On an international level, some binding treaties do exist, the countries who signed these, can rely on them. An example is the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 169 which states that indigenous communities have the right to be consulted before a mine starts to enter production. The progress of the exploitation has to be in accordance to the needs and safety of local communities. But this convention is often neglected. Even the ILO ‘Convention on Safety and Health in Mines’ which strives to minimize health and safety risks and offers the opportunity to organize unions, is often not complied with.
Gold mining is ruled by multinationals from the global North. This combination of multinationals with weak local governments and communities results more often than not in bribery and the neglect of international lawmaking. All this happens to enrich the few.
Still we see the possibilities to push for changes on the political and legislative level. National governments and international authoritative bodies can at least change the demand. Consuming countries can make demands for ethical trade and stimulate (more) sustainable alternatives and make regulations with import and export fees. Sustainable alternatives should be promoted where consuming irresponsible natural resources should be de-stimulated. In the European Union there is a high need to update the Raw Materials Initiative. Authoritative bodies often imply sustainable trade in their policies. In reality priorities are often given to securing scarce resources, regardless of the background and mode of extraction.
In order to influence policies, civil society and public opinion are important instruments of power. Within the global context, policies from the North which are aimed at the North really can improve the situation in the South. In the end, the Northern multinationals are pulling south to extend their activities, which legally would be impossible to carry out in their homelands.
Canada failed to take responsibility on 27 October 2010. The Canadian Parliament voted against the ‘Corporate Accountability of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries Act’. With this the possibility of keeping mining companies responsible for their malpractices, human rights abuses and environmental damage in foreign countries, was blocked. Largely due to the activities of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada. Canadian companies are responsible for the worst international violations.
The proposal was blocked by 140 votes to 134.