his wooden desk at the newspaper’s office downtown, Mr. Taylor recalls how he got “the scoop of the century” when a young, cocky geologist named Charlie Steen pulled up in his battered jeep asking if The Times-Independent would publish his six-page paper on his recent discovery of pitchblende, or high-grade uranium.

Not long after, Moab lost its quietude and anonymity to the ore trucks roaring through town almost around the clock to deliver uranium to a mill on the north edge of town.

Globally, 180 million pounds of processed uranium are consumed each year by nuclear power plants. Production worldwide from mines amounts to only 100 million pounds. Roughly 75 million pounds come out of utility company stockpiles. What is actually traded in the spot market is only about 35 million pounds.

Some industry watchers fear the uranium market is entering the bust phase of another boom-bust cycle.

“It’s like the tech bubble,” said James Finch, senior editor of “We’re waiting for the crash.”

But others see plenty of room for prices to climb. One is Bob Mitchell, founder of Adit Capital, a small hedge fund in Portland, Ore. In December of 2004, he became one of the first hedge fund managers to start buying uranium.

Since then other hedge funds and institutional investors have jumped into the market, some of them hoarding uranium while the price keeps rising. Even some established mining production companies are spinning off or becoming partners with hedge funds.

Uranium executives, investors and analysts alike agree that a major underlying cause of the current bull market is that mines are not generating enough uranium to meet growing demand. The supply constraints can be traced back to the end of the cold war when the United States and the former Soviet Union started converting enriched uranium from dismantled atomic weapons into nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes.

That program, and huge incentives offered to uranium companies by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, flooded the market with excess supply. At the same time, demand shrank. The price of uranium fell sharply.

As a result, most uranium producers scaled back or closed their mines. Some companies sold themselves to French, Canadian and British corporations, which now dominate the industry. Some companies with nuclear power operations sold some of their inventories when the price was low to avoid storage costs.

But by 2003 uranium inventories held by utilities in the United States were coming back into balance. Then a series of natural disasters — flooding of the world’s largest uranium mine, McArthur River in Canada, and more recently at other mines in Canada and Australia — further pinched supply. Power companies now find themselves competing with aggressive institutional investors for high-price uranium.

“For so long they’d been the buyer in a buyer’s market,” said Gene Clark, chief executive of, a publisher of reports and data on the nuclear fuel market. “Now they’re like a wallflower. It’s hard on their egos.”

James Malone, vice president of nuclear fuels at the Exelon Corporation, the Chicago-based utility that owns 17 reactors at 10 sites, making it the largest nuclear operator in the country, said in a telephone interview that current market conditions were having a “small impact” on some of the company’s contracts that were pegged to the market price. He declined to elaborate.

The people staking claims and drilling underground are, in the meantime, happy to see the frothy market become frothier. So far this year, 2,700 new uranium claims have been filed with the Bureau of Land Management in Colorado alone. That is nearly half the claims filed in all of last year, and a big jump from the 104 claims for 2004.

“It’s pretty spectacular,” said Jesse Broskey, a land law adjudicator with the bureau. “It’s tripled our workload.”

But many people in the region, including leaders of the Navajo Nation, are not particularly excited to invite Pandora and other participants in the nuclear industry back into their communities. They say the mining and power companies poisoned workers and residents, in some cases fatally, with radon, silica and tainted groundwater.

More stringent federal oversight means that mines built or refurbished today provide much better ventilation, which minimizes the underground risks. Mine operators are required to take readings of radon levels and air flow in the mines, and to measure miners’ exposure doses.

Another red flag, for environmentalists and utilities alike, is the lack of a national storage site for radioactive waste. The proposed home, Yucca Mountain in Nevada, has cost taxpayers billions over many years as it sits idly, waiting for a final decision.

That is one of several factors holding back the revival of nuclear power in the United States. “We won’t build a new plant knowing there’s nowhere to put the used fuel,” Mr. Malone of Exelon said. “We won’t build one without community support, and we won’t build until market conditions are in place where it makes sense.”

But that is not holding back Kyle Kimmerle, owner of the Kimmerle Funeral Home in Moab. Mr. Kimmerle, 30, spent summers during his childhood camping and working at several of his father’s mines in the area. In his spare time he has amassed more than 600 uranium claims throughout the once-productive Colorado Plateau.

“My guess is that next year my name won’t be on the sign of this funeral home anymore and I’ll be out at the mines,” he said.

He recently struck a deal with a company to lease 111 of his claims for development. The company, new to uranium mining, has pledged $500,000 a year for five years to improve the properties. Mr. Kimmerle will receive annual payments plus royalties for any uranium mined from the area.

“Everybody’s jumping in while the price is going up,” he said. “Sure, it’ll eventually go down. It’s not going to be in three years. But after 10 years I’d say all bets are off.”


Nevada's gold diggers mucking up the air UNR study finds high levels of airborne mercury near mines

February 14, 2007
By Lisa Mascaro
Las Vegas Sun


WASHINGTON - A UNR study being released today says airborne mercury is present around Nevada's gold mines at much higher levels than previously thought - in some cases on par with the nation's dirtiest industrial plants.

Mercury emitted from mines in Northern Nevada is a growing concern for residents in southern Idaho and Utah who are advised to no longer eat certain fish or fowl.

Although the mining industry says that other sources of the pollutant are largely responsible for those high levels, environmentalists contend that much of it is blown in from the closest source - Nevada's mines.

Those same toxins also settle in Nevada.

mercury mine
Click on image to enlarge

The UNR report obtained by the Sun was conducted by Glenn C. Miller, a natural resource and environmental science professor, and student Patrick Joyce.

The research provides only a brief snapshot of the pollution levels, but environmentalists said the high concentrations call into question the mining companies' data on the amount of mercury emissions coming from their smokestacks.

Dan Randolph, executive director of Great Basin Mine Watch, which is releasing the report jointly with other environmental organizations, said the findings imply that the company reports "are not necessarily accurate."

"What we're calling for is the state to revise its regulations to include more of this type of monitoring," he said. "Ultimately, we want to see the mercury releases reduced, but at the minimum, let's find out the scale of the problem."

A spokesman for the Nevada Mining Association questioned whether the survey is accurate because it was conducted for so little cost. "It can be done cheaply, but what is the degree of confidence in the results?" association President Russ Fields said.

Authors of the UNR report conducted the tests with an off-the-shelf detection device rented for $5,000 a month. They said the Environmental Protection Agency has given high marks to the Zeeman mercury analyzer, which demonstrates that measurements can be taken cheaply and accurately.

Monitoring of Nevada mines began as a voluntary effort in 2001. Mining companies, the state and the EPA agreed to the testing and to steps to reduce mercury emissions after Nevada emerged as a hot spot for the pollutant.

The industry says that emissions were reduced far more than the initial 33 percent goal in the following years.

But last year, the state launched a stepped-up effort, requiring annual reporting from more than 20 Nevada mines. Mines are required to report the level once a year, on each plant's dirtiest emission day. The readings are taken at the smokestacks only.

Saying that more frequent testing would be costly for the industry, the state is using a $360,000 federal grant to search for better ways to measure downwind mercury levels.

Samples for the UNR study were taken standing outside the gates of mines, in parking lots or on access roads last August. The work followed a similar study in 2005 by the Idaho Conservation League.

At three of the 10 mines tested, airborne mercury was at or below the level that occurs naturally in the environment - about 5 nanograms per cubic meter.

At four others, the levels were at least several times higher than the 5-nanogram mark. Near active leech heaps, which are not measured under the state program, researchers found levels as high as 60 nanograms.

At three other mines, the levels were sharply higher.

More than a mile away from Newmont Mining's Twin Creeks mine, the readings showed mercury at nearly 700 nanograms - double the federal limits for toxic exposure.

At a parking lot outside Coeur's Rochester mine, mercury was recorded at 2,326 nanograms.

A parking lot at Glamis Gold's Marigold mine registered 3,139 nanograms.

Mike Abbot, a mercury air emissions expert at the U.S. government's Idaho National Lab, said that mercury readings of between 2,000 and 4,000 nanograms, taken near one of the nation's remaining chlor-alkali plants in Louisiana, are among the highest recorded in the United States.

He said a high reading would be "any time you get over 1,000." In his field work, where he measures mercury pollution that is falling on rural Idaho, the most he has ever measured is 160.

Fields said the industry wants to give the new state program a chance.

"Let's see how well it does work," Fields said. "The industry isn't going to object to additional testing if it's shown additional testing is needed."

Dante Pistone, a spokesman for the Nevada environmental protection division, said the state does not agree that the mines should conduct more frequent and varied tests.

"We feel comfortable that given the opportunity, these regulations will work," Pistone said. "It's just a matter of giving them time."

Environmentalists have called for quarterly testing at the smokestacks and sporadic testing downwind.

Airborne mercury is among the most toxic forms of the substance because it is inhaled. It can cause memory loss, tremors and other neurological damage. Women can pass along the toxin to a developing fetus, resulting in brain damage, and children are especially susceptible.

Idaho and Utah activists suspect Nevada's mines are responsible for the high levels in its waterways and fish.

Justin Hayes, a program director at the Idaho Conservation League, said the mercury readings recorded by UNR suggest that the companies' measurements at the smokestack are too low.

His own report last year set off alarms when he found mercury readings half as high as those in the new report.

"No one imagined you'd see them so high," he said. "The situation is not getting any better over there."

Lisa Mascaro can be reached at (202) 662-7436 or at



Failed dam at Brazilian mining company
dumps toxic waste into rivers

January 2007

U.S. Water News Online

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- A dam burst at a mine in southeastern Brazil recently, dumping tons of possibly toxic runoff into rivers that supply water for cities in Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais states, the government reported.

The Rio Pomba company mines bauxite and calcium, and the runoff of polluted mud contaminated the rivers around Mirai, about 180 miles (290 kilometers) northeast of Rio de Janeiro, the government news agency Agencia Brasil said.

The head of the state water and drainage company Cedae, Wagner Victer, said drinking water would be trucked into nearby cities. Victer recalled that the same company had 100 million gallons of toxic mud leak into the Mirai River in 2003.

"It's absurd that this company is still operating," Victer was quoted as saying.

The Minas Gerais state government said it had shut down the company definitively.

The environmental departments of Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro states sent a joint team to the site to assess the damage.


Recent news on alleged spying allegations by mine security guards.

Please go to to see articles and statements relating to allegations of involvement by security guards working for Newmont's Yanacocha mine in spying operation against local environmentalists Original articles are in Spanish. The following title translations and summaries of the articles' key points are provided by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre. A response by Newmont/Yanacocha is also available at: -2007.pdf

1. "Spying on 'the Devil"
Edmundo Cruz, La República (Peru)

The capture of a private security agent in Cajamarca, Peru, has uncovered a spying operation focused on Father Marco Antonio Arana Zegarra and the grassroots environmental rights movement he leads. After arresting Miguel Ángel Saldaña Medina, police reviewed material on a confiscated camcorder. The material showed extensive observation of Father Arana and the environmental NGO GRIFUDES. It also included pictures of office walls displaying photographs of local environmentalists, alongside code-names for them. The photo of Father Arana was labeled "the devil".

Saldaña admitted that he had been contracted by Lima-based C & G investigations. Police confiscated a receipt from Saldaña for 1000 dollars, which was paid "at the request of Aldo Schwarz Cossu, operations manager for Forza S.A." Forza is the company that provides security for Yanacocha Mining.

2. "A typical demolition operation"
La República (Peru)

Since August 2006, local environmental & social leaders in Cajamarca have been spied on and followed as part of an effort to intimidate them. The beginning of the operation coincided with a conflict between Yanacocha Mining and the local community of Combayo over contamination of local water supplies. Since August, 16 different agents have conducted surveillance for 17 hours a day. They established their base one block from the offices of the NGO GRIFUDES. Examination of CPU's seized from Miguel Salda?a revealed email correspondence between agents from C & G Investigations and representatives of Forza S.A., the company which provides security for Yanachocha Mining. Miguel Saldaña was released due to lack of proof.

3. "We denounce the plan to spy on environmental defenders"
National Human Rights Coordinator (CNDDHH), Lima, 6 Nov, 2006

The CNDDHH considers the recently-discovered plan to spy on personnel of the NGO Education and Action for Sustainable Development Group (GRIFUDES)--as well as other social, religious, and political leaders in Cajamarca--a very serious offense. We would like to point out that the agents and operatives involved in this case have been identified and reported but are still free. The CNDDHH has recorded 20 incidents which occurred between August and November 2006 against personnel of GRUFIDES. Given these circumstances we demand that the authorities conduct a full investigation, with special attention paid to the businesses Forza S.A. and C & G Investigations. We also demand that the authorities guarantee the safety of the GRUFIDES personnel, as well as investigate the responsibility of the Yanacocha business in these events.

4. "Yanacocha Suspected"
La Primera, Perú

Father Marco Arana, founder and director of the environmental NGO GRUFIDES, raised serious suspicions that Yanacocha Mining company is behind the spying that security company Forza S.A. has carried out against him and other community leaders in Cajamarca. He has called for an exhaustive investigation to determine who and what is behind the espionage operation. It is worth noting that Forza has denied having participated in an activity of this kind and has filed counter-charges that their employees were been photographed carrying arms to make it seem as if they are paramilitaries.


Groups push mining mercury waste probe

Posted: 12/14/2006

STORY CHAT(read or post comments)

RENO, Nev. (AP) - The nation's largest gold producing state has been asked to investigate whether mercury emissions from the mines are contaminating area fisheries.

Citing a recent study by the University of Nevada, Reno, a coalition of environmentalists, health care advocates, sportsmen and American Indians said Thursday that a fish consumption advisory for mercury should be issued for one large reservoir in northeast Nevada and perhaps other fisheries downwind from mining operations.

Fish tissue samples collected by university researchers at Wild Horse Reservoir 60 miles north of Elko found mercury concentrations that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers a public health risk, especially to children and pregnant women, the groups said.

"We believe that an investigation into the public health risks from fish consumption from reservoirs, lakes and rivers in northern Nevada is warranted," they said in a letter to the state health administrator.

"It is important that Nevada families and visiting tourists have accurate information to determine which fish are safe to eat and how many fish are safe to eat."

The letter was written by Dan Randolph, executive director of the Great Basin Mine Watch, a nonprofit environmental watchdog group based in Reno. It was signed by representatives of the Nevada Nurses Association, Ormsby Sportsmens Group, Western Shoshone Defense Project, Institute for Children's Environmental Health and Earthworks, among others.

"We're concerned because the mercury levels in these fish are roughly twice the level that triggers a fish consumption advisory in Idaho," Randolph said.

State Health Administrator Alex Haartz will ask the state's health officer, Dr. Bradford Lee, to examine the study and the groups' request, spokeswoman Martha Framsted said.

"Keeping in mind that our mission is protecting the public health, this definitely will be reviewed by Dr. Lee and possibly others," she said.

The Nevada Division of Environmental Protection is charged with regulating air emissions and water quality, Framsted said, although environmental protection officials said any health warning would come from health officials.

Officials for the Nevada Mining Association did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

There are about two-dozen major gold mines in Nevada. They produced 6.85 million ounces of gold in 2005 with a value of about $3.05 billion - third in the world behind South Africa and Australia.

The coalition said the EPA's Toxic Release Inventory showed Nevada's mercury emissions totaled more than 4,605 pounds of mercury released in 2004 - more than 95 percent of it from gold mines in northern Nevada.

The Nevada mines are responsible for one-fourth of all U.S. mercury air emissions west of Texas, the mine watch said.

Scientists have reported high mercury levels in fish and waterfowl in Idaho and Utah downwind of the Nevada mines, the groups said.

"Yet very little monitoring has been done to determine the extent of mercury contamination in fish and waterfowl in northern Nevada," they said.

The mining watchdog group has criticized new state regulations adopted last year because they don't include a cap on mercury emissions.

Environmental protection division spokesman Dante Pistone said the agency is implementing the new rules, which he said are the first of their kind in the nation and will result in "an aggressive, comprehensive, robust regulatory program for mercury emissions."

"Both the mining and power plant regulations go beyond what the federal government and other states have enacted," he said. "Once the regulations are fully implemented, mercury emissions will be highly controlled."

Most of the mines operate on federal lands, many of which the Western Shoshone tribe claims as their own.

"These companies are operating in this manner without our consent. They need to stop and be honest about the hazards they are creating in our communities," said Larson Bill of the Western Shoshone Defense Project.

The fish tissue samples collected at the reservoir showed mercury concentrations ranging from 0.42 parts per million to 0.55 ppm, with an average of 0.47 ppm.

EPA guidelines recommend limiting consumption of fish with concentrations of 0.47 ppm to 0.94 ppm to just one 8-ounce meal per month for adults. It recommends pregnant women and children younger than 14 not eat fish containing mercury. Children and fetuses are particularly vulnerable to the toxic metal, which can damage the development of the nervous system.

Idaho issues an advisory when mercury concentrations in fish exceed 0.24 ppm and initiates a process to identify and reduce the mercury source, Randolph said.


Uranium spurs jump in mining claims

Renewed interest in N-energy affects fed lands in West

By Mary Clare Jalonick
Associated Press
Deseret Morning News - Thursday December 14, 2006

WASHINGTON - Metal mining claims on federal lands in the West have increased almost 50 percent in the past four years, in large part because a resurgence in nuclear power has led to a renewed interest in uranium exploration.

An advocacy and research organization said Thursday its review of Bureau of Land Management records found that the number of metal mining claims jumped from 220,000 at the end of 2002 to almost 325,000 this September.

Nevada had almost 90,000 new claims, more than any other state, and a 55 percent increase from 2002. Wyoming was second, with almost 20,000 new claims, or a 97 percent increase.

The Environmental Working Group said its review covered gold, silver, copper and uranium claims. The organization said uranium mining interests are some of the largest claimholders in seven states - Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. No uranium interests were among the largest Western claimholders when the group last analyzed mining records, in 2004.

Uranium prices have risen as nuclear power has rebounded as a relatively cheap, reliable and emissions-free source of energy. Many new nuclear power plants are planned around the world. The increase in prices and construction has led to an increase in mining claims. Wyoming is thought to be the largest producer of uranium and has the largest reserve base, according to the National Mining Association. The Environmental Working Group said it released the statistics to bring attention to the nation's antiquated mining laws. Metals mining companies pay no royalties for extraction on public lands, unlike the oil and gas industries.

Dusty Horwitt, an analyst for the group, described metals mining as "one of the world's most destructive industries."

"Because most mines operate far from public view, the ugly scars on the landscape, dangerous chemicals and mountains of toxic waste that contaminate soil, water and air are the industry's dirty secret," Horwitt said.

The group is advocating legislation to require metals mining companies to pay royalties and create funds for abandoned mines cleanup. Carol Raulston, a spokeswoman for the National Mining Association, says many of the new claims will not move forward, and several are in areas that previously have been mined. She says all metals mines are subject to federal oversight under the Clean Water Act and hazardous waste laws.

"All of these mines are regulated under all of the major state and federal environmental statutes," she said.


On the Net:
Environmental Working Group:
National Mining Association:


In Guatemala, the struggle for truth and justice continues... From:

Skye Resources Nickel Mining, Mayan-Q'ecqhi' People
& The Cycles Of Landlessness, Poverty & Repression

By Grahame Russell,
December 2006.

[SUMMARY: This was article was written after a November trip to El Estor, Guatemala, to investigate recent State repression against Mayan-Q’eqchi’ people occurring against the backdrop of the land-owning and mining interests of the Canadian Skye Resources nickel mining company. Feel free to republish and redistribute this article. For more info:]

There are many reasons why Jose Chocoj Pan, a poor Mayan-Q’eqchi’ man, was severely beaten by the Guatemalan National Police (PNC) and left for dead in a forest near the Skye Resources mining company, a few kilometers from the town of El Estor, in eastern Guatemala.

The reasons are historical and on-going: related to systemic racism, exploitation and poverty; to systemic repression and impunity of the Guatemalan “security” forces; and to greed and impunity of large landowners, North American mining companies and the Guatemalan and Canadian governments that push relentlessly ahead with a big-business model of “development” behind the backs of and in detriment to the development needs of local populations and the environment.

The story of Jose Chocoj Pan is sad and complicated. It is a common story, and he is lucky to be alive.

In a hut on the edge of El Estor, I sit on a makeshift bed with Arnoldo Yat Coc, a Q’eqchi’ man working with the Defensoria Q’eqchi’, a community development and indigenous rights organization. The Defensoria Q’eqchi’ helped save Jose’s life and works throughout the impoverished Q’eqchi’ communities of this region, promoting community-controlled development and the environment, educating about and defending the rights of the indigenous communities. Over 90% of the population of El Estor are Q’eqchi’.

In great pain, Jose lies on a makeshift bed. His wife hovers near, talking to him quietly in Q’eqchi’, covering him with blankets, helping shift his body position to lessen the pain. With Arnoldo, I have come to learn how the police severely beat Jose and left him for dead in a forest. Arnoldo translates from Q’eqchi’ to Spanish.

The Institutions Of Landlessness, Poverty And Repression

On September 19, 2006, Jose went with his family, and dozens of landless Q’eqchi’ families, to peacefully occupy a piece of land outside of El Estor known as “La Pista” – by the old landing strip of the Canadian Skye Resources nickel mining company.

In this region, the Q’eqchi’ majority lives in conditions of poverty and landlessness. Those that have land in dozens of isolated communities feel threatened by the renewal of nickel mining.

Like throughout Guatemala, the government does little to implement development and land policies owned and controlled by the majority poor. Like the poor in many parts of Guatemala, the Q’eqchi’ people are surrounded by vast tracks of unused lands or lands used for cattle production for export.

The largest landowners in this region are two Canadian nickel companies: Skye Resources and INCO. INCO began mining in this region in the 1960s. Just before INCO’s 40-year nickel mining concession ended in 2005, INCO sold its mining interests – not all its land – to Skye Resources, a company INCO helped create. INCO – recently bought by CVRD of Brazil – owns 12% of Skye.

INCO did this legal maneuver, many argue, to avoid pending legal responsibilities with respect to serious human rights violations associated with its mining operation – particularly in the late 1970s, early 1980s and with respect to cleaning up environmental harms caused by its mining.

Will The Cycles Be Unbroken?

The claim that Jose Chocoj Pan and thousands of Q’eqchi’ people are making to a piece of land is based firstly on the most obvious and imperative need for survival.

Secondly, they have historical claims. In the late 1800s, vast tracts of land were ‘granted’ to German immigrants by the racist and repressive liberal government of Justino Rufino Barrios that had illegally expropriated the lands from the Q'eqchi’ people.

During World War II, the Guatemalan government expropriated many land-holdings back from Guatemalans of German ancestry.

In 1954, the U.S. government conspired with the United Fruit Company and oligarchy and military sectors in Guatemala to orchestrate the overthrow of Guatemala's only democratic government.

In 1965, INCO acquired its license to mine nickel for of 40 years, in an area of some 400 km2. Q’eqchi’ communities have valid historical claims to nearly all the lands covered by the license. In its report “Land Conflicts in El Estor, Izabal, Guatemala & the Rights of the Maya Q’eqchi’ People”, (November 19, 2006), the Defensoria Q’eqchi’ writes:

“In 2004, INCO sold its mining ‘rights’ in El Estor to Skye Resources, but retained title to the lands. INCO returned its mining ‘license’ (that would have expired in 2005) to the Guatemalan Ministry of Energy and Mines in exchange for a new exploration license covering an area of nearly 250 km2.

“This area is mostly on lands possessed by 16 Q’eqchi’ communities. No previous consultation with the indigenous communities was undertaken. The communities have repeatedly stated that they do not wish their lands to be mined. The granting of this license represents a clear violation of Convention 169 of the ILO (International Labour Organization), ratified by Guatemala in 1996, an international treaty with the force of law that requires the state to consult indigenous communities when and if mining or other projects would affect their lands or impact their lives.” An honest and functioning legal system in Guatemala - or Canada or the USA for that matter - would likely conclude that the Q’eqchi’ people have prior and valid title to most of the lands in this region. They would not be still living in generations of racism, poverty and repression. To survive, they would not have to occupy and re-occupy lands now in the hands of wealthy Guatemalans and North Americans.


During my visit to El Estor, interviewing Jose in his hut, visiting the ‘re-occupation’ communities of Barrio Revolucion and Barrio La Paz, and interviewing leaders of the Defensoria Q’eqchi’, I was able to re-confirm what the Defensoria had documented in its November 19, 2006 report “Land Conflicts in El Estor, Izabal, Guatemala & the Rights of the Maya Q’eqchi’ People”, (November 19, 2006):

“On September 17, 2006 five groups, numbering some 300 families, occupied lands the company claims as its own. Two of the groups occupied lands near Cahaboncito, in Alta Verapaz. Those groups claim that the same lands were taken from them when the mine project was begun over 40 years ago.

“Another group occupied lands near the village of Chichipate, 15 km to the west of the town of El Estor - with similar historical claims. Two other groups, mostly townspeople, occupied an area near the company airstrip and an area to the north of the abandoned company housing complex. INCO’s and Skye’s representatives in Guatemala filed charges against the groups in September.

“Until November 12, the authorities had not intervened in any of these land occupations, and the total number of those occupying the disputed lands had grown to nearly 1,000 families.

“In the early morning hours of November 11 a group of about 30 families occupied an area across the road from the company housing complex on the outskirts of El Estor. About an hour later, police clashed with the group. A few hours later there was a skirmish with some company employees and at one point a group of persons held a bus transporting CGN workers.

“On the morning of Sunday November 12 a prosecutor from the Ministerio Público, Rafael Andrade, arrived in El Estor and - with about 60 police - proceeded to notify the group on the outskirts of the town that they were in flagrant violation of the law and as such had to abandon the site.

“Waldemar Barrera, head of the human rights ombudsman’s office in Puerto Barrios (140 km from El Estor), telephoned Arnoldo Yat, Coordinator of the Defensoría Q’eqchi’ to inquire about a possible forced eviction. Yat and Fr. Daniel Vogt, Director of the Defensoria, went to the site, questioned the prosecutor about his actions and sought to aid in defusing the situation so that violence would be avoided during the eviction.

“By midday, the group had left the site calmly carrying with them their makeshift materials. However, an ever growing group of townspeople, some carrying machetes, began to gather and throw stones at a pickup truck from the company.

“As the day passed, the police went to the site occupied by the airstrip [La Pista], and forcibly evicted its occupants using tear gas. At 7:00 pm, they went to [Barrio Revolucion] Chichipate where they likewise fired tear gas into the settlement to evict its inhabitants.

“In all of these incidents, there were verbal reports of one policeman hurt by a thrown stone, two or three persons arrested and two disappeared (both later discovered: one [Jose Chocoj Pan] was seriously beaten …; the other reappeared on his own). Groups of people erected roadblocks and burned a kiosk used for training sessions at the office of community relations of the [Skye] company.

“On Monday November 13, representatives from the human rights ombudsman’s office and the Defensoría went to the evicted sites and interviewed witnesses about the actions of the police and prosecutor. In the afternoon, there were clashes with groups and police and in the late afternoon, the community relations building and the recently renovated but not yet occupied hospital of the company were burned.

“The police remained in their station as a mob roamed through the town and set fire to one of the local mayor’s houses (used for social events). Both Arnoldo Yat and Fr. Vogt received calls and verbal reports that their homes and the office of the Defensoría were going to be burned, and that their lives were in danger.”

“In the afternoon of the 15th, Arnoldo Yat and Fr. Daniel Vogt were summoned to appear at the Ministerio Público’s office in La Tinta on Friday the 17th to declare as witnesses regarding the disturbances that had occurred.

“On the morning of the 17th, upon arriving at the Ministerio Público’s office, Fr. Vogt and Arnoldo Yat, accompanied by a representative of the ombudsman’s office and their lawyer, met Sergio Monzón, General Manager of CGN [Skye] as he was leaving the same office accompanied by three other men.

“Fr. Vogt and Yat met with the prosecutor, Rafael Andrade, the same person who had conducted the forced evictions several days before. He said that Monzón and his companions wanted Fr. Vogt and Yat to be arrested because they are the “intellectual authors” of the whole conflict regarding the company’s lands. The prosecutor stated that Monzón and his companions also wanted Fr. Vogt and Yat to be detained immediately under the provisions of laws regarding organized crime.

“Andrade further stated that although Fr. Vogt and Yat had been called as witnesses, they were being investigated as suspects because there was information that was not in the charges filed, which indicated that the Defensoría had fired arms during the disturbances and also instigated the conflict. Andrade stated that he was conducting a full investigation and that for the moment Fr. Vogt and Yat would not be arrested, but that they were under suspicion. Both gave their testimonies as to the events that had transpired.

One Story

Ten days later, in great pain, on his bed, in a hut, on the edge of El Estor, Jose was trying to recount what happened. After being forcibly evicted from their makeshift community in “La Pista”, Jose was walking alone along the only road back to El Estor when a truck of police came upon him. They captured him, beat him over his entire body and head, and left him unconscious in the forest.

Regaining consciousness Sunday morning, Jose dragged himself – one good arm – to the edge of the road where he was later found by his son-in-law. Soon after, the Defensoria Q’eqchi’ was able to get an ambulance to take him to a health clinic, where he received a cursory examination, given some painkillers and sent home.

He has great pain in his arm and leg; perhaps he has fractures that were not properly diagnosed. Rights Action was able to provide him with some emergency funds for immediate family needs and to go again to see a doctor.

Jose’ family rents their tiny home for Q150 / month ($20). Twice, they have been evicted because they couldn’t pay the rent. They have no land. There is no work. Their future was grim before and is now grimmer. Soon, they will return to re-occupy La Pista, along with many other Q’eqchi’ people who also have no other survival options in life.

In a visit to Barrio Revolucion, we stood in a huge field of makeshift huts with porous bamboo walls and blue nylon sheet “roofs” flapping in the wind. Here we heard the same stories from the Q’eqchi’ families who have nowhere else to go in life, though no one was beaten as badly as Jose this time. They have already come back to build their huts and plant their corn.

Little Hope In The Near Future

There is little hope in the immediate future. The people of Barrio Revolucion, Jose and his family, and thousands more, don’t know what the company, government and “security” forces will do next, but they have no where to go. And they know that long before the wealthy outsiders came, these were the lands of their grandparents.

Skye Resources, for now, is refusing to negotiate with the communities or attend mediation meetings hosted by the National Congress and the Catholic Church. It is a sad and ironic twist that these people are not ‘anti-mining’ as they are being labeled. There are many groups and organizations in Guatemala that are openly opposed to the harms and violations caused by the global mining industry, but the position of these communities is clear – they need and deserve land.

The cards are all in the hands of the company, the “security” forces, and the Guatemalan and Canadian governments. The majority Q’eqchi’ people have nothing, except their need, knowledge and dignity. They have no where to go and will fight for their rights until they are respected and guaranteed.

Paramilitarization Of Conflict

In El Estor itself, a minority of the population, mainly the small business sector and the Mayor’s office, are in favor of the mine; some of the few Guatemalans who will reap any economic gain from the project.

On Wednesday November 22, 2006, a group called the “civil society of El Estor” paid for an open letter – “El Estor United Against the Violence and Vandalism” – to be published in the Prensa Libre, the most widely read newspaper in Guatemala.

Allegedly comprised of “business people, hotel owners, honorable persons and members of the civil society”, the “civil society of El Estor” (no names were mentioned) condemned the “vandalism and violence” that occurred on and against the property interests of Skye Resources. Calling themselves “members of the Mayan culture Q’eqchi’”, and referring to El Estor as “Land of Nickel”, the “civil society of El Estor” said that as a “contribution to the solution of this problem, [we have] has organized [our]selves into a group of Civil Patrollers. The Civil Patrols will work together with the public security forces (National Civil Police and Army) to re-establish order and maintain the peace in our municipality.”

This statement serves as a threat against anyone – indigenous or non-indigenous – who opposes the mining operations. The words “Civil Patrols” intentionally and provocatively invokes memories of the “Civil Defense Patrols”, paramilitary groups created to be the “eyes and ears” of the Army throughout Guatemala. In the 1980s, Civil Defense Patrols carried out some of the worst atrocities during the years of State repression and genocide – including scorched earth campaigns of massacring entire villages.

Supposedly disbanded at the signing of the 1996 Peace Accords, Civil Defense Patrols are still operating in certain regions of the country. It is a serious and worsening turn of events that the “El Estor civil society” has formed “Civil Patrols”.

What The Card-Holders Must Do

Skye Resources must take immediate actions to prevent the bad situation from getting worse. Firstly, Skye must publicly denounce and disassociate itself with the decision of the El Estor civil society to form Civil Patrols and work with the Police and Army. Second, Skye must publicly denounce the illegal, violent evictions. While Skye did not carry out these evictions, it is the only direct beneficiary of these abusive policies and actions. Thirdly, Skye must participate fully and openly in all mediation efforts

including sessions of the National Congress and Catholic Church – and take the time necessary to hear all the denunciations and needs of the local majority population and contribute to efforts to resolve all the needs and demands.

Skye did not create the underlying exploitations, landlessness, racism and repression, yet Skye has chosen to do business in a complex and unjust situation. By its very operations, Skye is a participant in the problems.

The Canadian government must act immediately. Instead of consistently promoting and defending the interests of North American mining companies and investors, the Canadian government must comply with its obligations under the United Nations Charter and major international human rights treaties and covenants, and promote and defend the human rights of all people, in all countries – particularly in a case like this when Canadian public and private interests are direct contributors to and beneficiaries from this unjust mining business operation.

The Canadian government should denounce the increasing militarization and para-militarization (with the creation of Civil Patrols) of El Estor, should denounce the illegal and violent evictions, and should itself participate in public mediation and negotiation processes to find comprehensive solutions to the multi-faceted problems of El Estor.

Canadian investors and shareholders must demand assurances from their investment institutions (like the Canadian Pension Plan and multiple Mutual Funds) and from the company itself, that any nickel mining in El Estor be done in a way that protects, defends and promotes the rights of all people in El Estor, prioritizing the rural Q’eqchi’ communities, and protects the environment.

Not A Ticking Timebomb

The situation in El Estor is not a ticking time bomb. It is already an unjust situation; the poverty and landlessness is happening; the mining company is encroaching on more and more communities; the repression is happening, with impunity.

This bad situation may well get worse, unless the major card-holders – Skye Resources, the Canadian and Guatemala governments, the Army and Police – suspend the mining preparation work, suspend forced evictions, and engage in an honest and public discussion with the whole population of El Estor, prioritizing the Q’eqchi’ communities who have suffered and lost so much for so long, and may lose the tiny bit they have left.


What To Do:

Please write your own short letters to the company and your politicians, insisting on the steps set out above, at the end of the article:

Ian Austin, President and CEO
Skye Resources
Suite 1203-700 West Pender Street
Vancouver, BC, Canada, V6C 1G8

With copies to your own politicians.

With copies to: Better Business Bureau, Vancouver,; Business and Human Rights Resource Centre,; INCO nickel company, General Inquiries,; INCO, Investor Relations,; INCO, Media Relations,



October 29, 2006
Jim Gibbons
By J. Patrick Coolican, Las Vegas Sun
Las Vegas Sun

Failed legislation illustrates his deep ties to mining industry

Rep. Jim Gibbons slipped a provision into a House budget bill last fall that would have radically altered the landmark 1872 Mining Law to allow for the sale of large tracts of public lands.

The Reno Republican said it would help Nevada's small rural communities that depend on mining provide for the future. The law would have liberalized rules for staking mining claims and privatizing public lands, both important issues for mining communities.

As details of the provision bounced around Washington, however, opponents multiplied into a diverse coalition. Environmentalists opposed it. So did hunters and anglers and local governments and a taxpayer advocacy group. They painted an ugly picture, arguing that aside from opening mines in protected areas, mining companies or real estate developers would convert or sell newly privatized land for ski resorts or second homes. They forecast rampant land speculation and a massive, chaotic sell-off of public lands.

Some mining advocates covered their eyes at the emerging political fiasco over a bill they weren't all that excited about anyway. Then, two Republican senators, Wayne Allard of Colorado and Larry Craig of Idaho, mining state lawmakers who could have been allies of Gibbons on the bill, came out against it.

The provision died an ugly death.

Its history, however, illustrates the politics, effectiveness and deeply held beliefs of the Republican candidate for governor. After a long career championing mining causes, this was to be his signature achievement. In some ways, the failure blemished a career of devotion to mining interests.

Gibbons has every reason to support mining. He touts a master's degree in mining geology from UNR and time spent as a mining lawyer. The industry is an important source of jobs and economic development in Gibbons' district, which encompasses nearly the entire state outside of Las Vegas.

More than 11,000 people work directly for mining companies in Nevada, with another 50,000 employed by their vendors in 2004, according to the Nevada Mining Association.

With the price of gold at more than $500 an ounce, and Nevada the third-largest gold producer in the world, the industry is important to constituents of his largely rural district. Also, Gibbons has collected more than $200,0000 in contributions from the mining industry during his nearly two-decade career in state and national politics.

His opponent in the race for governor, state Sen. Dina Titus, also voices support for mining, and the state's congressional delegation is similarly inclined.

Still, environmentalists say there's no sense of proportion in Gibbons' mining advocacy - with air, water and earth always losing out to mining interests. The League of Conservation Voters recently gave him a zero on its scorecard, which followed a zero for 2005.

One reason for the criticism is Gibbons' opposition to mining regulation in the 1990s, when the Environmental Protection Agency sought to include the industry in the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act.

The act, approved by Congress in 1986, forced businesses to inform the public of all their toxic releases, which were then cataloged in the Toxic Release Inventory. The mining industry was exempt from the law.

When the EPA moved to include mining under the act, Gibbons fought it. He argued, as did Barrick Gold, a mining company that filed a lawsuit against the EPA, that much of the toxic releases from mines occur naturally and that minerals stored in rock are thus perfectly safe.

Lauren Pagel Nason, the policy director of Earthworks, an environmental group that specializes in mining issues, recalled a subcommittee meeting at which Gibbons moved a large piece of lead from one part of the dais to another, arguing that it demonstrated how mining companies harmlessly move rock around.

Scientists, however, say that toxic chemicals in mining waste rock, which would otherwise be buried, are exposed to water and air when mined and are transformed into an environmental hazard.

Indeed, once mining was subject to the Toxic Release Inventory, the industry shot to the top of the list of polluters, at 250 million pounds a year. The list included arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury.

Gibbons said in a recent interview that if mining companies must report toxic releases, so should farmers and highway construction firms: "It's fair to have the mining industry report the movement of soil and the content of soil. But if it's fair for mining, it should be a requirement for everybody."

Opponents note that neither farmers nor highway firms dig mile-deep pits or use methods that create such toxic waste.

Mining companies often use a cyanide solution to separate valuable from worthless metals. Tailings, or finely ground materials that are left over after valuable metals have been extracted, can also contain toxic heavy metals.

When the cyanide and tailings aren't properly stored, the toxins can leach into ground or surface water. That happened in Romania in 2000, when 100,000 cubic meters of toxic sludge flowed into a tributary, and then into the Somes River in nearby Hungary.

Mercury is another problem, scientists say. When mining companies "roast" the rock they mine, or heat the ore to extract the gold, mercury is released into the environment. According to the EPA, Nevada has some of the highest concentrations of airborne mercury in the country.

Gibbons sought to dispel public fears of mercury by releasing a report about mining in early 2005 with his friend and colleague Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif. The report was viewed as a proxy defense of coal-fired power plants and - to a lesser extent - gold mines.

Among the report's broad assertions: Most mercury is released through natural processes; power plants account for less than 1 percent of mercury emissions; mercury emissions have decreased since 1990; mercury levels in fish have remained the same or slightly decreased; there's no evidence of harm to pregnant women or their unborn children from regular fish consumption; scientific literature shows no link between U.S. power plant emissions and mercury in fish; and the EPA's mercury standards are too restrictive.

"As a result of their well-funded effort to push their political agenda, environmentalists have caused American citizens to be unnecessarily concerned about possible health effects from exposure to trace amounts of mercury," the report read.

Gibbons said in an interview this month that the report was an attempt "to balance out the debate, let people draw their own conclusions. Nowhere in anything I've written or said indicates I don't believe mercury is toxic. It's toxic in concentrated amounts," Gibbons said.

Gibbons and Pombo stood alone, however. Research by the National Academy of Sciences and the EPA have contradicted the findings.

The problem, scientists say, is that mercury accumulates and moves up the food chain. John Risher, a toxicologist for the federal government's Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry, said, "We should reduce exposure as much as we can, but we're not going to be at risk as much as our children and grandchildren and future generations."

Concentrated mercury is one of the most toxic chemicals known to man. Its gravest threat is to fetal brain development.

Glenn Miller, a professor of toxicology at UNR and an occasional critic of the mining industry, was blunt in his assessment of the Gibbons report: "That report has no scientific credibility in the scientific community at all. It's contrary to everything I've read about mercury in the last 30 years."

Some people in Washington found the report politically puzzling, if in keeping with Gibbons' history of ideological theater.

A mining lobbyist who didn't want to be identified for fear of alienating a potential governor said he found efforts like these misguided, serving only to draw attention to mercury while failing to persuade the public.

One clue to this behavior is found in Gibbons' admiration for smaller mining companies. The aim of his ideological stridency is, at least in part, to protect small mining companies, which he believes are victimized by government regulation.

"Small companies don't have the resources to fight a lot of the battles that the big companies have," he told the Sun. "Small mining companies are made up of the kinds of individuals who started this great state. Some of these people are eating cornflakes. They've invested their life out there."

This affinity for workers in small mining companies and the rural Nevada towns they call home could explain last fall's effort to reform the mining law.

It was a troubled effort from the beginning.

Lobbyists were summoned and told they could read the language but not take the draft with them.

The legislation, though, was badly written, according to John Leshy, a former Interior Department solicitor general under President Bill Clinton, as well as mining lobbyists and Capitol Hill aides who did not want the Sun to name them.

A group of law professors who specialize in public lands law wrote to Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., and said the law contained troubling provisions: 6 million acres of public land would be open to privatization at prices far below true value because "fair market value" was specifically not to include the valuable minerals beneath the land; it would eliminate the bedrock "discovery" requirement, allowing companies to place claims on land without demonstrating the likelihood of creating a mine; it would allow mining on existing claims in environmentally protected areas; it would prevent the government from collecting royalties on mineral production; and it would have allowed mining companies to avoid certain federal environmental standards by mining private rather than public land.

Gibbons said the law was misunderstood, fed by a misinformation campaign conducted by opponents.

Perhaps, but that's not how it was viewed on Capitol Hill.

Hunting groups, a reliable Republican constituency, lined up against it quickly, afraid that cherished hunting areas on public land would be privatized and thus no longer accessible. Gibbons was denounced by name on editorial pages throughout the West.

By angering sportsmen, Republicans risked an important constituency. It was enough to convince crucial Western Republicans that the bill was politically toxic and not worth the juice required to pass it.

Quite simply, Gibbons failed to create a coalition, which is the first requirement in any attempt to get legislation passed, especially in such a politically sensitive area as mining.

"Because there were those who saw it as a threat to the existing way they want to change mining law, they built a tremendous network of misinformation," Gibbons recalled. "They were too far ahead of us, and the process was overwhelming to get the truth out to counteract that."

Gibbons said the experience taught him a lesson: "An educational process has to lead the legislation rather than the other way around."

It was an odd admission for someone in his fifth term in Congress, and it may explain his relatively small number of accomplishments on behalf of mining. His office gave the Sun a list of mining-related achievements that contained just one piece of legislation: creation of the Army Corps of Engineers Restoration of Abandoned Mine Sites program, which has helped clean up abandoned mines.

The rest of the accomplishments are difficult to measure because they involve educating, advocating and moving "the discussion about our national minerals policy forward."

J. Patrick Coolican can be reached at 259-8814 or at

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October 6, 2006
by: Robert Free Galvin
Indian Country Today


Venezuela's oil program is a gesture of solidarity

In August 2005, I went to the World Festival of Youth and Student gathering in Caracas, Venezuela, to see firsthand the new relationships between indigenous people and the government of Venezuela. I had heard of too many promises by capitalists and socialists before.

In 1973, 20 indigenous youth from the United States and Canada attended the Berlin World Youth Gathering to demand inclusion of indigenous rights and self-determination in global agendas. Looking for allies, we went and declared to the world that both the capitalist and socialist were no different to Native peoples, as both systems depend on indigenous people's lands and resources to exist. Many progressives met our worldview of the relationship between our creator and our role here on mother earth with baffled resistance. Our declarations reflected teachings from traditional elders, like Wallace ''Mad Bear'' Anderson, Tuscarora, and Hopi interpreter Thomas Banyacya. They taught us of self-determination and of prophecies, telling of a day when indigenous people from north and south would unite.

So, I went to Caracas to see if things had changed. While there, we were prevented from sharing photos of Native struggles for self-determination as evidence of imperialism. The unconscious racism so prevalent among white privileged progressives once again ruled the day.

My Venezuelan hosts asked me to write about my experiences. I wrote of the positive policies of respect and recognition of self-determination for indigenous peoples I had witnessed and of the reforms and rights written into their new constitution. I ended the letter with a request that Venezuela, as an act of solidarity with indigenous people in the north, provide low-cost fuel to indigenous communities. I wanted to see this if the new model of relationship with indigenous people would extend not only beyond Venezuela's borders in the south, but also into the north.

Venezuela's response was immediate and as we were working out details with the representatives in the states, Hurricane Katrina happened. This gesture of solidarity was delayed and the low-cost oil program became expanded to include and serve urban centers first. I went back to meet the Venezuelan representatives and through persistence nurtured the original indigenous agenda from the back burner to the front of the table.

News articles covered these efforts and generated hundreds of requests for the lower-cost oil from tribal planners, chairpersons, community activists and elders wanting to stay warm. The data gathered would be invaluable for future planning, whether participation occurred or not.

During the implementing of the oil program to Boston and New York, the embassy asked me if any tribes were ready for the program. Chief William Phillips, Micmac from Maine, had persistently maintained contact with me and said most of the data was ready. During November, a three-way call with the Venezuelans, Micmac and myself occurred, as heavy snowstorms hit Maine and Washington, D.C. and rain fell in Seattle. We insisted that talks with tribes be held separately as another act of respecting sovereignty.

The Venezuelan delegation met with the governor of Maine, and held a separate meeting with the four tribes of Maine. They negotiated for 900,000 gallons of heating oil to be distributed at 60 percent of market price. The Penobscot Tribe became their distributor. The response to a simple request for an act of solidarity is the low-cost oil program now in states and tribes across the land, with tens of millions of gallons possible this year.

Frontline activists deserve thanks and honor for opening the pathways back to sovereignty and self-determination, and for keeping the elders' teachings as the driving force behind actions for self-determination. The request for a Venezuelan act of solidarity and the resulting oil program was no accident, but part of long-time efforts to realize our elders' prophecies of unity of the north and south.

Now the challenge is to develop more cultural exchanges and to engage in joint economic venturing, as wealthier tribes are now doing. The challenge is to build stronger ties with indigenous people, who are self-determining their way through democratic voting power and reclaiming their lands and resources, to the shock of the Western corporations. Western nations have used the Southern nations as private, raw resource centers for centuries, without conscience to the indigenous multitudes and the poverty, which the extracting of natural resources creates. The prophecies of indigenous rebirth are being realized in the recovery of Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador and the emerging First Nations of the north.

The challenge is for tribes to assess their collective resources, beyond casino revenues, to the agriculture products, as example, and become suppliers exporting value-added products beyond the U.S. border. Some tribes are currently developing international markets for their products of beans, fish and pharmaceuticals.

Since the partial liberation through the Indian Self-Determination Act and other legislation, tribes are reasserting their sovereignty. The challenge is to reciprocate solidarity with the indigenous people in the southern continents, and engage them economically. Casinos can purchase and serve fair-trade coffee as a gesture of solidarity with our indigenous allies in the South.

Yet decision-makers resist these ideas as affecting their bottom line. I say that it challenges indigenous people to think and act in new economic and spiritual relationships, not just replicating the capitalist and socialist economic systems that devastate the Earth. The challenge is to find a new way - a sustainable, renewable, less consumer-oriented global economic system.

Robert Free Galvan, Tewa, is an activist for American Indian causes. He lives in Seattle.
To comment on this article send your email to: Robert Free Galvin at email:


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