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Gold mining firm told to improve dialogue in Mongolia

A Canadian government agency has cleared the gold mining company Centerra of human rights abuses in Mongolia, but has told the business to engage more effectively with local communities.

The Canadian National Contact Point for the OECD’s guidelines on multinationals said it could not substantiate allegations made in an official complaint by NGOs that the Toronto-based business had breached the guidelines in a number of ways. As a result it has now ended its investigations.

However, it has recommended that the company take measures ‘without delay’ to improve relations with local people near its eight year old Boroo open-pit gold mining site and its proposed Gatsuurt mine, both about 110 kilometres from the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar.

The measures would include opening a proper dialogue with community leaders and NGOs, sending out fact sheets about water scarcity issues connected with its operations, and considering taking part in radio phone-in programmes.

The recommendations have no force of law behind them, but the NCP said it had received messages from the company and its opponents ‘indicating that they are willing to engage in a dialogue’.

A coalition of three NGOS – two Mongolian and one Canadian – had alleged that Centerra breached the terms of the OECD guidelines in a number of ways at the two mining projects. However, the NCP, a body charged by the Canadian government with investigating potential OECD guidelines breaches, said it could not substantiate any of the claims.

Among other things, it rejected complaints that local religious and cultural freedoms were being breached by placing access restrictions on a local sacred place, Mount Noyon, which it found was still possible to reach.

Allegations that exploration at Gatsuurt had contaminated local water were also rejected, as the NCP found the problem had existed before Centerra arrived – mainly due to local artisanal mining – and that in any case the company had undertaken to help with remediation.

The NCP said the lack of a proper dialogue over such issues could be attributed to both sides, and it was critical of one of the complainant groups, the United Mongolian Movement of Rivers and Lakes, for taking an overly aggressive approach to the situation – including by firing gunshots at a fuel tank owned by Centerra.

The other two bodies were the Mongolian human rights group OT Watch and the Ottawa-based MiningWatch Canada.

Posted on January 08, 2013 at 05:39am
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