Alcan't Keep Its Hands Clean

Anonyme, Mardi, Mai 3, 2005 - 07:30

Sarah Heiberg

The Canadian mining industry has come under scrutiny lately, thanks to the mobilization of activists, NGOs and solidarity groups who organized a number of events to shine a spotlight on human rights and environmental issues, culminating in a demonstration in front of Alcan’s AGM on April 28th.

The Canadian mining industry has come under scrutiny lately, thanks to the mobilization of activists, NGOs and solidarity groups who organized a number of events to shine a spotlight on human rights and environmental issues, culminating in a demonstration in front of Alcan's AGM on April 28th.

Alcan't in India, a solidarity movement with working group status at QPIRG Concordia and McGill, has been at the forefront of the mobilization, organizing two events and helping to organize a third in recent weeks. Launched in 2003, the group's campaign has gained increasing support within Canada in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, and British Columbia, as well as in Seattle, India and Norway.

The purpose of the Alcan't in India campaign is to have Alcan Inc., an aluminum transnational headquartered in Montreal, divest from a bauxite mine and refinery project in eastern India. The project would displace tens of thousands of indigenous and low-caste peoples, who have been resisting the mine for 12 years.

In solidarity with the peoples of Kashipur, India and communities resisting destructive mining practices world-wide, the theme of Alcan't in India's April 2005 mobilization was "We will never leave our land!"

Mining flows from the barrel of a gun / bullets flow from the belly of the earth

The first event that Alcan't co-hosted was a conference entitled "Mining flows from the barrel of a gun / bullets flow from the belly of the earth" on mining, violence and the activities of Canadian corporations, held on April 21st at the Native Friendship Centre.
A fledgling coalition of grassroots projects working in solidarity with communities in Haiti, Kanehsatake, Honduras, Romania, Guatemala, India and Costa Rica presented a panel discussion on the relationship between mining and violence, and the defining role that Canadian public and private institutions play in globally propagating this violence.

Many important issues were raised and what was especially striking about the event was how much the different struggles resembled one another, whether it be against the Rosa Montana gold mine in Romania, the INCO nickel mine in Guatemala or the Utkal Alumina International Ltd. (UAIL) bauxite mine in India. As Antoine Libert from the Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement remarked in his introduction, the neo-European colonialism on which Canada was founded is now being perpetrated by the Canadian mining industry within Canada and around the world. The tiers system strategy of resistance emerged as a prominent theme in the discussion; using whatever means possible to support the people's movements on the frontlines, taking legal action, practicing shareholder activism and exposing the systematic and global nature of mining.

We will not desert Kashipur - We will never leave our land!

On April 26th, Alcan't in India hosted the conference "We will not desert Kashipur - We will never leave our land!" at the Parc-Extension Community Centre, attended by some 60 people as well as several journalists. Reknowned globalization activist Vandana Shiva and Catherine Coumens from Mining Watch Canada presented analyses on mining in India and throughout Asia. The event also included film screenings and panel discussions on the current wave of militarization in Kashipur, the role of foreign multinational corporations in plundering India's resources, Canadian mining activities in Asia, and Alcan's political, economic and social profiles.

The event was a great success and demonstrated that the Alcan't campaign has exploded over the past year. The exceptional video message from Vandana Shiva, in which she stated that Alcan's activities and interests in India were akin to terrorist activities, was truly inspiring. "As a freedom struggle," she said, "we are all linked to Kashipur."

Tamara Herman, an independent journalist just back from Kashipur, spoke in detail about the widespread violence, corruption and terror there and Abhimanyu Sud, a coordinator of Alcan't in India, made an impressive international solidarity statement. Lastly, researchers from McGill and the Polaris Insitute presented Alcan's corporate profile through an environmental, social and economical lens. Thoughtful questions from the audience contributed to a deeper understanding of the issue and the question period finally had to be cut at 10 pm! The synergy created at the event speaks to the growing respect for Kashipur residents in their fight for their land and dignity.

ALCAN Annual General Meeting Demonstration

For the second year in a row, Alcan't in India organized a demonstration in front of Alcan's annual general meeting (AGM) and practised shareholder activism by confronting Alcan's management directly. At this year's AGM, held on April 28th, Alcan't in India organized a Sabha (popular assembly) outside including representatives of concerned parties, Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) members and the general public, all of whom were invited to take the floor and speak their minds about the proposed UAIL bauxite mining project in Kashipur. A banner was also painted by the demonstrators and will be sent to Kashipur as a gesture of solidarity.

Inside the AGM, and for the second consecutive year, Alcan executives were directly confronted about the company's troubled investment in Kashipur. During the question period, Anna Malla (a shareholder and member of Alcan't in India) began a barrage of interventions by exposing the untruths behind every one of the company's claims about the Kashipur project. She concluded with the question, "How much longer does Alcan plan on misrepresenting the situation to its shareholders and the general public?"

When CEO Travis Engen claimed that within the last year there had been progress with the UAIL project, Sarah Heiberg, also a shareholder and member of Alcan't, concurred. Reading from an article published the week before in the Hindu, a major national Indian daily, she emphasized, "Since last year the State has revived the use of force to curb the peoples' struggle," and continued by asking, "Does Alcan realize that its involvement in Kashipur has directly jeopardized its entire sustainability and social responsibility strategy?"

When Alcan executives tried to dismiss the Kashipur case by claiming that it was an "exclusively Indian issue", independent journalist Tamara Herman retorted by saying, "This is very much a Montreal issue. It is Montreal-backed financing that is developing the UAIL project, for the sake of Montreal profit."

The AGM demonstration received considerable attention from the mainstream media, including the Globe and Mail, Reuters, the Gazette, Radio-Canada, La Presse, Le Soleil, the Toronto Star, the Ottawa Citizen and India Abroad.

For more information on the Alcan't in India campaign, or to find out how you can participate, check out the website at

Alcan't in India website
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Sam, 2005-05-07 08:29

added photo from the protest outside Alcan's AGM -- see for more..

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