Wednesday, November 17, 2010

beware the mining beast

What would really happen if maori land was opened up, by iwi for mining. Well other indigenous peoples have experienced this, for instance the Takla Lake First Nation people in British Columbia.

These are quotes from the Executive Summary of "Bearing the burden the effects of mining on First Nations in British Columbia. International Human Rights Program, Harvard Law School. Full report here.
While Takla has good relations with some mining companies, it has generally been ambivalent or even hostile to new projects. This attitude stems largely from the fact that community members feel excluded from the process that reviews proposals and inundated with mining claims and projects on their traditional territory. In addition, Takla—home to exploration sites, a major open-pit mine, and several abandoned operations—has seen the range of harms caused by different stages of mining. Members of Takla widely report destruction of habitat, a decrease in wildlife, and a fear of health problems from contaminants. Because of Takla’s close
ties to the land, these effects cause cultural as well as environmental injury. Finally, even those members who are willing to accept mining say that they have not received the benefits that are supposed to accrue from the industry—in particular, revenue sharing and employment opportunities.
The players in this industry do not care about indigenous peoples or the environment - they really have just one responsibility and that is to generate a profit for shareholders. They crush their opponents, break their promises and laugh as the walk across broken land and bodies, all the way to the bank. They are mean and serious and they eat indigenous rights without blinking. It is too late once they are in, once they sniff a profit and the door is opened - much too late then.
Takla’s traditional governance structure reflects this close relationship to the land. Known as the potlatch system, it is centered around keyohs, families’ traditional tracts of land. A family leader represents the keyoh at community gatherings and is commonly described as “speaking for the land.” The names these keyoh holders inherit often indicate their responsibilities to the environment. The name “wise fish,” for example, belongs to a man who must protect the water so that fish can safely spawn. The Canadian government, however, banned the potlatch system for many years and created an alternative governance structure—an elected chief and four council members—that still survives. The existence of two types of spokespeople sometimes creates tensions because government officials communicate primarily with chief and council as representatives of the whole community while ignoring keyoh holders who “speak for the land.”
There are many similarities between indigenous peoples. I hope our 'speakers for the land' are making their voices heard - we need to hear them.
During interviews, Takla’s members voiced particularly adamant criticism of the lack of consultation. Because free entry does not require consultation, they often only learn about claims registered on their traditional lands through chance encounters with miners. These encounters have become rare since the advent of online registration, yet the number of claims has skyrocketed. Takla’s leaders said they are overwhelmed with NOWs for exploration proposals. They have neither the time nor the financial resources to conduct in-depth studies to supplement the superficial information they receive and to identify any problems before the deadline. Even when they do respond, their former mining coordinator said, “99.9 percent of the time” the government dismisses their objections.
When the floodgates are opened the flood comes.
Mining also threatens Takla’s culture and spiritual life. The registration of claims without consultation may be viewed as culturally insulting to Takla given their historic occupation and claims to traditional lands. At later stages of the process, environmental degradation interferes with Takla’s subsistence hunting, food gathering, and use of medicinal plants, and with the transmission of cultural knowledge that accompanies those activities. Finally Takla members generally feel a spiritual connection to the land, and some told IHRC that they experience personal pain when they see the environment injured by mining.
The time to halt these talks is now, before any momentum is generated, before it gets out of control and un-turn-round-able. We must learn the truth from those that have already suffered the consequences of letting the mining beast off it's chain.

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