PRESS RELEASE: Mining and Human Rights in Latin America: Companies’ Home States are Key to Protecting Human Rights

October 24, 2013

Washington D.C., October 24, 2013.- On November 1, 2013, the Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF) will participate in a public hearing on the “Human Rights of People Affected by Mining in the Americas and Mining Companies’ Host and Home States’ Responsibility” during the 149th Session of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in Washington DC.

At this hearing, participating organizations will address the impact of mining activities on human rights and will highlight the role played by the home States of transnational mining companies in protecting human rights in the region’s mining industry. They will use the cases of Brazil and Canada as examples (80% of mining activity in Latin America is developed by Canadian companies). They will also discuss how the general practices of mining companies in Latin America impact the integrity of human rights in the region.

While the impact of extractive industries on human rights has been a topic of preoccupation for the IACHR, this will be its first time addressing home State responsibility for the activities of mining companies and the human rights violations they have committed in several countries around the region. Up until now, discussions on this topic have focused on the responsibilities of “host” States—those that allow foreign companies to disregard the human rights of their population. Little has been said about the responsibility of states from which these companies originate—“origin states” or “home states”—those that, according to this hearing’s petitioners, must also respond to these actions.

There are many reasons for making this statement, but one fundamental reason is the lack of home state monitoring over their companies as a way to avoid violations of human rights when operating outside of their territory. This is even worse if we take into account that home states are aware of these violations, for they have been denounced directly before their embassies and in some cases, before State entities in their respective countries. In many cases, these situations are widely known. And yet, in the case of Canada, for example, such violations of human rights have not led the State to demand compliance with human rights norms out of their companies before granting them with economic and political support.

Another reason is that the victims of such violations—who usually do not receive any kind of response in their own countries—do not find the appropriate mechanisms through which to channel their complaints and claims in the companies’ home States. In the case of Canada, neither civilian nor criminal courts contain mechanisms to give answers to the victims’ claims. Some State actions, such as holding multi-sector consultations and roundtables, have proven to be insufficient. It is thus necessary to create effective mechanisms of judicial access for victims of these types of abuses. Due to its nature, the Inter-American system can play a key role in designing and promoting such mechanisms, not only in the states where these abuses occur, but also in these companies’ home states.

One other aspect that will be mentioned in the hearing is the intervention of Canadian government representatives in the elaboration and/or modification of national laws on mining and environmental matters in several of the countries under study. This contrasts with the lack of participation of the affected communities within the processes of reform and adoption of mining laws, concessions, or revocations. Although there are many ways to approach this topic, this hearing wants to call attention to this aspect and promote discussion on the legal and ethical reaches and limits of these types of interventions.

During the hearing, the IACHR will be briefed on concrete cases of human rights violations derived from the activities of foreign mining companies in Brazil but also of the conduct of Brazilian companies in other Latin American countries (such as Peru, Colombia, Chile and Argentina). It is important to note that the Brazilian mining industry that have activities outside of Brazil is strongly supported by the Brazilian State through a series of legal and institutional mechanisms as well as State financing. Thus, the role of the Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social (BNDES) will be highlighted. The work carried out by Vale and EBX, two of Brazil’s largest companies with activities outside of the country, will also be mentioned. These companies have also received large loans and financing from other governments to help fund their foreign expansion, such as the billion dollar loan from the Canadian government (for Vale) and the Colombian government’s million dollar donation to EBX projects.

The participants at the hearing will be: Dora Lucy Arias, from the Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo, CAJAR, (Colombia); Pedro Landa, from the Centro de Promoción y Desarrollo de Honduras, CEPRODEH, (Honduras); Nilton Velazco, from the Pastoral Social de Dignidad Humana (Perú); Alexandra Montgomery, representing Justicia Global and the Red Internacional de los Afectados por la Vale (Brazil); Rubén Cruz, representative of the indigenous community of Diaguita Patay Co (Chile) and Katya Salazar, of the Due Process of Law Foundation (Washington, DC).

The hearing will be streamed live through the OAS Webcast here

 

Date: November 1, 2013

Time: 3:15 pm

Location: Padilha Vidal Room of the GSB building of the OEA, 1889 F St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20006

 

For additional information on this hearing or to arrange an interview with one of the participants please contact:

Grace Durante

Communications and Op. Manager

Due Process of Law Foundation

gdurante@dplf.org

(202) 462 7701

* The Working Group on Mining in Latin America is composed of Latin American NGOs that have been reflecting and working together since 2010 to develop common strategies to address the impact of mining on rights humans in the region.