Today at the world’s largest mineral event, members of the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN) were out in force, welcoming attendees of the Prospectors and Developers Association Convention (PDAC) to the “World’s largest corporate colonial supervillain convention”. In addition to fact sheets loaded with information about 3 of PDAC’s biggest sponsors, MISN infiltrated PDAC and replaced official programs with spoof programs revealing our take on PDAC’s “Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)” track.
Despite a name that hints at social responsibility, the CSR track at PDAC promotes some of the worst human rights abusers as leaders in the field. Panels were hosted by corporate criminals and government enablers such as Barrick Gold, Goldcorp, the Colombian National Mining Agency, the Government of Canada, and the World Gold Council, to name a few.
“It is ridiculous that the same company that has been caught lying to communities and buying up land under false pretences is leading a CSR session on ‘proactive communication’,” says Rachel Small, an organizer with MISN. Small refers to the fact that Goldcorp lied to communities surrounding their Marlin Mine in Guatemala, telling locals that they were orchid farmers while they were buying up land to develop the mine.
“People never knew it was going to be a mine. They were tricked; they were fooled,” explained Francisco Mauricio, a 40–year-old agricultural technician working with the Maya-Mam Association for Research and Development (AMMID) in an interview with BriarPatch magazine that documented this tactic. “The mine has deceived many people here in order to develop.” The Guatemala Human Rights Commission has corroborated Mauricio’s claims, publishing several testimonies that make the same allegation.
Similar stories can be told about Goldcorp’s other mines, where the company deceived locals into signing contracts without understanding how the company would impact their water resources and lives.
The reality behind these companies’ socially responsible façade is what inspired the spoof program guides, advertising PDAC’s CSR track. The titles and times of the actual panel sessions were preserved, but snarky yet truthful descriptions were added, exposing the absurdity of these companies’ claims at social responsibility.
While some sessions were direct commentary on the company or government hosting that session, others pulled from real life examples associated with the industry rather than the specific host. For example, a session on “Crisis Management from a CSR Perspective” included a mock description advising mining companies to be prepared to threaten community members with lawsuits, should human rights abuses occur. “Anticipating these violations ahead of time can ensure that your company has an edge in keeping these human rights violations under a tight cap,” the panel description sarcastically reads. While MISN was not aware of the lawfirm Fasken Martineau threatening impacted communities with lawsuits to shut them up about human rights abuses, they did point to a case where Barrick Gold had been caught (and stopped from) using this tactic to silence its critics in Tanzania.
As Erma Bombeck once said, “There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humour and hurt.” Every sarcastic remark in this spoof marks the harsh truth of communities living next to real-life mines. It’s funny because it’s absurd, but it’s tragic because it’s true.