A Vancouver-based mining company faces allegations of human rights violations related to the eviction of people living near its copper mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
According to Amnesty International, Ivanhoe Mines has failed to provide adequate replacement housing for hundreds of people who lost their homes and farmland in 2018 to make way for the sprawling Kamoa-Kakula mine.
None of the new homes built for these families had showers, running water or electricity, and the outhouses provided were holes in the ground, not connected to a sewage system, says a report released Monday.
This stands in stark contrast to homes built for the company’s staff and contractors, said Candy Ofime, Amnesty’s climate justice research manager, in an interview from Kinshasa, the DRC capital.
“When people are displaced and forced to leave their land… what is offered to them as an alternative must be weighed against what seems adequate, both under Congolese law but also under international human rights law “, she said.
“You can’t say, well, these people are poor and squatters and we’re just going to give them land where there’s no social infrastructure, no access to water, no access to energy – because they were poor anyway. »
Ivanhoe Mines is one of the two main owners of the Kamoa-Kakula copper mine, with China’s Zijin Mining also holding a 39.6% stake. The DRC government owns 20 percent.
Ivanhoe is, however, the majority shareholder of Kamoa Copper, which operates the mine located in the southwest of this central African country. He declined to comment for this story and PKBNEWS did not receive a response from Zijin Mining by deadline.
While more than 1,300 people were displaced by the mine, Amnesty and its co-author, Good Governance and Human Rights Initiative, studied 45 resettled households in the town of Muvunda for their report.
According to human rights groups, Ivanhoe’s consultation with residents before the displacement was “meaningful, consistent with international human rights standards and went beyond the requirements of Congolese law applicable to the time of resettlement.
Each household was to benefit from housing similar to what it had before – “identical” – however, Congolese mining regulations require that anyone evicted by a project “achieve a standard of living higher than that which they experienced in its original environment,” their report. States.
The UN Core Principles for Development-Related Evictions further enshrine the right to an “adequate standard of living” which includes access to essential services, water, electricity and sanitation.
After their move, however, many members of the 45 households complained that in addition to lacking electricity, running water, or adequate sewerage, their new homes were too small to accommodate their large families.
While a primary school was built in Muvunda in 2018, Ivanhoe, in its 2022 sustainability report, confirms that a health center was not expected to open until 2023, around five years after the residents were displaced.
“You can’t just take people away from their communities, their environment and their livelihoods, transplant them to another part of the concession and do things in a way that saves money,” she said .
“These companies are making billions of dollars a year…there has to be a better way to do it.” »
According to Ivanhoe’s human rights policy, it is “committed to promoting human rights and fostering economic growth and poverty reduction by helping the communities in which we operate to respond and to exceed their basic needs.
The company further conducts due diligence exercises to “proactively identify and address” human rights risks and encourages community members to bring human rights concerns to its attention. ‘man. Compliance, it adds, is overseen by its board of directors and managed by its corporate social responsibility team.
In the 2022 Sustainability Report, Ivanhoe President Marna Cloete touted the Kamoa-Kakula copper mine’s 97% local employment rate, as well as community development initiatives that have ” successfully provided communities with transformative infrastructure such as schools, health facilities and access to clean water.”
This report also touted the replacement of “ruined hamlet structures with stronger, more spacious and much better quality houses,” with corn, ca*sava, fruit trees and vegetables provided to all displaced people.
Ivanhoe’s report recognizes that water quality is a “recurring issue of grievance” among host communities and has initiated a number of drilling, water well, reticulation and sanitation projects to help resolve these issues.
Displaced residents interviewed by Amnesty and the Good Governance and Human Rights Initiative said that when they first moved in 2018, they had access to only one source of drinking water shared by thousands of others. When it broke down, residents said they paid for repairs out of pocket, paid to access water in other communities, and in some cases used nearby waterways that transmitted infections to them.
Kamoa responded to the allegations, saying Muvunda residents broke the first borehole, which he repaired, and has since added two more in the community. She further said she had resolved the two formal grievances she received from residents, one of which concerned drinking water.
According to Kamoa’s website, other sustainable development initiatives in the 41 villages affected by the mine have generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in income for beneficiaries.
In 2019, the federal government appointed its first Canadian Responsible Business Ombudsman, tasked with reviewing complaints about alleged human rights abuses by Canadian companies working abroad in the clothing, oil and and gas and mining.
The supervisory body, however, has limited power. It is unable to proactively investigate without first receiving a complaint or review alleged incidents before its creation. In addition, it cannot force companies to produce documents or testify, nor to issue binding consequences.
This office did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
Emily Dwyer, policy director of the Canadian Network on Corporate Responsibility, said she wasn’t sure what it would take to “tip the scales and get the Government of Canada to finally take its obligations seriously.” international standards of human rights.
“It’s disappointing to see yet another example of this kind of abuse, but unfortunately it’s not surprising,” she said of the allegations against Ivanhoe Mines.
“I think we can all agree that having access to clean water, to electricity, to being properly compensated – if you are forced to leave your home and your community, are things that are really important, and it There’s no reason why powerful companies shouldn’t treat people around the world fairly.