The Prospectors and Developers of Canada’s annual convention (PDAC) announced that they are rescheduling their convention in the interest of public health and safety. While we support any moves away from hosting large gatherings at this time, we question whether the mining industry can truthfully position itself as prioritizing health and safety, both during this ongoing pandemic and generally. The International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) was also recently postponed, and our allies at Blockade IMARC wrote:
“It’s unfortunate that, despite this iteration of IMARC having been cancelled, the health and safety of this planet and all life upon it will continue to be disregarded by the reckless practices of the extractivist companies comprising the would-be attendees of IMARC.”
The health and safety of mining impacted communities and of the planet is continually put at risk by the mining industry, regardless of what greenwashing language they use to justify their ongoing operations.
The mining industry, including many PDAC sponsors and regular participants, have continued operating mines and exploring for minerals throughout this pandemic. We question why the mining industry is not extending the same respect to impacted communities that it is extending to itself. Legal experts called for a halt to mining and exploration in mid 2020 when mining operations and exploration were moving forward in remote communities before vaccines were available. A report released in June of 2020 also accuses the mining industry of being part of the spread of COVID-19 in many remote communities. The mining industry has actively profited from this ongoing pandemic by pushing forward projects in the context of restrictions on gatherings and protest. All the while, remote communities, largely Indigenous, continue to suffer from lack of access to healthcare including doctors and hospitals, COVID testing, and often clean drinking water.
Mining industry conventions themselves have been a site of spread for the COVID pandemic. PDAC2020 was held in person even as it became clear that an international gathering was deeply irresponsible and led to COVID outbreaks in remote communities that lacked the infrastructure for treatment. For instance, two deaths in the Shuar Arutam Indigenous communities in Ecuador were directly linked to PDAC 2020 participation.
With these concerns, we call on PDAC to support global health initiatives and prioritize the well-being of communities, not solely when it portrays their association as socially responsible. Communities, activists and researchers have found the actions of PDAC corporations to be deeply irresponsible throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and the delay of the 2022 convention does not mask their long-standing disregard for community health and well-being.