Hudbay has ugly environmental and human rights track record, warns a Canadian mining watchdog group

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A Canadian mining watchdog group is warning that Hudbay Mineral Resources, the Toronto-based company seeking to gain control of the Rosemont copper project, has “a profound disrespect for the environments and communities where it operates.”

MiningWatch Canada program coordinator Ramsey Hart says that U.S. regulatory agencies, local Arizona governments and the general public should not be “lulled into a false sense of security” by Hudbay’s corporate communications that emphasize the company’s environmental stewardship  and commitment to human rights.

A pond at Hudbay's abandoned Spruce Point mine appears devoid of life. Photo by Eric Reder, Manitoba Wilderness Committee

A pond at Hudbay’s abandoned Spruce Point mine appears devoid of life. Photo by Eric Reder, Manitoba Wilderness Committee

Hudbay, Ramsey states, is currently being sued for negligence in Canadian courts in connection with violent crimes at its former nickel project in eastern Guatemala, including the murder of an Indigenous Mayan land rights activist by mine security guards.

Hudbay has also failed to adequately consult Indigenous communities about mining operations, operated a heavily polluting copper smelter that was the largest single source of mercury and other toxic emissions in Canada until it closed in 2010; and failed to adequately rehabilitate closed mine sites, Ramsey states.

The proposed Rosemont copper project is currently owned by Vancouver, B.C.-based Augusta Resource Corporation. Augusta’s board of directors has agreed to accept Hudbay’s offer to purchase the company. The stock and warrants deal, worth an estimated $516 million, is expected to close later this month.

The proposed Rosemont mine is located in the Santa Rita Mountains on the Coronado National Forest southwest of Tucson. The $1.2 billion open pit mine would be the third largest copper mine in the United States.

In a briefing paper attached to its July 10 press release, MiningWatch provided an overview of Hudbay’s alleged human rights abuses in Guatemala and serious environmental issues in northern Manitoba.

In 2008, Hudbay merged with Skye Resources, whose primary asset was the Fenix Project in eastern Guatemala. In 2009, Adolfo Ich Chamán, a respected indigenous Mayan Q’eqchi’ community leader and an outspoken critic of the Fenix project, was hacked and shot to death by security personnel employed by Hudbay’s subsidiary.

Adolfo Ich Chamán was murdered by security guards. Photograph by James Rodriguez

Adolfo Ich Chamán was murdered by security guards.
Photograph by James Rodriguez

The same day, German Chub was brutally shot in an unprovoked attack also by company security personnel. As a result, German was left a paraplegic and lost the use of his right lung.

Civil suits related to the shootings, along with the gang rape of 11 women during Skye Resources tenure in the area, are before the Canadian courts. One of these women spoke about these crimes.

Hudbay denies responsibility for these occurrences largely on the basis that their Guatemalan subsidiary was managing the site. Hudbay sold its interest in the project to a Russian company in 2011, shortly after the lawsuits were filed.

In northern Manitoba, Hudbay operated an antiquated copper smelter in the small town of Flin Flon. The smelter, which was closed in 2010 after 80 years of operation,  was Canada’s largest point source of toxic emissions such as lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury, and of acid-rain causing sulphur dioxide.

The Toronto Globe and Mail reported that the smelter shut down in part due to HudBay’s unwillingness to invest in greater environmental controls. Minerals mined in Manitoba are now exported for refining.

A NASA photograph tracked pollution from Hudbay's smelter. The clouds with small droplets in the image at far left, indicated by yellow, were seeded by the aerosols from the copper smelter.  http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/Pollution/pollution_3.php

A NASA photograph tracked pollution from Hudbay’s smelter. The clouds with small droplets in the image at far left, indicated by yellow, were seeded by the aerosols from the copper smelter.
http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/Pollution/pollution_3.php

A 2007 news report noted that a local nursery school had to keep children inside to avoid pollution from the smelter and that soils in the community had extensive and significant contamination. Fish in the lakes surrounding Flin Flon are reported to have elevated levels of mercury, although the company denies any link to toxic releases from the smelter, MiningWatch states.

Hudbay and its predecessors also owned and operated the small Spruce Point Mine, which is inside Grass River Provincial Park east of Flin Flon. The mine operated for six years and ceased production in 1988.

The Wilderness Committee of Manitoba conducted a field investigation of the site and discovered a variety of wastes left behind including areas of unreclaimed mine tailings and a pond contaminated with extremely high levels of cadmium, aluminum and copper. Hudbay sold the unremediated mine site in 2011.

Despite considerable public opposition to mining in provincial parks, Hudbay has begun operations at another mining project also within Grass River Provincial Park – the Reed Lake Mine. According Hudbay’ 2013 annual report, the Reed Lake Mine is expected to add approximately 15,000 tons of annual copper production over a five-year mine life.

The Reed Lake Mine, Mining Watch states, has outraged environmental organizations and First Nations communities. Representatives of the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation (MCCN), the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak and the Manitoba Wilderness Committee pledged to oppose the mine because it is being built and operated within the traditional territory of the MCCN without its permission.

HudBay’s Lalor Lake project is also coming under fire from the MCCN.  Hudbay’s 2013 Annual Report states the Lalor zinc, gold and copper deposit is on track to become the company’s next major underground mine. First ore was produced in 2012 through the ventilation shaft, and production from the main shaft is expected in the second half of 2014.

Hudbay states it is refurbishing its Snow Lake concentrator located east of Flin Flon and doubling its capacity to handle the increased production from the Lalor mine.

The MCCN issued two stop work orders and an eviction notice to Hudbay in 2013 due to its lack of respect for First Nation rights and failure to obtain its consent for the Lalor mine project. A Manitoba court, however, granted Hudbay’s request for an injunction to prevent the MCCN from protesting at the mine site.

In May 2014 the Manitoba Metis Federation issued a statement indicating grave concern over the lack of adequate reclamation at Hudbay’s closed Ruttan Lake operation in the town of Leaf Rapids, Saskatchewan northwest of Flin Flon. The Federation stated a legacy of poor planning and incomplete site remediation by Hudbay is creating serious threats to the health of downstream lakes and streams.

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4 Responses to Hudbay has ugly environmental and human rights track record, warns a Canadian mining watchdog group

  1. Will someone be sharing all the information in this article and the reports that substantiate it with the entities that will be deciding if Rosemont will be allowed to operate in our beloved Santa Ritas?

  2. Thomas Moore says:

    What does this mean? Once Hudbay buys out Agusta will they have the right to start the Rosemont mine? Are they going to use strong arm tactics to get it through? Realistically how far are they away from having the chance of getting the mine started?

  3. ALAN JOHNSON says:

    MINING IS A DIRTY BUSINESS AND ALWAYS HAS BEEN . NO MINING COMPANY , PAST & PRESENT , HAS BEEN CLEAN AND THEIR ACTIVITIES ARE NOT , IN ANY WAY , ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY .

    CANADA’S FAMOUS SUDBURY BASIN IS AN EXCELLENT EXAMPLE OF A CRIME SCENE WHERE LOOTING AND PLUNDERING OF MINERAL RESOURCES HAS BEEN GOING ON FOR MANY , MANY YEARS LEAVING BEHIND A ” MOON-LIKE ” LANDSCAPE WHERE ASTRONAUTS GO TO PRACTICE ” MOON WALKS ” . . HOWEVER , MINING COMPANIES MINE TO MAKE MONEY AND GOVERNMENTS WAIT PATIENTLY TO COLLECT TAXES . IN MANY WAYS , THE MINING COMPANIES AND GOVERNMENT MAKE GOOD ” BED PARTNERS ” . PARTS OF ARIZONA HAVE ALREADY BEEN TURNED INTO TOXIC WASTELANDS YET MINING COMPANIES ARE NOT BEING HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR ACTIONS . THERE IS NO EXAMPLE WHERE A MINING COMPANY HAS ATTEMPTED TO RESTORE THE ENVIRONMENT WHEN MINING ENDS . THE COST WOULD BE STAGGERING .

    HUDBAY’S VENTURE INTO GUATEMALA WAS CERTAINLY MISGUIDED FOR A NUMBER OF REASONS . HAVE THEY LEARNED THEIR LESSON ? I DOUBT IT . THEY SEE ARIZONA AS SOFT ON ENFORCING RULES AND REGULATIONS REGARDING ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES WHICH LEAVES THEM TO RUN ROUGHSHOD AS THEY SO DESIRE . IT WILL BE INTERESTING TO SEE HOW HUDBAY DOES WHEN THEIR NEW MINE IN SOUTH AMERICA COMES INTO PRODUCTION .

    THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IN CANADA AND PARTICULARLY THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT OF MANITOBA HAVE NOTHING BUT CONTEMPT FOR CANADA’S ” FIRST NATION ” PEOPLES . HOWEVER , TIMES ARE CHANGING WHEREBY MINERAL DEVELOPMENT ON ” FIRST NATION ” LANDS IS FACING STRONGER AND WELL ORGANIZED OPPOSITION FROM ” FIRST NATION ” PEOPLES ACROSS CANADA . MING COMPANIES MUST NOW DEAL WITH THESE OPPOSITIONS OR SPEND YEARS GOING THROUGH THE COURTS ONLY TO COME UP EMPTY HANDED IN SOME CASES .

    THE GOVERNMENT AGENCIES RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL ASPECTS OF MINERAL DEVELOPMENT ARE THE ” POLICE FORCE ” . FIRST , HOWEVER , THERE MAST BE A SET OF RULES AND REGULATIONS ESTABLISHED THAT CAN BE EFFECTIVELY ENFORCED .

    CANADIAN MINING COMPANIES DO PRETTY MUCH AS THEY PLEASE WHEN THEY OPERATE OUTSIDE OF CANADA . IT IS VERY ENCOURAGING TO SEE THAT THE GUATEMALAN PEOPLE HAVE BEEN ABLE TO FILE A CASE IN CANADA”S SUPREME COURT . THEY MUST BE ENCOURAGED TO FIGHT THIS CASE AND TO SET AN EXAMPLE .

    MINING COMPANIES MUST BE BONDED IN SOMEWAY IN ORDER TO COVER ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION RESULTING FROM THEIR ACTIVITIES . IN THE CASE OF ROSEMONT , SHOULD IT GO AHEAD AT SOME POINT , THE COST OF RECLAMATION WOULD BE STAGGERING . IS THIS COST GOING TO BE PASSED ON TO THE TAXPAYERS ? I DOUBT IT . THE MESS WILL SIMPLY BE LEFT FOR ALL TO SEE FOR MANY GENERATIONS TO COME . THINK OF THE COAL TIPS IN ENGLAND AND THE COAL DUMPS IN THE EASTERN USA . THE LIST GOES ON .

  4. ALAN JOHNSON says:

    THE OPPOSITION MUST FOCUS ITS EFFORTS ON THE GOVERNMENT AGENCIES THAT ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL ASPECTS OF THE PERMITTING PROCEDURE . THE TIME HAS LONG PAST WHEN ARIZONA SHOULD HAVE HAD ITS OWN MINING ACT FOR THE PURPOSE OF MINERAL RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT . IN CANADA , EVERY PROVINCE HAS ITS OWN MINING ACT AND WHILE THEY FOLLOW SIMILAR GUIDELINES , NO TWO ARE THE SAME . MINING COMPANIES , LIKE HUDBAY , WILL EXPLOIT ALL THE WEAKNESSES THAT EXIST IN THE ARCHAIC FEDERAL MINING ACT CURRENTLY IN USE IN THE USA . THIS IS NOT THE FAULT OF THE MINING COMPANIES . AGAIN , IT COMES DOWN TO :- ” SAVE THE SCENIC SANTA RITAS BY NOT ALLOWING THE PERMITTING PROCESS TO CONTINUE ” . IF ALL PERMITS ARE ISSUED AS REQUIRED FOR MINING TO START , IT WILL BE VERY DIFFICULT TO STOP THE PROCESS . IS THERE A STRONG WASHINGTON LOBBY THAT IS SUPPORTING THE OPPOSITION ? IF SO , THIS IS THE TIME TO FIGHT LIKE NEVER BEFORE .

    BEFORE HUDBAY CONSIDERED THE ROSEMONT PROSPECT , THEY WOULD HAVE CARRIED OUT A POLITICAL RISK ASSESSMENT EVALUATION OF DOING BUSINESS IN THE USA AND MINING IN ARIZONA . THEY WOULD HAVE THEN WEIGHED THIS AGAINST BENEFITS . IT IS OBVIOUS THAT BENEFITS WON OUT OVER RISKS AS THEY ARE PREPARED TO ACQUIRE THE ROSEMONT PROPERTY EVEN BEFORE THE PERMITTING IS COMPLETE . HUDBAY WILL LOBBY FOR A QUICK COMPLETION OF THE PERMITTING . THEY PROBABLY ARE ALREADY WORKING ON THIS MATTER AT ALL LEVELS OF GOVERNMENT AND WITH ALL AGENCIES INVOLVED IN THE PERMITTING PROCESS . MINING COMPANIES INCLUDE LITIGATION AS THE COST OF DOING BUSINESS . FIGHTING COURT CASES IS A TRADE MARK OF THE MINING INDUSTRY WORLDWIDE .