Dawn Paley

Militarized Mining in Mexico

Posted in Mexico, Mining by dawn on 17/12/2011

Here’s a piece I did recently for The Dominion.

MADERA, MEXICO—On an August afternoon in 2008, Dante Valdez Jiminez was giving a teacher training class in an elementary school in Madera, a small town in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua. But before he got through his lecture, he was interrupted by a group of 30 men, some of them armed.

In the minutes that followed, Valdez was savagely beaten in front of his students. While they beat him, his attackers yelled that he should keep his nose out of other people’s business. Valdez was lucky to escape with his life.

Five days later, Amnesty International put out an alert expressing concern for the safety of Valdez, as well as members of a nearby community. The attack was political: Valdez is known for his work against Minefinders, a Vancouver-based company that operates an open-pit gold mine near Madera. Amnesty indicated that among the attackers were employees of the mining company.

“There isn’t a single authority in any of the three levels of government that is looking out for the people who are displaced, for people who have been mistreated or beaten,” said Valdez, his voice quiet and low. He pointed out that there was a classroom full of witnesses to the incident, but there was never an investigation.

The attack on Valdez wasn’t an isolated event, but a brazen reminder of the repression meted out to those who organized against Minefinders, which began operating in Mexico in 1994 on the heels of the North American Free Trade Agreement. The company started construction on a low-grade, cyanide-leaching gold and silver mine near Madera in 2007. (more…)

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A Canadian mining company prepares to dig up Mexico’s Eden

Posted in Mexico, Mining, Uncategorized by dawn on 17/09/2011

Here’s a piece that I wrote in the spring, which was published a few days ago by the excellent This Magazine.

Under a heavy afternoon sun, the desert landscape in central Mexico lays long into the horizon, interrupted only by railroad tracks, roadrunners racing beside cars, and every once in a while, a cluster of houses and shops. But towards what some consider the sacred heart of the desert, new features begin to emerge: new age hippies and fellow travellers compete for rides on the side of the road, and in the distance, a dramatic mountain range rises from the plane.

Stretching from Arizona to San Luis Potosí, the Chihuahuan desert wraps around two of Mexico’s largest mountain ranges, laying claim to over 450,000 square kilometers of territory. While at first glance the topography might appear dry and barren, it is in fact home to a fifth of the world’s species of cacti, as well as a host of birds and other creatures.

But there’s one plant in particular that’s an essential part of the region’s draw: peyote. A small, circular cactus, divided into sections that look like a light green cross section of a mandarin orange, it pushes its way out from under the hard dry earth, sometimes into the direct sun, other times under the sparing shade of gobernadora plants.

In the southern reaches of the Chihuahuan desert is an area known as Wirikuta, a sacred site for the Huichol people. Every year, hundreds of Huichol people, whose name for themselves in their own language is Wixáritari, leave their communities in Jalisco, Nayarit and other parts of Mexico and begin a pilgrimage to Wirikuta.

“For us it’s like a temple,” says Marciano de la Cruz Lopez of Wirikuta. He’s one of the few Huichols making a home in the small, mining-cum-tourist town of Real de Catorce. (more…)

Resistance to Pipelines Heats Up in Northern BC

Posted in Mining by dawn on 08/03/2011

Here’s a piece I did with my dear friend Sandra Cuffe for this month’s Canadian Dimension magazine.

Oil pipelines have been likened to a 21st century version of the railway: opening up new lands for state and corporate control in order to move valuable commodities that keep the economic motor of the nation running. Corporate publicity materials confirm the comparison: “We’re building Canada, bringing growth to the north,” reads an Enbridge brochure.

The explosion of oil production in the Alberta tar sands has created a new push to build pipelines throughout North America. In northern British Columbia, most of which is unceded indigenous land, there are overlapping proposals for new ports and pipelines to transport tar sands oil. These come hand in hand with new proposals for mining mega projects, dams, roads, power lines, shale gas and other infrastructure that would crisscross important ecosystems through out the north. (more…)

Global Capitalism, Oil, and the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement

Posted in Colombia, Mining by dawn on 24/11/2010

At this link, you can find a PDF of the full text of a talk I gave on November 20th about global capitalism, oil, and the Calgary & Toronto based companies making good off of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

The talk took place at the Parkland Institute’s 14th Annual Conference in Edmonton, Alberta on November 20th of this year.

Thanks to everyone who came and listened, and especially to everyone who shared their ideas, research and time with me!

Life and Death Underground: Media Missed Moment to Show Truth

Posted in Mining by dawn on 19/10/2010

When I sat down to write this yesterday afternoon, it just flowed out. Its funny, I had almost forgotten about my experience in Rio Turbio and was really happy to see the Argentine press keeping it in the news and calling Kirchner out on her gaffe. Enjoy!

By Dawn Paley, TheTyee.ca

While audiences around the world watched 33 miners emerge from deep under the earth after a two month period of uncertainty and darkness, four families from another region of the country mourned the loss of their loved ones, also miners, who were not so fortunate.

As the 67 day saga of the trapped miners at the San José mine near the city of Copiapó dragged on, the international media coverage reached epic proportions. At one point, there were 1,000 journalists covering the story on location. The BBC spent $160,000 covering the story, and an estimated one billion people tuned in to watch the rescue.

The story, by the day of the rescue, dominated TV networks around the world. As worker after worker emerged above ground, they rejoiced in seeing their loved ones. Some shunned the media circus surrounding them, and their working class origins — so rarely seen on television — were made clear.

In the lead up to the rescue, the 300 colleagues of the 33 trapped men were fired from their jobs at the San José mine. They were released without pay, and almost totally ignored by the media. (more…)

Fish Lake’s Top Defender, Joe Alphonse

Posted in Mining by dawn on 12/10/2010

Here’s a piece that went live today, which I did for The Tyee.

Attention on the conflict surrounding Taseko Mines’ proposed Prosperity mine is intensifying, but the man leading the fight against the project looked relaxed as he paused last week for a interview with The Tyee.

Joe Alphonse, the chair of the Tsilhqot’in National Government, was in town for a conference, offering him another venue for waging the fight to keep Fish Lake from being used as a tailings impoundment area.

Alphonse comes from a line of hereditary chiefs, and he’s tested the waters over decades in Tsilhqot’in politics, the last eight of which he’s spent as chair of the Tsilhqot’in National Government. He worked on the successful Xeni Gwet’in Tsilhqot’in case, in which Judge David Vickers concluded: “The Province has no jurisdiction to extinguish aboriginal title… Land use planning and forestry activities have unjustifiably infringed Tsilhqot’in aboriginal title and Tsilhqot’in aboriginal rights.”

But even though they’ve proven their title to land covering 2,000 square kilometers in the Chilcotin Regional District, the Tsilhqot’in people are still up against the fight of their lives.

‘The impact’s going to be enormous’

Alphonse disparaged Taseko’s proposal to create a new lake where none exists to substitute for the one it seeks to fill with toxic waste. He said many British Columbians will feel the impact if a mine is built and Fish Lake is used to collect waste.

“If there is any spillage from the lake, the impact is going to be enormous, it’s going to be not just us as Tsilhqot’in people, but all users along the Fraser River downstream from us, and out in the ocean, the commercial fisherman, the tourist operators that depend on fishing for sockeye, chinook, steelhead, you name it, all of those people are going to be impacted,” he said. (more…)

The Canada-Colombia Oil and Gas Connection, Canada and Plan Mexico, and the Toronto Declaration

Posted in Colombia, Honduras, Mining by dawn on 03/07/2010

Hey folks,

I figured I might as well share a couple of pieces I’ve worked on over the past little while.

First, my testimony before the Standing Committee on International Trade on the Canada Colombia Free Trade Agreement. The deal has passed now, and many witnesses including Indigenous Colombians and Afro-Colombians were never given the opportunity to speak. I spoke mostly about Calgary based oil and gas companies and their connection to the politicos pushing the deal. After I gave the testimony, riot police broke up a strike in the south of Colombia, and I adapted it to write this piece. It is an absolute shame that the Canadian government has signed a deal with the Uribe/Santos regime that will likely enable the U.S. government to pass a similar agreement, which will mean more Colombians murdered, disappeared, tortured and displaced for profit.

Second, a talk I gave yesterday evening about Canada’s evolving relationship to Mexico. It touches on Canada’s hypocrisy regarding visas for Mexicans, Felipe Calderón’s recent meetings with Stephen Harper, mining, biofuels, and climate change policy, as well as resistance and our hopes for survival.

Finally, I wrote a quick analysis piece on the Toronto Declaration, the final document of the G-20. If you second guessed why folks were in the streets to resist the G-20, have a look.

Canada, Honduras and the Coup d’Etat

Posted in Honduras, Mining by dawn on 04/02/2010

Dawn Paley, The Dominion, January 8 2010.

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras—Last summer’s coup in Honduras put the small, Central American country perhaps best known as the original banana republic, back on the map.

In the months since President Mel Zelaya was removed from his home by the military and flown from the Honduran capital to Costa Rica on June 28, much has been made of the crisis.

Hundreds of thousands of Hondurans have protested the coup, denouncing the military, the local oligarchy and the US as the main perpetrators of Zelaya’s removal.

Zelaya’s critics, which include the most powerful sectors in Honduras, say he was removed from office because a non-binding referendum on opening up the process of a Constitutional Assembly was illegal. (more…)

Avoidance Techniques: Could a U.S. crackdown on tax havens turn Vancouver into a global financial centre?

Posted in Mining, Uncategorized by dawn on 20/10/2009

My latest, for BC Business Magazine, October, 2009.

Mentioning international taxation in the same breath as, say, the Cayman Islands or Bermuda is a quick way to turn images of a tropical holiday into a nightmare of paperwork and complicated accounting. While international taxation isn’t particularly sexy, it is coming under more scrutiny in the U.S., and that’s causing longtime advocates to see renewed hope for establishing Vancouver as an international finance centre.


Tax reform became a hot topic in the U.S. during last year’s presidential campaign, when Barack Obama referred to “the outrage” of seeing a building in the Cayman Islands that more than 12,000 businesses claimed as their headquarters. He went on to observe that the building, called Ugland House, was either “the largest building in the world or the largest tax scam in the world.” Addressing this “outrage” by reforming tax policy to close loopholes exploited by corporations doing business abroad became one of Obama’s campaign vows, and the U.S. Treasury Department has since published recommendations suggesting sweeping reforms.


The crux of the American government’s move to curb tax avoidance is a desire to “level the playing field” by introducing new forms of taxation on companies that avoid U.S. taxes by setting up subsidiaries in jurisdictions whose only conceivable asset would seem to be lax taxation laws.

(more…)

‘H2Oil’ Tears up the Tar Sands

Posted in Mining, Uncategorized by dawn on 09/10/2009

Documentary focusing on Fort Chipewyan becomes a powerful tool for climate change activists. h2oil

By Dawn Paley, 9 Oct 2009, TheTyee.ca

When Lionel Lepine’s plane landed in London, England in August after a long flight from northern Alberta, his initial reaction was culture shock. It was Lepine’s first time flying overseas. The occasion was the Climate Camp for Action, an event now in its third year, which brings together hundreds of grassroots activists who are willing to take direct action in the fight against climate change.

Lepine didn’t expect his decision to leave his home in Fort Chipewyan and head to London with his friend George Poitras to make headlines across Canada. But sure enough, it did.
(more…)