What’s HARPERing here?

Thursday, July 19, 2007 at 8:51 | Posted in Canada, Environment | Leave a comment

What has the Canadian PM Stephen Harper in common with glaciers? Is Harper looking the other way while the Canadian mining company Barrick causes environmental damage and contributes to indigenous people being displaced in Chile? What’s HARPERing here?

These issues were raised by a small but noisy group of protesters as Stephen Harper paid a visit to Barrick Gold’s HQ in Santiago. The protesters say that Barrick’s gold and silver Pascua Lama Project in the Andes Mountains is polluting rivers and damaging three glaciers. This results in shortage of water in the area.

CBC news quotes one of the protesters:

“There’s a shortage of water in the summertime, and it’s only sustained because of the glaciers,” one protester told CBC News. “Because of the destruction of the glaciers, there won’t be water in the short-term, there won’t be water for the communities.”

Prime Minister Harper has no such information:

Harper said Tuesday that as far as he knows Barrick “follows Canadian standards of corporate social responsibility.” He said that it was up to Chile and Argentina to determine whether the company was meeting environmental protection standards.

Barrick, on the other hand, says that global warming is to be blamed for the melting glaciers. Rodrigo Jimenez, Barrick’s local director of corporate affairs says the protesters are representing “a small minority”:

“A lot of them, as a result of professional activism … unfortunately oppose any type of development — whether it’s mining, gas or any type of project around the world,” he said.

Environmentalist in both Chile and Canada suggest that Harper’s visit to Barrick’s HQ in Santiago could be understood as a silent support for the company as there are considerations in the Chilean Congress to form an investigatory commission to examine alleged irregularities in the approval process of the Pascua Lama Project. Karyn Keenan, program officer for the Halifax Initiative says it is regrettable that Harper was not “properly informed of the issues surrounding the project”.

So it seems that the Canadian PM stuck his head in a hornet’s nest. Did he do it on purpose or of ignorance? Who is causing the glaciers to melt, or what? Was there corruption involved in establishing the project as has also been suggested? There are a lot of contradicting statements and many unanswered questions. So what the heck is HARPERing here?


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