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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Realities and perceptions of human rights and the mining industry : a case study Handelsman, Simon David


Dealing with realities and perceptions of human rights in the mining industry context is important. Significant socio-economic risks to existing and potential mining operations arise when mining companies are believed responsible for or complicit in human rights abuses. Mining engineers responsible for projects need adequate awareness and sufficient capacity to manage these risks effectively. This research proceeded in two ways after reviewing the history of the evolution of human rights: It studied important examples of alleged human rights violations associated with mining companies, large and small. Historical data and the evolution of attitudes and perceptions within and about the Rio Tinto mining company’s operations worldwide were also examined. Qualitative research based on interviews with former and current executives and staff in Rio Tinto, other companies, government and civil society provided original data and captured perceptions, awareness, attitudes and practices. A categorized database developed with 178 cases of allegations of human rights abuses shows the breadth of the human rights challenges. Principal reasons why the question of human rights and the mining industry is important, including identified points of conflict between mining and society, were explored. Case studies were organized by point of conflict (use of security forces, indigenous peoples, labour rights, “pariah” or failing states, and national and regional jurisdiction conflict). Existing industry safeguard policies, practices, monitoring, verification and reporting were examined. The research determined, from recent evidence and allegations of complicity in human rights abuses, that voluntary initiatives alone are inadequate. Failures of host governments and companies to protect human rights necessitate effective mechanisms to investigate, and hold accountable, companies complicit in human rights abuses. A method was recommended for the industry to engage positively with all stakeholders in the mineral development cycle. Policies, codes, principles, checklists, voluntary initiatives, best practices, monitoring, verification and compliance reporting are recommended to exploration and mining companies serious about making commitments to respect human rights.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International