Mining bill opposed

Canada’s three largest gold miners are criticizing a private member’s bill that, if passed, would govern the activities of Canadian companies operating in developing countries.

TORONTO — Canada’s three largest gold miners are criticizing a private member’s bill that, if passed, would govern the activities of Canadian companies operating in developing countries.

Barrick Gold Corp. (TSX:ABX), Goldcorp Inc. (TSX:G) and Kinross Gold Corp. (TSX:K) say Bill C-300, which has passed second reading and is currently before a parliamentary committee, is “unnecessary and damaging to Canadian business.”

The bill, brought forward by Liberal MP John McKay, would allow the ministers of foreign affairs and international trade to receive environmental or human rights complaints about a Canadian company’s international operations.

If an investigation found the company to be in violation of the guidelines set out in the bill, the company might become ineligible for government support.

The three miners say the bill would risk Canadian companies’ competitive position, result in reputational damage, undermine their collaborative approach to corporate social responsibility and damage the Canadian economy.

They add that the bill doesn’t provide recourse against “frivolous and vexatious claims.”

and replaces the companies’ current collaborative approach to corporate social responsibility with a “simplistic, one-dimensional and punitive approach.”

“The bill will create a strong incentive for multinational mining companies to relocate outside Canada (and) to completely avoid Export Development Canada as a source of financing and political risk insurance with consequential negative impact on the Canadian economy,” the companies said in a joint submission to the government committee.

The companies say Canadian corporations with international operations are already governed by international standards and guidelines, as well as the laws of the countries in which they operate.

“The proper forum for redress and resolution are courts of law or responsible sovereign authorities where matters can be properly investigated on a timely basis — not political arenas,” Barrick spokesman Vince Borg said in a release.

The gold miners were backed in their opposition to the bill by international business law firm Fasken Martineau, which said the legislation was written too quickly without allowing for input from the companies it will affect.

The law firm said the bill, if passed into law, “would seriously disadvantage Canadian companies working abroad by subjecting them to onerous, unclear and unnecessary rules that would not apply to their foreign competitors.”

“If passed, Bill C-300 will undermine the competitive position of Canadian companies and could cause an exodus of mining companies from Canada and potentially render Canada a less attractive jurisdiction for mining investment,” lawyer Michael Bourassa told the hearing Thursday.

The companies have faced a barrage of criticism for alleged international human rights and environmental violations at hearings regarding Bill C-300.

MiningWatch Canada says the bill could help ensure Canadian resource companies follow human rights and environmental best practices when they operate in foreign countries.

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