Labour Views: The Trouble with Mining

October 26, 2017


On Oct 20, 2017 the Yellowknifer reported that Dr. Brian Lee Crowley “warned that a rising tide of ‘organized opposition’ to resource development – exemplified by protests against new pipelines, mines, clear-cutting and the like – poses a threat to Canadian prosperity.”

“Wow!” I thought to myself, “This Crowley fellow is a real whiner. I see no evidence that he acknowledged any of the legitimate concerns that have arisen about the extraction industry.”

Here is a short-list of some of the concerns that people have expressed over the decades (in numerous documentaries):

  • their drinking water, ground water, and homes being poisoned by methane from fracking;
  • the hundred of thousands of tonnes of toxic waste left behind by industry (e.g., Giant Mine, the tailings ponds of Alberta tar sands);
  • indigenous people being dispossessed of their land in countries where Canadian mines are active (and it happens here in Canada, too);
  • the landslides caused by clear-cutting;
  • the enormous number of oil spills from 40+ year old (and even new!) pipelines;
  • the damage caused (to the environment, wildlife, etc.) when oil tankers have spills off the B.C. coast; and
  • the amount of carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels and the climate change and sea level rise that has resulted.
  • Etc.

I don’t think the so-called “organized opposition” is against resource development in principle. We all like our cell phones and laptops and the Internet. It takes resources obtained from mining to get many of the components for this technology.

However, it is perfectly reasonable to expect extraction companies to be responsible and respectful and take a “do no harm” approach to extraction.

For example, there is a difference between “blood diamonds” and a “Certified Canadian Diamond”.

Diamonds are supposed to be symbols of love, commitment, and joyful new beginnings. But for many people in diamond-rich countries, these sparkling stones have been more a curse than a blessing. Too often, the world’s diamond mines produce not only diamonds – but also civil wars, violence, worker exploitationenvironmental degradation, and unspeakable human suffering.

Not long ago, the public started to become aware that large numbers of diamonds are mined in violent and inhumane settings. Consumers are now demanding, with ever greater urgency, that their diamonds be untouched by bloodshed and human rights abuses.

Producers of Canadian diamonds are expected to adhere to the strictest guidelines in the world and to a strict code of conduct. All Canadian diamonds are expected to be mined, cut and polished according to the highest environmental standards, and to the principles of sustainable social and economic development in northern communities.

The extraction industry needs to “up their game”. Standards must rise. Many in the industry are obviously going to be pulled along, kicking and screaming, as Mr. Crowley demonstrates…

Around the world, 110 countries recognize the right to live in a healthy environment, but not Canada. Nevertheless, across Canada, a movement is growing.  Many continue to stand for the people and the places they love. Across the country, Canadians believe in our right to a healthy environment – a right to clean air, clean water, safe food, a stable climate and a say in decisions that affect our health and well-being.

May the “organized opposition” continue to stand up and say this right should be recognized and protected. May they continue to speak their truth and bring awareness of what needs to be done so that every Canadian (and citizen of the world) can live in a healthy environment!

Lorraine Hewlett

President, Northern Territories Federation of Labour

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