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That Time Trudeau Announced $360 Million for Roads to Yukon Mines That Haven't Been Approved Yet

Justin Trudeau Yukon Gateway Resources Announcement

In early September, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced more than $360 million in funding for roads to service mining operations in two remote regions of the Yukon.

There’s just one catch: most of those mines haven’t even been approved yet.  

Some worry the influx of investment — $247 million from the federal government and $112 million from the territory — handcuffs the region to mining development that hasn’t been demonstrated to serve the community’s long-term interests.

Don Reid, conservation zoologist for the Wildlife Conservation Society of Canada, said the timing of the announcement is problematic and calls the objectivity of the mine review process into question.

Digging Out of Canada’s Mining Dilemma

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

It sometimes seems people in the mining and fossil fuel industries — along with their government promoters — don’t believe in the future. What else could explain the mad rush to extract and use up the Earth’s resources as quickly and wastefully as possible?

Global mining production, including fossil fuels, has almost doubled since 1984, from just over nine-billion tonnes to almost 17-billion in 2012, with the greatest increases over the past 10 years.

Democracy in the Pits: How Canada Uses Foreign Aid as PR for Mining Companies

miner

Democracy in the Pits is a two-part series outlining the tarnished reputation of Canada's mining sector and the Harper government's role in supporting it. Read Part 1: The Corrosive Effect of Canadian Mining Companies Worldwide.

When your industry finds itself faced with a deteriorating reputation after its harmful practices have been exposed to the world, you have two available courses of action. The first is the honorable route: take the concerns of the public seriously, listen to the relevant experts, and figure out how to fundamentally change the way you do business. Admitting your mistakes and putting an end to your violent or unscrupulous behavior may be the first step to recuperating your standing in the community, even if damaged trust does take a long time to rebuild.

The second option is damage control. Rather than accept the fact that social, environmental and economic justice may pose legitimate constraints on your industry’s profitability, forge ahead with business as usual while trying to manage public opinion. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, ranging from discrediting your detractors to devising a flashy but shallow community engagement campaign, changing the style but not the substance of your actions.

Both of these responses fall under the rubric of corporate social responsibility. But while the first takes seriously the idea that a company requires a social license to operate, and has duties to the human community beyond earning a profit for its shareholders, the second only sees unprofitable distractions and collateral damage.

Democracy in the Pits: The Corrosive Effect of Canadian Mining Companies Worldwide

UN photo, mining in brazil

Democracy in the Pits is a two-part series outlining the tarnished reputation of Canada's mining sector and the Harper government's role in supporting it. Read Part 2: How Canada Uses Foreign Aid as PR for Mining Companies.

In a recent article chronicling the demise of Canadian social democracy at the hands of the Harper Conservatives, Marianne Lenabat draws an important comparison: what the financial sector is to the United States, so are the extractive industries to Canada. The similarity isn’t just about the two sectors’ relative size or contribution to GDP, although it starts there. It’s about how each country’s respective darling industry has come to dictate government policy, even when the social harm they inflict far outweighs their economic benefits.

In both countries, the same platitudes are trotted out to justify the government’s helpless devotion: The industry is vital to the economic health of the nation. It leads the world in innovation. It creates the jobs we need to build communities of hard-working families. 

In the United States, where a frenzy of speculation in the housing market spawned a global economic crisis that continues to ravage the world, the government love affair with Wall Street shows no signs of faltering. The big banks were bailed out with no significant strings attached, and the stock market is now back to record highs.

In Canada, the extractive industries enjoy a similarly cozy arrangement. The government spies on activists and meets with corporate executives to help ensure the speedy implementation of pipeline projects. The oil sands are given the green light for massive expansion, despite the indisputable fact that we need to immediately phase out fossil fuel extraction if we want to continue to enjoy a climate that remains hospitable to human life.

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