Human rights violation claims lobbed at B.C. company over Central Africa copper mine

A Vancouver-based mining company is facing allegations of human rights violations tied to the eviction of people living near its copper mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

According to Amnesty International, Ivanhoe Mines failed to provide adequate replacement housing for hundreds of people who lost their homes and farmlands in 2018 to make way for the sprawling Kamoa-Kakula mine.

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In 2019, the federal government appointed its first Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise, tasked with reviewing complaints of alleged human rights abuses by Canadian companies working abroad in in the garment, oil and gas, and mining industries.

The watchdog, however, has limited power. It is unable to proactively investigate without first receiving a complaint or examine alleged incidents prior to its creation. Further, it cannot compel companies to produce documents or testify, or issue any binding consequences.

That office did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

Emily Dwyer, policy director for the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability, said she’s not sure what it will take to “tip the scales and lead to the Government of Canada to finally take its international human rights obligations seriously.”

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“It’s disappointing just to see yet another example of this kind of abuse, but it’s not surprising unfortunately,” she said of the allegations made against Ivanhoe Mines.

“I think we can all agree that having access to clean drinking water, to electricity, to being properly compensated — if you’re being forced out of your home and community, are things that are really important, and there’s no reason for powerful companies to not be treating people around the world fairly.”