Petition | #HumanRights Org: Stop misconduct of mining companies in #Mauritania

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Please sign the petitions on change.org here:

https://www.change.org/petitions/mauritanian-human-rights-organization-stop-the-misconduct-of-mining-companies-in-mauritania

and on Avaaz here: http://www.avaaz.org/fr/petition/Sauver_la_Mauritanie_de_la_Pollution_Miniere_de_KINROSS_TAZIAZET

We need to urge the government to make these mining companies sustain the environment and preserve the landscape for the future generations. These corporation need to assume social responsibility and take a hand into developing the local communities instead of devastating them…

We aspire to break the government’s shameful silence and indifference towards the atrocities caused by corporations such as KINROSS, MCM and PETRONAS…

By Elycheikh Ahmed-Tolba

KINROSS, the Canadian gold mining corporation (monster) which is leading the Gold Exploitation in Mauritania, has displayed its interest in expanding industrial hegemony over the Tasiast facility. Kinross is considered to be one of the worst mining companies working in Mauritania along with MCM and PETRONAS.  It has no respect for the local people. It has been contributing in the degradation of the environment…

Monday, 04/29/2013, Kinross revealed its decision to expand gold production in Tasiast-Mauritania which will produce 830,000 ounces of gold annually – undoubtedly enough to exhaust gold reserves in the desert. Kinross is acting beyond the limits and mandate of the Mauritanian government…

Our silent military government has turned into deaf ears and blind eyes to Kinross atrocities due the percentages given under the table to the military junta and their lead generals…

Kinross is using these attitudes in Mauritania because of the government’s corruption and involvement in the process of demeaning the Mauritanian population. Kinross has no sense or consideration for CSR: corporate social responsibility…

It’s the burden of intellectuals in RIM to stand up against this monster and disclose its awful intent to ruin the potential richness of the country. We need to work together hand-in-hand to preserve the sustainability of the Mauritanian environment for future generations. —

KINROSS, the Canadian  gold mining corporation (monster) which is leading the Gold Exploitation in Mauritania, has displayed its interest in expending the industrial hegemony over Tazyazet factory. Kinross is considered to be one of the worst mining companies working in Mauritania among MCM and PETRONASS. It has no respect for the local people; It has been contributing in the degradation of the environment... </p> <p>Today 04/29/2013, Kinross revealed its decision to build up a new factory of gold in Tazyazet-Mauritania which will produce 830000 ounces of gold annually which will be undoubtedly enough to dry up the refinery of the gold in the desert. Especially, that Kinross is acting beyond the limits and observations of the Mauritanian government...</p> <p>Our silent military government has turned into deaf ears and blind eyes to Kinross’s atrocities due the percentages given from beneath the table to the military junta and their lead generals...Kinross is using these attitudes in Mauritania because of the government’s corruption and involvement in the process of demeaning the Mauritanian population. Kinross has no sense or consideration for CSR: corporate social responsibility...</p> <p>It’s the burden of the intellectuals in RIM to stand up against this monster and disclose its awful intent to ruin the potential richness of the country. We need to work all together and hand-in-hand to preserve the sustainability of the Mauritanian sole and environment for the future generations.

#Mauritania’s MCM: Digging for minerals, burying the truth

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High on the very long list of taboo subjects in Mauritania is any shadow of doubt or suspicion concerning the cash cows of the mining industry. A recent post highlighted just some of the issues with Canada’s Kinross Gold. Now it’s time to put First Quantum Minerals‘ subsidiary Mauritania Copper Mines (MCM) under the spotlight. The Guelb Moghrein copper-gold operation near the town of Akjoujt in Mauritania, 250 kilometres north-east of the nation’s capital, Nouakchott,  is 100% owned by MCM.

Buried Truth

Friends transport murdered mining worker Mohammed Ould Machdhoufi’s shrouded body

The problem is not that no one dares to speak out about the unfair recruitment practices, inadequate labour conditions, low rates of pay, corrupt financial dealings or environmental pollution; it is that whenever anyone does try to confront these issues, they are ignored or silenced. And that includes being killed in cold blood, which is what happened to Mohamed Ould Machdhoufi, when the national guard staged a dawn raid on a peaceful sit-in by MCM copper mining workers, killing Ould Machdhoufi and wounding several others. The authorities infuriated people by declaring the cause of death to be “unknown”.

Mining workers’ union rep Ethmane Ould Kreivit

First Quantum Minerals of Canada, then aggravated the situation by issuing a press release that made no mention of the death or injuries, and claiming the strike was illegal. Several workers, including union leader Ethmane Ould Kreivit, were attacked in a subsequent protest, and jailed for several days. On his release, the union leader was prevented from entering the workplace. When agreement to return to work was finally reached, MCM deducted more days’ pay than had been lost. Mr Krevit was then sidelined from official meetings and unfairly dismissed. He is now in the process of taking legal action against MCM and remains one the most active and engaged union leaders in the country.

Health Scares

Injured MCM mine worker Mohamed Ould Khatari

A general and persistent lack of concern for worker health and safety is illustrated by the case of MCM mine worker Mohamed Ould Khatari, who developed painful skin lesions after being exposed to a powdered chemical at work, and was told to take a couple of painkillers. Additional risks to the environment and the health of the local population and livestock can not be ignored. There are reports of elevated incidence of maternal and child heath problems, including miscarriages, infant deaths, asthma, headaches and other debilitating illness, among the population close enough to the mine to be affected by soil, water or air-borne toxins. Several herds of camel have been wiped out by sudden and mysterious fatal diseases. The typical response to these problems is to repeat benevolent-sounding statements reminding us that MCM has built a hospital or that the government has plans for veterinary care provision. But the hospital stands empty, and the sparse veterinary care is restricted to vaccination programs against cattle disease, not treatment for arsenic, cyanide or other chemical poisoning.

Conspiratorial Cover-up

Typical scene from the MCM mining dump near Akjoujt

As an example of the system’s obvious compliance in covering up valid concerns, I cite the example of an unresolved court case brought against MCM five years ago for creating an environmental hazard. The court ordered an investigation by three experts but mandated the plaintiff to bear the entire cost – an unprecedented situation. According to the lawyer for the case [ar], Ahmed Ould Mohamed Lemine, the medical expert refused to prepare a report at all, and was openly supportive of the defendant,  MCM. However, the agricultural expert presented his findings, which established the presence of contamination in the region, and negligence on MCM’s part to enact safeguards to limit the spread of toxins, but his report was ignored by the authorities. The lawyer points out that this report also reveals that there is no environmental strategy or plan in place, despite claims that US$925,000 has been allocated to post-operation restoration.

The third expert identified risks from industrial wastes but required further laboratory analysis which is not available in Mauritania. No further action was taken because no one is willing to bear the costs. The president of MCM, Philippe Pascal, had promised in June 2012 that an environmental study would be published within two months. The report has not materialised. As I write, the 2nd Mauritanian Mining & Oil and Gas Conference & Exhibition opens at the Palais des Congrès in Nouakchott. I hope the delegates from MCM and Kinross will attend Wednesday’s sessions on the importance of health and environmental safety.

Silenced Voices

Consider the current campaign initiated by activists wishing to bring these issues to the attention of the country, the region, and the world. They devised a week-long “blogathon” which has received numerous mentions from certain news sites in Mauritania, but not in the sites that carry advertising paid for by MCM or Kinross, and none from sites owned or operated by the “big tent” elites who also benefit from patronage of these major foreign companies.

Al Jazeera, Radio France International and Reuters have all confided in Mr Lemine that the state refused to grant them permission to visit either MCM in Akjoujt or Kinross Gold in Tasiast. He regards this as significant and potential proof, not only of the existence of problems and scandals, but of collusion between the mining companies and the state.  As for rest of the international media, it’s the same as any other week. If it doesn’t concern a terrorist threat or a Libyan fugitive from justice like Al Senussi, no one is interested. But from an ecology, environment, or labour activist standpoint, these mining companies are also terrorists and fugitives from justice in their own way.

 

#Ethiopia ‘forcibly displacing’ tens of thousands

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The Ethiopian government is forcibly displacing tens of thousands from their land to make way for state-run sugar plantations, a campaign group has said.

The displacements are happening in the country’s Omo Valley, according to a report by the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The valley, a World Heritage site, is also the site of a controversial dam.

The Ethiopian government has denied forcing anyone from their homes and says the project will create jobs.

HRW says that in order to make space for the plantations, government security forces are compelling communities to relocate from their traditional lands, using violence and intimidation.

In its report, the campaign group says that at the time of its visit to the area – in June 2011 – “military units regularly visited villages to intimidate residents and suppress dissent related to the sugar plantation development”. It added that “soldiers regularly stole or killed cattle”.

These allegations were denied by government spokesman Bereket Simon.

“There is no forcing out of people from their residence, if there is any reason to relocate people, then it is based on… open communication,” he told the AFP news agency.

‘No shortcut’

The sugar plantations will be irrigated in part by the Gibe III hydropower project, the group says.

The dam, which would become Africa’s largest and the fourth-biggest in the world, has provoked much controversy.

Flooding effect of dam on Omo River

At present

The Ethiopian government says that the project must be completed in order to bring energy and development to the country.

But campaigners fear it will fuel conflict over already scarce water resources, and rob communities of their livelihoods.

According to the report, previously unpublished Ethiopian government maps show plans for sugar plantations covering nearly a quarter of a million hectares.

The maps, HRW says, also show processing factories, irrigation channels and large tracts of land reserved for other forms of commercial agriculture.

The group says that if the plans go ahead they could affect at least 200,000 people in the Omo Valley and another 300,000 Kenyans living across the border around Lake Turkana, which derives up to 90% of its water from the Omo River.

The Ethiopian government has said that the dam’s impact on Lake Turkana will be negligible.

HRW describes the region as among the most ecologically and culturally diverse areas on the planet and says it is currently home to eight different agro-pastoral communities.

“Ethiopia’s ambitious plans for the Omo Valley appear to ignore the rights of the people who live there,” said Ben Rawlence, of Human Rights Watch.

“There is no shortcut to development; the people who have long relied on that land for their livelihood need to have their property rights respected, including on consultation and compensation.”

Many other African countries are reserving huge tracts of land for commercial agriculture – often leased by foreigners in order to export the crops cultivated there abroad.

Graphic of GIBE-3Gibe III would be one of the biggest dams in the world, dwarfing its neighbours

BBC News

Fighting back the desert in #Mauritania

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By Mohamed A. Boussery

Moctar Ould Hamouda remembers as a child gathering the gum of the acacia trees that surrounded his village of Diawlé, in the southwestern Mauritanian department of Rkiz, where he was born in 1958 and still lives.

“Life in Diawlé was beautiful and the landscape was picturesque,” he reminisces nostalgically. “The whole area was covered with vegetation, where our animals grazed peacefully throughout the year. A dense forest of gum trees hid the horizon. During the harvest season, people went out early in the morning and only returned late at night, with several pounds of gum under their arm. This product was very coveted and produced a large income for the village’s families.”

But decades of persistent, severe drought destroyed the vegetation and decimated the herds of livestock. Sand dunes buried homes and fields. “Our small hamlet’s way of life was completely upended and our livelihoods were severely altered. The men all emigrated in search of work,” says Moctar.

Two years ago, Diawlé’s inhabitants took matters into their own hands — literally. With support from a joint UN programme that provided seeds, inputs and training, the villagers reforested a perimeter of gum trees, stabilized the dunes, set up nurseries and established grazing areas for their livestock.

“With our own hands we stopped the advance of the sand and created an environment conducive to vegetable crops and fodder,” says Moctar proudly, adding that the village women were the first to invest in vegetable gardening. They began havesting and selling okra twice a week and quickly made a profit. “The men, returning to the village, saw this and decided to get involved themselves, abandoning all thoughts of emigrating,” he explains.

Diawlé is one of 157 villages targeted by an MDG-F-supported programme to promote environmental sustainability in three areas of Mauritania struggling against desertification and a severely degraded ecosystem. As elsewhere in the world, climate change in Mauritania takes the heaviest toll on its poorest citizens, an impact the MDG-F is dedicated to combating.

The aim of the programme is to ensure that environmental issues are taken into account in Mauritania’s efforts to fight poverty. This means encouraging villages to sustainably manage their natural resources, and ensuring access to clean water and a healthy environment by promoting good hygiene and sanitation practices.

Reclaiming land from the desert

The results have been remarkable. From a baseline of almost zero, the vegetation cover in the targeted areas has experienced a spectacular regeneration. Working collaboratively, and with training and supervision by 30 NGOs, villagers have regenerated 600 hectares of gum trees and 182 hectares of mangroves, and have restored 5,500 hectares of degraded land. More than 430 hectares of sand dunes have been stabilized, 295 hectares have been set aside as pasture, and three forests are being collectively managed.

The joint programme is also strengthening national capacity to better deal with environment and poverty issues through mainstreaming environmental considerations into public policy, revising the framework law on the environment, and introducing new internnational evaluation instruments.

The Water and Sanitation component of the programme has provided sustainable access to safe drinking water for 28,000 people, mapped the quality of drinking water for six of the country’s 13 regions and created a network of 10 laboratories to ensure water quality control. Waste management has improved with the construction of more than 6,500 family latrines and the adoption by 240 villages of healthy personal and household hygiene practices.

Central to all these efforts is the active participation of village inhabitants. In Moctar Ould Hamouda’s village of Diawlé, although plans originally called for one hectare of land to be dedicated to vegetable gardens, the villagers were so motivated that they invested their own resources, expanding the planted areas to 15 hectares.

Living conditions, says Moctar, continue to improve, to the joy and satisfaction of the people. “Today I am very happy to see new life begin in Diawlé. We protected our village and our fields against the dunes. Pastures have experienced an extraordinary regeneration. The local fauna is beginning to rise from the ashes. Our people are waiting impatiently for the young acacia bushes to grow and bear fruit, and so to revive an old tradition: the harvesting of gum.”

Working towards environmental sustainability

“Mainstreaming Local Environmental Management in the Planning Process” is a collaboration between the government of Mauritania, village committees, 30 NGOs and seven UN agencies (UNESCOUNICEFUNDPWHOUNEPWFP, and FAO).

It is one of 17 MDG-F programmes on the Environment and Climate Change to assist governments around the world achieve Millennium Development Goal #7 of environmental sustainability, and part of the MDG-F’s effort to reduce the impact of climate change on the world’s poorest people.

The MDG-F funds three other programmes in Mauritania in the areas of nutrition, conflict prevention and culture for development.

MDG Fund.

BP, EPA reach deal on Canada crude at U.S. refinery

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BP Logo

BP Logo

BP Plc on Wednesday said it will spend $400 million to install pollution controls at its giant Whiting, Indiana refinery, to allow it to process heavy crude oil from Canada, in a deal with U.S. and state regulators.

The consent decree reached with the U.S. Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency also requires London-based BP to pay $8 million to resolve prior alleged clean-air violations at its 405,000-barrels-per-day plant, the sixth-largest U.S. refinery.

The deal, announced by the government and confirmed by BP, ends years of opposition that might have left BP unable to use $4 billion worth of new processing units being installed at Whiting that will allow it to run Canadian tar sands crude as early as 2013. BP has set plans to use Canadian crudes for more than 85 percent of the refinery’s daily needs.

To boost profits, U.S. Midwest refiners are looking to retrofit plants to process plentiful supplies of Canadian heavy oil, which is cheaper but also has a higher content of pollutants that cause acid rain, smog and haze.

As part of the settlement, BP will install an estimated $400 million of pollution-control equipment at the refinery while finishing a crude slate expansion project.

“We look forward to completion of the modernization project, which will improve the refinery’s efficiency and competitiveness while continuing to reduce emissions,” said Whiting refinery manager Nick Spencer in a statement.

The agreement between BP and EPA will set a precedent for refiners seeking to upgrade their refineries to run tar sands crude in the future, environmental groups said.

“Generally, pollution control is supposed to be based on the best available technology, so this will be a benchmark,” said Eric Schaeffer of the Environmental Integrity Project, a former enforcement official at the EPA.

The EPA has sought to reduce emissions at refineries, particularly from flaring devices that burn off unneeded petroleum supplies. In April the EPA reached a deal with Marathon Petroleum Corp to curtail flaring at its six U.S. refineries.

An energy industry analyst said EPA’s agreement with BP may not affect many other U.S. refineries because the Whiting crude slate changeover project is one of the last major projects currently scheduled.

“I don’t know of many more projects out there,” said David Hackett, president of Stillwater Associates. “BP is on the back end of those projects.”

Essentially the conversion of the Whiting refinery to run Canadian crude is switching the refinery from light, sweet crude to heavy, sour crude, which many Gulf Coast refineries have already done to Latin American crude grades.

In a statement released on Wednesday afternoon, the Natural Resources Defence Council, which participated in opposition to BP’s crude slate expansion, said the new pollution equipment will cut emissions from the Whiting refinery’s flare system by 90 percent.

Canadian tar sands crude has become highly desired as a feedstock for refiners because it is cheaper than other crude oil grades. It is easier to obtain for U.S. Midwest refiners because of its source in Alberta.

Iain Conn, global head of BP’s refining and marketing, said in March that the company had decided to make the investment in the Whiting refinery and put refineries in California and Texas up for sale because of the appeal of Canadian crude.

“We are moving to a Northern Tier refining strategy,” Conn said.

BP currently processes between 70,000 and 80,000 barrels per day (bpd) Canadian crude at the Whiting refinery. After the project is complete, the refinery will be able to run up to 350,000 bpd in tar sands crude.

Tar sands crude has drawn opposition from environmental groups because it has high levels of heavy metals, is corrosive and said to produce higher levels of air pollutants. The mining of tar sands crude, which is cut from pits in Alberta, and then refined into a liquid, is also said to produce high levels of greenhouse gases.

Opposition to use of tar sands crude has temporarily halted TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline project to bring the oil to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Opposition to the Whiting refinery’s changeover to tar sands crude began shortly after BP announced plans to begin the $4-billion project in 2007. Local groups and politicians from President Barack Obama’s home state of Illinois questioned BP’s initial assumptions of pollution from use of tar sands crude.

After Obama took office in 2009, EPA put a hold on a permit Indiana had issued to BP for the project, setting the stage for Wednesday’s settlement.

Reuters.