“Canada’s influence on mining is felt in Latin America more than in any other region of the world.” And its second most important market is Peru.
In 2017, BBC World released a report (in Spanish) on the often unsavoury business practices of Canadian mining companies in Latin America. Titled “The Conflicts and Controversies of Canadian Mining in Latin America (Which Clash With the Country’s Progressive Image)”, the article included the following passage (translated by yours truly):
Canada’s influence on mining is felt in Latin America more than in any other region of the world.
More than half of the country’s mining investment abroad is in [the] region, with 80 large projects.
It is perhaps inevitable that, given the number of mining projects, Canada is a lightning rod for criticism directed at mining in general.
But expectations were different when Canadian miners landed in the 1990s.
“Canadian mining came riding a discourse of clean mining and development aid,” Cesar Padilla, spokesman for the Observatory of Mining Conflicts in Latin America (OCMAL), an NGO critical of multinational mining companies, told BBC Mundo. “And ultimately they didn’t keep most of the promises and commitments they made”.
“Some Canadian mining companies have been characterized by large and long conflicts with communities, which bears little relation with the projected image of responsible modern mining…”
Which brings us to the present. And Peru, the world’s second-largest producer of silver, copper and zinc as well as Latin America’s largest producer of gold, lead, boron, indium and selenium. The country has seen its share of large and long conflicts, and is now in the grip of another. And in that conflict Canada is playing an important, albeit largely ignored, role.
Protecting Canadian Investments, At Any Cost
With CAD $9.9 billion in assets, Canadian companies are Peru’s biggest investors in mineral exploration. That’s equivalent to 4.5% of Peru’s GDP. And Canada’s government is determined to not just protect that investment but to expand it.
After meeting Peru’s new mining minister, Óscar Vera Gargurevich, Canada’s Ambassador to Peru (and Bolivia) Louis Marcotte tweeted: With Minister Oscar Vera Gargurevich, we are talking about modern mining investments that benefit the communities and Peru as a whole. Ready to support the Canadian delegation at PDAC [Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada] 2023, the most important mining exploration convention in the world, March 5-8 in Canada.”
Like the US, Canada was quick to recognize Boluarte’s regime. Since mid-December Canada’s Ambassador to Peru (and coincidentally, Bolivia) Louis Marcotte has met not only with Boluarte but also Peru’s foreign minister, vulnerable populations minister and mining minister. As Canadian author and activist Yves Engler notes, it is rare for a Canadian ambassador to have so much contact with top officials of any government:
The diplomatic activity highlights Ottawa’s commitment to consolidating the shaky coup government, which has been rejected by many regional governments and has seen multiple ministers resign. The diplomatic encounters are also an indirect endorsement of Boluarte’s repression. Security forces have shot hundreds and detained many more.
In the case of the US, its ambassador to Peru, Lisa Kenna, a nine-year veteran at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and a former adviser to former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, met with Peru’s Defense Minister Gustavo Bobbio Rosas on December 6, just a day day before Castillo’s ouster. The timing of the meeting has stoked suspicions of US involvement in the coup, including from Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel Lopéz Obrador.
This plot has, of course, played out many times before, most recently in Bolivia, where both the US and the Washington-based Organization of American States (OAS) played a major role in ousting Evo Morales. For its part, the Trudeau government made no statement about the state repression unleashed by Jeanine Añez’s coup government despite the mounting evidence of human rights violations. Instead, he agreed to work with Áñez.
As Urooba Jamal documents for the Spanish investigative journalism website, Ctxt, the ties between Canadian miners and the Canadian government are extremely cosy:
There is an important link between Canadian mining and Canadian foreign policy. According to lobbying records obtained by the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project (JCAP) – an association of two Canadian law schools that advocates for communities affected by resource extraction (particularly indigenous communities) – representatives of the mining industry conduct powerful and insistent lobbying campaigns directed at the Canadian government…
Furthermore, Canada dominates this sector: most of the world’s mining companies are based in Canada, while 41% of the large mining companies in Latin America are Canadian, according to JCAP. These companies have also been embroiled in controversy in recent years. A landmark JCAP report published in 2016 found that 28 of these companies were implicated in forty-four deaths, 403 injuries, and 709 criminalization cases in thirteen Latin American countries over a fifteen-year period.
Culture of Impunity
Other countries on the American continent, including Mexico, Colombia, Bolivia and Argentina, have taken a wildly different stance regarding Boluarte’s regime, refusing to recognize its legitimacy while calling for new elections and the release of Castillo. At the recent summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) a succession of national leaders denounced Boluarte’s ruthless repression of Peruvian protesters and called for her resignation…
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