U50 conference looks at emerging issues in extractive industries

The operations of extractive industries have provoked conflicts across the globe leading to increased tension, multiple regulatory initiatives and communities mobilizing against the industries’ activities. Speakers at the upcoming conference, Rethinking Extractive Industry: Regulation, Dispossession and Emerging Claims, will explore some of the challenges raised by the unprecedented expansion of extractive industries across the globe.

Organized by York’s Centre for Research on Latin America & the Caribbean (CERLAC) and the Extractive Industries Research Group (EIRG) at York, the conference will take place from March 5 to 7 at York’s Keele campus.

The conference will open with a screening of the documentary film Under Rich Earth (Bajo Suelos Ricos), directed by York grad Malcolm Rogge (LLB/MES ’98) and produced in collaboration with CERLAC Fellow Liisa North. The film, which premiered at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival to critical acclaim, recounts the disturbing behaviour of a Canadian mining company and the response to it of the farming communities of the Intag Valley in northern Ecuador. The musical score for the film was composed by another York grad, Edgardo Moreno (BA ’95).

In reaction to the extractive industries, indigenous and farming communities have mobilized against unrestrained mining and petroleum development, enterprises have set up various corporate responsibility programs and governments have intervened to regulate extractive activities. Steps toward dialogue and community consultation have also been taken, producing in some cases formal community-industry agreements.

“It is in the spirit of constructive dialogue that we organized this conference. We hoped to bring together academics and various stakeholders to exchange ideas, identify future research agendas and formulate policy recommendations,” says Eduardo Canel, CERLAC director.

“The response to our call for papers was overwhelming. We selected papers from more than 70 prominent academics, business and indigenous community representatives, public servants and members of northern and southern civil society organizations from Africa, Asia, Latin America, the United States and Canada. We are very proud to be hosting such a high calibre and truly international conference.”

Specific sessions and plenary panels will evaluate the results of corporate social responsibility programs and the effectiveness of community consultation and corporate-community agreements. The industry’s potential contribution to long-term economic and human development will be examined. The adequacy of existing national and transnational regulatory regimes for extractive industries, as well as the results of transnational lawsuits against mining and petroleum companies, will be explored.

Some of the countries covered include Canada, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, Peru, the DR Congo, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia, Guyana, Suriname, the Philippines, the US and Australia.

The conference marks the 30th and 50th birthdays of the founding of CERLAC and York. It responds to growing public debate concerning the impacts of extractive industry expansion and to academic, industry and policy-maker interest in the consequences of the rapid growth of mining and petroleum industries in Canada and elsewhere in the world.

Conference registration takes place from 3 to 7pm on Thursday, March 5 and continues through subsequent days in the lobby of the Accolade West Building, Keele campus. Under Rich Earth will screen from 3:30 to 6pm in the Nat Taylor Cinema, N102 Ross Building, with the presence of the director and two community leaders from the Intag Valley. Following the film, Rosemary Thorp will give the keynote presentation “Dilemmas and Conflicts in the Mining Sector: What History Teaches” at 7:15pm in 109 Accolade West Building. Thorp is an emeritus fellow of St. Antony’s College, Oxford University and former director of its Latin American Centre. Catherine Coumans, research coordinator of the Asia-Pacific Program of MiningWatch Canada, will provide commentary.

For more information about the conference, the agenda, presenter bios and abstracts, click here.