100 Torontonians go on ‘Toxic Tour’ of the City Ending at Mining Convention

Sunday, March 5th, 2017

Toronto, Canada: PDAC, the largest mining convention in the world, kicked off its 85th annual event in Toronto today. In response to the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada’s (PDAC) call for innovative ideas to #DisruptMining, over a hundred people participated in a ‘Toxic Toronto’ tour of the city organized by the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network. The bus tour ended with a rally at the convention site, where statements were shared from communities around the world impacted by the companies exhibiting inside the convention. Dozens of tour participants also took the opportunity to attend PDAC wearing shirts promoting the importance of community consent near Canadian mining projects. Many were quickly ejected – or not even allowed to enter the premises. Apparently, this was not the disruption PDAC was looking for.

MISN member Kate Klein states, “PDAC promoters say that if you’re not at this annual convention, it’s ‘out of sight, out of mind’, and we believe them: communities opposing mining are definitely out of sight and entirely unrepresented. The narratives and facts represented at the PDAC convention are completely disconnected from the realities of people on the ground, which includes violence, environmental degradation, and zero respect for Indigenous sovereignty”.

The controversies and issues endemic at mining projects were highlighted by simultaneous actions and statements shared from people in Ecuador and Chile, two of the country sponsors of PDAC. In Ecuador, YASunidos Cuenca, a social movement dedicated to preserving the Yasuní region of Amazonian Ecuador, held a bike ride, cultural festival, and protest coinciding with the start of PDAC to oppose their country’s messaging at the convention. Community members delivered a clear statement to mining companies, holding up signs spelling out “Miners, you shall not pass!”

Jennifer Moore from MiningWatch Canada also read out a public declaration from the Latin American Observatory of Mining Conflicts and member organizations, which speaks to how communities bear the brunt of mineral extraction, as well as how they are equipping themselves with information and responding with ever greater resistance to defend their well-being and ways of life.

A third statement prepared by the Diaguita Huascoaltinos, an Indigenous community in Northern Chile that is resisting a Barrick Gold mine said “Chile is a country that unfortunately has and continues to promote events like the PDAC convention, which are focused on exploiting natural resources across nations. Their point of view is based on egocentrism and extreme extractivism that leaves nothing behind. This is presented as normal, and standard. The Huascoaltinos people struggle to survive this short-term thinking.”  These statements made it clear that there is international opposition to this convention.

MISN member Merle Davis says: “When people think of mining disasters they may imagine poisoned rivers or contaminated lands in remote locations. However, these mining projects, as well as their funding, originate right here in downtown Toronto.”

“The Toxic Toronto bus tour highlighted the interconnections between the mining industry, the academy, government, and financial institutions and demonstrated why communities impacted by Canadian mines around the world consider Toronto ‘the belly of the beast'”, explains Rachel Small, one of the tour guides.

Toronto is home to 75% of the world’s mining companies, and much of the world’s mining capital is raised on the Toronto Stock Exchange. A study commissioned by and then leaked from the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada shows that Canadian mining companies are the worst offenders when it comes to human rights abuses and environmental degradation. An article in this week’s NOW Magazine argues that the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada annual conference, which advertises itself as innovative and responsible, completely ignores the violent reality of Canadian mining.

Last year, members of the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network entered the conference to hold a vigil for those murdered in association with Canadian mining projects. After reading dozens of names, they were quickly ejected by police and security. This year’s security swiftly removed people who expressed criticisms of the human rights violations committed by mining companies present at the convention.

Caren Weisbart, another Toxic Toronto tour guide, says, “It is clear that when PDAC and its sponsors put out the call for ‘disrupters’ they were not looking for any real disruption to the misleading narratives that they perpetuate.”

Check out our report-back here on other interventions MISN carried out at PDAC this year.
A video of the rally at PDAC is available here.
A video of the bus tour is available here.

Video below by Michael Toledano of a small group of Indigenous activists and allies who unveiled a banner at the booth of Denison Mines after the Toxic Toronto Tour. Denison mines is a uranium company with a shared responsibility for the devastation of the Serpent River watershed (Anishinaabe / Ojibway territory, northern Ontario).

Images from the Toxic Toronto Tour by Allan Lissner: