Just over a week ago, on February 3rd, police and security officers backed by Newmont invaded the Máxima Acuña Chaupe's home to prevent her from making repairs to her house. Officers even destroyed parts of her home. This was the third such invasion of her land in 2015 itself. We ask you to take action against Newmont and for sanctioning this violence.
Rather than accept unfavorable government decisions, such as a permit denial, some companies are suing countries under investment agreements that allow them to “seek international arbitration” in publicly inaccessible World Bank tribunals. Canadian mining company Gabriel Resources, which has the backing of US giant Newmont, is the latest mining company to resort to this tactic. Gabriel is threatening to sue the Romanian government if it does not get approval for its proposed Rosia Montana open-pit gold mine.
Yesterday I helped deliver a letter to the Canadian Embassy here in Washington, DC, about the lawsuit against the Central American country of El Salvador, by Pacific Rim Mining Corporation. The letter was coordinated by the Institute for Policy Studies and signed by Friends of the Earth, Center for International Environmental Law, Public Citizen, Sierra Club Greenpeace, Earth Island Institute and Foundation Earth (along with Earthworks).
Pacific Rim is a Canadian mining company exploring for gold in the mineral rich mountains of El Salvador. It is no surprise to geologists that Pacific Rim believes they can strike it rich there. Billions of dollars rich.
Last week the International Financial Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, updated its Sustainability Framework and the Performance Standards within that framework.
The IFC is the largest multilateral source of loan and equity financing for private sector projects in the developing world. The Sustainability Framework sets forth a number of baseline performance standards that projects they fund (oil, gas, mining, etc) must adhere to in able to receive funding.
Now, these 8 standards leave a lot to be desired, they:
- are weak in environmental and biodiversity protection,
- lack comprehensive safeguards of human rights, and
- are written with an ambiguity that is often exploitable by companies looking to cut corners.
You can go to the Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman website to see a long list of officially disputed IFC backed projects.
A number of mining companies have been filing for arbitration in international tribunals under trade and investment agreements to seek compensation for mines that governments decided should not go forward. That's correct: the elected government says "no" to a mine (due to community opposition, expected impacts, regulations, or other reasons), and the company then sues for compensation in the World Bank's International Center for Investment Disputes (ICSID).
One such case was dismissed and another filed just in the last month. The hearing for a third -- the case of Pacific Rim vs. El Salvador -- has recently been delayed. These are the latest in an apparent series of cases of mining companies seeking to make money in international tribunals or impose their bad projects on countries that don't want them.
In a decision last week, the ICSID ruled that Milwaukee-based Commerce Group could not bring its case before ICSID under the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) because the company had not halted ongoing court proceedings in El Salvador. The company had been seeking damages exceeding $100 million. The technicality spared El Salvador further proceedings for those claims, but the government of El Salvador is still required to pay massive legal fees.
One might think that while reviewing some of its environmental and social safeguard policies, the World Bank might hesitate to approve support for controversial mining projects that civil society groups express tremendous concern about. Well, guess again. Just yesterday, the Bank approved a guarantee for a new destructive mining project in Indonesia.
The World Bank's Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) is considering providing a guarantee for support of a nickel mine in Indonesia that would destroy vast areas of tropical rain forest in the buffer zone of a National Park -- in an area that was previously nominated to be part of the National Park. And it would pollute rivers with large quantities of sediment and probably toxic waste drainage. And dump the processing waste water into the ocean at only 15m below the surface. In an area with coral reefs.