Human rights affected by mining industry in Latin America: Report on IACHR hearing

November 13, 2013
by 
Mayalène Lavigne-Martel, Online Outreach Officer
From left to right: Rose-Marie Antoine (IACHR Commissioner, Rapporteur for Canada), José de Jesús Orozco (President of the IACHR) and Dinah Shelton (IACHR Commissioner).

On November 1, in Washington D.C., seven Latin American delegates attended a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States (OAS). The delegation consisted of representatives from Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Honduras and Peru.

The hearing was held after three years of work cataloguing twenty-odd cases of human rights abuses related to the extractive industry. Some fifteen organizations from nearly a dozen countries collaborated in this work.

For the first time, the notion of responsibility of States (or countries) of origin was raised. The overriding topic of conversation was Canada, since more than 75 percent of the world's extractive companies are registered there and more than 60 percent of their mining projects are in Latin America. Brazil was also presented as a country with a dual status: both host country (where a mining company sets up shop to open a mine) and home country (also called country or state of origin, i.e., where the mining company is registered).

Two partners of Development and Peace were at the table: Pedro Landa of CEHPRODEC (Honduras) and Nilton Velazco of Pastoral Social de Dignidad Humana (PASSDIH) from the Archdiocese of Huancayo (Peru). This hearing was made possible thanks to the support of Misereor and the Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF) who provided technical assistance.

The delegates first spoke about the consequences of mining activities in Latin America and their impact on the people. They then went on to speak about conditions in the host countries and home countries that make it possible for such abuses to take place. They concluded by asking that the Commission:

  1. Analyze the impact of extractive industries on human rights, including the responsibility of the states of origin;
  2. Include in its annual report, its national reports, its visits, its communications and other activities, an analysis of the impact of mining activities on human rights and the international responsibility of states of origin;
  3. Draw up a regional topic report on the impact of the mining industry on the human rights of the people affected and the international responsibility of states of origin;
  4. Intensify its efforts to ensure that OAS member states ratify the inter-American instruments and submit to the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court;
  5. Urge OAS member states, in their capacity as countries of origin, to create and implement effective mechanisms that will enable victims of mining activity to have access to justice;
  6. Require states to ensure that cases of environmental contamination, threats and other damages do not go unpunished.

The commissioners welcomed the presentation and acknowledged how important it was to reflect on the notion of the responsibilities of both host countries and home countries in cases of abuse caused by mining companies. "I agree with you that this is really an issue that the Commission should look at," said Rose-Marie Antoine, IACHR Commissioner, Rapporteur for Canada.

The hearing was also attended by a representative of the Canadian ambassador to the OAS in Washington.

A report will be submitted to the IACHR in the coming months on the case of Canadian mining companies and Canada's responsibility, and a second report will be produced on the situation in Brazil.

The delegates warmly welcomed the Development and Peace campaign, A Voice for Justice, which calls for the creation of an independent ombudsman for the Canadian mining industry. They support our campaign and want to send a clear message to the Canadian government: Canada must be more responsible for its mining operations abroad.

Join your voice to the voices of the people in the Global South affected by the Canadian mining industry. Tell your MP that Canada needs an ombudsman for responsible mining.

For more information, visit the Voice for Justice campaign page.

A video of the hearing before the IACHR is available in the original languages (Spanish and English).

Petitioners before the IACHR, left to right: Sebastian Cruz (Chile), Maria Clara Galvis (Colombia), Alexandra Montgomery (Brazil), Dora Lucy Arias (Colombia), Pedro Landa (Honduras), Nilton Velazco (Peru ) and Katya Salazar (Washington DC).
Additional photos from the IACHR

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