Reminding locals of global impact

Queen’s Amnesty International hosts photos showing negative side to Canadian mining corporations

James Rodríguez’s photos of mining impact on Central American communities, displayed in the JDUC.
James Rodríguez’s photos of mining impact on Central American communities, displayed in the JDUC.
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Alexandra Pedersen presenting on Wednesday night in a BioSci lecture hall.
Alexandra Pedersen presenting on Wednesday night in a BioSci lecture hall.
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The negative impact that Canadian mining corporations have had on rural Central American communities is documented in a series of 28 photographs currently displayed in the JDUC.

The photographs, taken by documentary photographer James Rodríguez, are part of a partnership between Queen’s Amnesty International, the Kingston Central American Solidarity Committee and Kingston Amnesty International to host “Canadian Mining in Central America: A Week of Action”.

The week began with a showing of “El Oro o La Vida/Gold for Life: Recolonization and Resistance in Central America” at the Screening Room on Sunday.

From Monday through Friday, the JDUC has played host to Rodríguez’s photographs, and Rodríguez conducted a Skype discussion on Wednesday night.

Rodríguez first went to Guatemala in June 2004 as part of Peace Brigades International, and has been based there since 2006. When he arrived, the 36-year Guatemalan Civil War had ended eight years before.

The exhibition of his work depicts the impact of Canadian mining companies on Central American communities, particularly indigenous groups in rural areas.

Corporate actors in Central America include Goldcorp; Tahoe Resources, now based in Nevada; HudBay Minerals, which is currently involved in a lawsuit over the 2009 killing of Mayan community leader Adolfo Ich Chamán, alleged to have been carried out by a private security guard employed by Hudbay; and the partnership of Radius Gold Inc. and Kappes Cassiday and Associates.

Alexandra Pedersen, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Geography, said she first got involved with mining issues in Guatemala in 2010, when she went to the country with a university-led delegation from the University of Northern British Columbia.

“The community members came forward and told us about violent evictions as well as instances of rape of the women in the community, and when they told us and explained that it was a Canadian company that owned this particular mine site, it really resonated with me and I wanted to do something about it,” she said.

She changed topics for her master’s to look at indigenous Mayan perspectives on development.

“I never actually asked them specifically about mining, but every conversation ended up talking about mining,” she said.

Pedersen’s research site is the Guatemalan community of La Puya, which has used peaceful resistance to stop Canadian and American mines from accessing their land.

She said there’s been good feedback on the exhibition of Rodríguez’s photographs.

“I think that’s probably one of our most well-attended events — people can do it at their own time or leisure and they don’t have class conflicts, or maybe they didn’t know where the Screening Room was downtown,” she said.

“We’ve had phenomenal feedback from the people that have participated in it, and … interest in how they can become involved as well as how they are related to issues that are happening in Central America as Canadians.”

Pedersen said she doesn’t know if Queen’s has connections to mining companies in Guatemala, but added that she thinks it’s likely that Queen’s is “heavily invested” in Canadian mining companies.

The University was unable to confirm by deadline regarding any investments in mining companies.

“I think, as Canadian citizens and Canadian institutions, that we should be looking very critically at what type of ethical investments we can be making,” Pedersen said.

“If Queen’s would be so forward as to divest from any particular companies that do have a track record of human rights abuses, I think that that would make a more progressive university.”

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