On its opening day, the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada annual convention was hit by a protest led by the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network whose supporters blocked all entrances to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, where the meeting is being held.
As speeches on the strong performance of Canada’s mining industry in the past 12 months were underway and as the industry group announced its new board of directors, activists outside were asking people to “stand up to the extractive industry’s violence, ongoing colonization, and complete disregard for the future of life on this planet.”
Endorsed by some 50 human rights and environmental organizations, the protest is part of the ongoing rallies in support of the Wet’suwet’en nation, whose hereditary chiefs oppose the installation of a Coastal Gas Link natural gas pipeline in their traditional territory in northern British Columbia.
“The very companies and people who provide the economic and political support for Coastal Gas Link are inside PDAC this year, and so are representatives from hundreds of other companies that are enacting violence around the world. We’re disrupting this convention in solidarity with every community that has found itself staring down the barrel of a gun for daring to oppose Canada’s ongoing colonial project,” Vanessa Gray, Anishinaabe Kwe Land Defender from Aamjiwnaang First Nation, said in a media statement.
It is expected that 25,000 people attend the PDAC, among them top figures from sponsoring companies such as Teck Resources (TSX: TECK.A | TECK.B)(NYSE: TCK), Vale (NYSE: VALE), Hudbay Minerals (TSX: HBM) and Barrick Gold (TSX: ABX) (NYSE: GOLD).
Representatives from both provincial and federal government are also in attendance, among them Canada’s Natural Resources Minister, Seamus O’Regan, who addressed the convention early on Sunday.
In his speech, O’Regan said that mining has long been a driver of the Canadian economy and that, given the challenges posed by climate change, minerals and metals that serve the clean energy industry are becoming more and more critical to the world.
“The energy and the people we need are here at @the_PDAC. Let’s seize this momentum,” the minister tweeted.
Protesting outside, however, Kirsten Francescone of MiningWatch Canada, disagreed with O’Regan’s assertion.
“We are in a moment of global ecological crisis, and unchecked resource extraction is a major cause,” the activist said in a statement. “The extraction and processing of metals and minerals make up 26% of global carbon emissions. Yet the people who attend PDAC often say that expanding mining is necessary for combating climate change while avoiding mining’s own disastrous role in rendering the planet uninhabitable.”
In a statement to MINING.com, the executive director of the PDAC, Lisa McDonald, said that different viewpoints on the role of the mining industry are welcomed as long as they are presented in a peaceful and respectful manner.
“The Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada is aware of an ongoing protest that is taking place outside our annual Convention in Toronto,” McDonald said. “Open and respectful communication is core to doing business in our community, and we are proud to offer a platform for this dialogue through our sustainability, indigenous, and various other programs.”