Saturday 5 September 2009

not a blog XIII

Up, Down.

"There is, of course, nothing socialist in any of Mr. Obama’s policies, as anyone with a passing knowledge of socialism and its evil history knows." NYT Editorial ... (Evil?)

Donny Morris
Donny MorrisDonny MorrisDonny MorrisDonny Morris & the KI6Nemeigusabins Lake aka Big Trout LakeDonny Morris
Donny Morris, chief of the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) First Nation vs Platinex (The Quest for a Greener Planet);

the KI6: Sam McKay, Donny Morris, Jack McKay, Cecelia Begg, Darryl Sainnawap, and Bruce Sakakeep;

& the Attawapiskat First Nation children wanting a school.

some ironies here, and some balls - check out the video

Climate Protestersomething wrong with this picture (?)

reminds me of wazzername & Paul McCartney at the seal hunt a while ago ... I could wish that it didn't, but there it is

see also The Great Climate Swoop

Proverbs for Paranoids:
1. You may never get to touch the Master, but you can tickle his creatures.
2. The innocence of the creatures is in inverse proportion to the immorality of the Master.
3. If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers.
4. You hide, they seek.
5. Paranoids are not paranoids because they're paranoid, but because they keep putting themselves, fucking idiots, deliberately into paranoid situations.
(Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow)

Will Kill For OilJustice Minister Jack StrawJustice Minister Jack StrawJustice Minister Jack StrawBP Chairman Peter SutherlandBP Chairman Peter SutherlandBP Chairman Peter SutherlandBP CEO Tony HaywardBP CEO Tony HaywardBP CEO Tony HaywardBP

1. Artists for censorship, Globe Editorial, Saturday Sep 05 2009.
2. The problem with PR: Let's speak for ourselves, Rick Salutin, Saturday Sep 05 2009.
3. ‘Not really a green country any more', Zoe Cormier, Saturday Sep 05 2009.
4. China's Bold Move Into The Oil Sands, Nathan Vanderklippe, Tuesday Sep 01 2009.
     4a. AOSC - Athabasca Oil Sands Corp.
5. China Tightens Grip on Rare Minerals, Keith Bradsher, August 31 2009.
6. China Oil Deal Is New Source of Strife Among Iraqis, Timothy Williams, September 5 2009.
7. Natives, mining firm dig in their heels in 11-year long dispute, Patrick White, Tuesday Sep 01 2009.
     7a. KI & Platinex dispute. August 26, YouTube.
     7b. The Residents of KI First Nation At Risk Again Thanks To McGuinty Liberal Foot-Dragging.
     7c. Nemeigusabins Lake aka Big Trout Lake, Google maps.
     7d. Platinex - The Quest for a Greener Planet.
8. Respect Your Children, NYT Editorial, September 4 2009.
9. Bomber Release Involved Oil, British Minister Says, John F. Burns, September 5 2009.
     9a. BP Board.
     9b. BP Executive.

Artists for censorship, Globe Editorial, Saturday Sep 05 2009.

It is good that the Toronto International Film Festival is standing up against an attempt to intimidate it by a group of artists and writers who oppose the festival's 10-film series from Tel Aviv. In trying to treat Israel as a pariah among nations, the group would scorn anyone who does not accept its one-sided worldview. Capitulation to these self-appointed censors should not be an option.

The protest group - Canadian documentarian John Greyson and writer Naomi Klein, U.S. novelist Alice Walker, British filmmaker Ken Loach and more than 60 others - begins with a smear of the festival's leadership. Intentionally or not, it says, TIFF "has become complicit in the Israeli propaganda machine." But what has TIFF done? It has started a program called City to City, with the stated goal of taking "a closer look at global cities through a cinematic lens, especially cities where film contributes to or chronicles social change in compelling ways." Tel Aviv is its inaugural global city. The 10 films include Jaffa, about a Jew and her Arab childhood sweetheart "pulled apart by fate"; Bena, about a father trying to keep his schizophrenic son out of an institution; and Big Eyes, about the local counterculture. This is propaganda?

The answer from the protesters is an extreme sophistry: To highlight films from Tel Aviv is akin to "rhapsodizing about the beauty and elegant lifestyles in white-only Cape Town or Johannesburg during apartheid." Do not touch Israel, they are saying to all the film and arts festivals, anywhere in the world. It is to be shunned. Mr. Greyson has pulled his documentary from the festival.

TIFF co-director Cameron Bailey responded to the smear against his festival in a reply on its website: "As the programmer of City To City, I was attracted to Tel Aviv ... because the films made there explore and critique the city from many different perspectives." He stressed that the decision was the festival's alone. "We value that independence and would never compromise it. . . . We will continue to screen the best films we can find from around the world."

Free expression cannot exist in an atmosphere of intimidation. By refusing to be cowed, TIFF has stood up for artists everywhere.

The problem with PR: Let's speak for ourselves, Rick Salutin, Saturday Sep 05 2009.

Even Sherman McCoy didn't use his second call to phone a publicist

In general, I think media coverage of the Michael Bryant affair and the death of bicycle courier Darcy Allan Sheppard has served us well. Each day, new events and aspects have come into view. It's true that the early reactions from public figures focused on Mr. Bryant and largely depersonalized the man who died. The “tragedy,” seen by people with careers like Michael Bryant, was mainly his. His fall “in a minute” was compared, more than once, to that of Sherman McCoy in The Bonfire of the Vanities. But some of these boys may have only read one novel in the past 20 years, and that was likely it. Before long, Mr. Sheppard began to emerge too. A Métis from Alberta, he went through a failed adoption and lots of foster care: never surprising in cases of overstressed, downward-trending and often tragically shortened lives. There's lots of ambiguity and much remains unknown; I intend to simply follow as more unfolds.

But there's one element that irritates me severely. It's the presence, since very early, of a public-relations firm aiding Mr. Bryant. Globe reporter Timothy Appleby says he was told outside the jail that morning that a PR firm was involved. Even Sherman McCoy didn't use his second call to phone a publicist. Tim says he doesn't know whether the company was already engaged for another reason, but they were apparently on Mr. Bryant's case.

The firm turned out to be Navigator Ltd., which acted for Brian Mulroney during the Karlheinz Schreiber operetta. This muddies everything that follows.

For instance, immediately on release, Mr. Bryant expressed condolences to Mr. Sheppard's family. As Susan Reisler of Media Profile, another PR firm, told the Toronto Star: “It's appropriate to apologize. It's not admission to anything …” This is stock PR wisdom in crisis management. You get out there fast with your top person and express regret.

You could see Maple Leaf Foods CEO Michael McCain acting effectively during the listeriosis crisis. He sounded as if he'd taken the course and got an A. The role of PR is important because the question of sincerity helps you decide whether to trust their bacon in the future.

If standard PR tactics are being unfurled, it's harder to know.

Firms may put words in client's mouths, vet their ideas and advise on whether to speak at all. They suggest what to wear: a clean, pressed suit, say, when you emerge from a night in jail, even if it looks a bit privileged – or a rumpled one that may suggest something criminal. Navigator's website says: “Every game plan we develop is goal oriented. And the goal is always for our clients to succeed.” When you call them, you can press 3 for the “on-call crisis manager.” (You get a recording.) We don't know what advice Mr. Bryant got on what to say or wear, but we can assume he got some. It's what he's paying them for.

When a news story says, “We have new information from a source …” is that source Navigator? Or someone egged on by Navigator? We won't know because Navigator “prefers to be inconspicuous.” Reporters talking to them have to agree that everything is off the record. Why? Ms. Reisler of Media Profile says her team urges clients “to speak for themselves.” Why couldn't that be the end of it? Tell them to get out there and tell the truth, especially if they're politicians who've already faced the news media incessantly. Then the PR mavens could shut up, go home and watch the rest unfold on TV with everybody else.

You can consider this matter a subcategory of the general problem of relations between PR and journalism. A huge number of Canadian journalism grads end up in PR. Some go directly; others have distinguished careers first, then switch. And a depressing quantity of news stories, especially in areas such as medicine, now come from well-produced PR packages sent on behalf of pharmaceutical firms and the like.

Caveat viewor.

‘Not really a green country any more', Zoe Cormier, Saturday Sep 05 2009.

In the wake of China's controversial investment in the oil sands this week, the intense northern exposure that took place in the heart of London left the red maple leaf with an extra-black smudge

London — ‘Blame Canada, blame Canada – it seems like everything's gone wrong since the tar sands came along,” several hundred South Park -inspired protesters sang outside the Canadian Embassy here this week.

“Blame Canada, blame Canada, they're not really a green country any more.”

Barely a day after the news that China's national petroleum company has invested $1.9-billion in the mammoth Athabasca oil sands, the demonstrators spent a tumultuous hour outside the embassy, handing out flyers calling on Canada to “respect aboriginal and treaty rights” by shutting the entire project down.

The giant banners they carried declared: “Tar sands = dirtiest oil on earth” and “Tar sands oil is blood oil.”

According to protester Danny Chivers, “There is still this perception in the British public of Canada as exemplary in environmental matters, and very little awareness of what is going on in the tar sands.”

Mr. Chivers is a long-time participant in the Climate Camp, an annual gathering of British environmental activists and the source of all the ruckus at the embassy.

Looking to Copenhagen

But the ruckus is meant to be more than a one-day wonder. It marked the start of a campaign to raise public awareness and to target companies, such as British Petroleum, with a stake in the sands and the banks that back them.

To lend the campaign some extra muscle, four representatives from first nations communities, including Fort Chipewyan just downstream from the oils sands' tailing ponds, flew to London to spend a week with the campers and lead the protests.

“What is going on in the tar sands is a form of genocide – but we aren't leaving our homeland,” declared Lionel Lepine of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, adding that many friends and family have died from rare cancers.

From the embassy, the crowd marched a few blocks to the headquarters of British Petroleum for another protest, and a live news feed on BBC.

Labelling BP “corporate climate criminals,” Clayton Thomas-Muller, of the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation in northern Manitoba, led the call for “climate justice,” then sang a traditional sundance song.

Jess Worth, a Climate Camp participant and main organizer of the Canadians' visit, told the delegation (which also included Heather Milton-Lightening is from the Pasqua First Nation in Saskatchewan and George Poitras of Alberta's Mikisew Cree): “This is no longer your struggle. This is ours, too, because we are implicated, and we have a responsibility to get BP out of the tar sands.”

Choosing BP as a target was a strategic decision, she later explained. Shell is much more active in the sands, but BP is just starting to make inroads. The protesters believe they have six months to persuade the company to pull out of its planned “Sunrise” project.

To that end, the campaigners will use the run-up to the UN Copenhagen Climate Conference in December to arrange speaking tours for the First Nation delegates and to press for action on the part of high-profile British retailers and the Royal Bank of Scotland, which since the economic downturn is now 75-per-cent owned by British taxpayers, Ms. Worth says, “but has not changed their investment strategies.”

Does the campaign stand a chance of success?

Greenpeace failed recently to persuade shareholders in Norway's state-controlled oil company to drop out of the oil sands, but plans to try again. And the Climate Camp has been “very effective at pushing an issue up the national agenda,” says Mr. Chivers.

Two years ago, the target was the third runway proposed for Heathrow airport. Hundreds of activists occupied the site, and succeeded in pushing the issue into a parliamentary debate. Now the government may decide not to go ahead.

Last year, the focus was on the Kingsnorth power plant as a way of opposing the government's plans to expand coal-generated power.

This year, with London and the financial institutions and petrochemical companies based there in the crosshairs, the first nations leaders proved to be what Ms. Worth calls the surprise “rock stars” of the camp. “We always say we're part of a global movement, but before now it has always been more symbolic. It was really important for us to meet them, not just as the victims of the tar sands, but also as inspiring leaders.”

According to Mr. Chivers, “We often talk about how climate change will impact on human rights, and we got to hear about it from people first hand … We don't have much of a sense in this country of indigenous struggles.”

‘A humble feeling'

Rock stars or not, the visiting Canadians were heartened by the reception they received.

After the demo, they met opposition MP Simon Hughes, who will lead a parliamentary meeting on the oil sands in November – likely the first time the British Parliament has discussed the issue.

Heading toward Buckingham Palace and planning to take a sight-seeing tour, Mr. Lepine said of the protesters:

“What caught me off guard the most was that they were really interested. If Canadians won't help us, there are other people here who will.”

Mr. Thomas-Muller agreed, although “it is sad to me, the disconnectedness of the average British citizen to their imperial conquest of the Earth.”

And yet, “I'm glad people were so passionate, and ready to join the struggle – it was a humble feeling to see so many people …taking up this cause.”

China's Bold Move Into The Oil Sands, Nathan Vanderklippe, Tuesday Sep 01 2009.

Chinese companies have been on a shopping spree for global energy assets this year, and yesterday, the country made its biggest splash yet in Alberta's oil patch. PetroChina paid $1.9-billion to acquire 60 per cent of two projects held by Athabasca Oil Sands, reviving enthusiasm for Canada's energy industry after investment was shelved when crude prices slumped

CALGARY — A major Chinese energy company has delivered a jolt of confidence to the oil patch with a $1.9-billion investment that marks China's biggest entry into Alberta's oil sands.

In a deal that many took as proof of the oil sands' continued attractiveness to deep-pocketed investors, Calgary-based Athabasca Oil Sands Corp. sold a 60-per-cent interest in two of its undeveloped projects near Fort McMurray to the international unit of PetroChina Co. Ltd.

The transaction will hand approximately three billion barrels of Alberta oil to PetroChina, whose parent is the state-owned China National Petroleum Corp., but will leave operation of those projects, named MacKay River and Dover, in Canadian hands.

Chinese companies have engaged in a months-long buying spree of global petroleum assets, snapping up a refinery and oil and gas properties in Asia, Russia, South America and Africa. But for those in the oil patch, the acquisition of Alberta assets serves as a much-needed vote of confidence.

Canada's energy industry has spent more than a year watching oil prices fall and, in their wake, tens of billions in capital spending cancelled or delayed. Many see the Athabasca deal as a sign that stability - and even growth - is returning.

On a day when falling crude prices sank shares in most energy companies, several small oil sands players saw big gains on hopes they, too, could become acquisition targets.

Shares of UTS Energy Corp. jumped 10.5 per cent, while those of OPTI Canada Inc. gained 5.6 per cent.

"It signals the return of a higher level of capital spending in the oil sands," said Mike Tims, the chairman of Calgary investment firm Peters and Co.

"When Kearl was approved, it lifted the psychology significantly, because people could see the return of capital spending again. And I suspect this will have the same kind of effect."

In May, Imperial Oil Ltd. decided to begin construction of its $8-billion Kearl oil sands mine, the first major oil sands project to be revived after last year's crash.

The Athabasca deal will provide the Calgary-headquartered company, which is 25 per cent owned by management and directors, with enough capital to finance its share of a planned series of oil sands extraction plants that could one day produce between 400,000 and 500,0000 barrels of crude a day. The company estimates the capital required for those plans at $15-billion to $20-billion, but says it will benefit from technological advances being developed by PetroChina at some of its heavy oil assets in China, which have similar characteristics to the oil sands.

"From our perspective, we're very excited about having the opportunity to partner with such a large and substantial company that has the technological capabilities to help move this forward," Athabasca chairman Bill Gallacher said.

The deal does not commit the company to delivering oil to the Chinese, he added. "At the end of the day, there was nothing tied in terms of transporting or pipelining. This was just strictly an energy venture that PetroChina identified that had very high quality, and had a great management team that can move this forward in a timely manner."

The deal also includes a "financing arrangement" that Athabasca will use to refinance a $400-million bond it secured last year, although the company declined to provide any details. Athabasca will continue to operate the rest of its assets independently. It expects the PetroChina deal to close Oct. 31, and said it expects government approvals to pose little obstacle.

Chinese companies have attracted attention for their bids this year to buy two Canadian-listed companies with foreign assets - Verenex Energy Inc. and Addax Petroleum Corp. - but they have made steady inroads into the oil sands as well. Earlier this year, Sinopec raised its stake in French giant Total SA's Northern Lights project to 50 per cent. In 2005, Chinese National Offshore Oil Corp. spent $150-million for a 16.7-per-cent stake in privately held MEG Energy Corp., while in 2007, CNPC bought 11 oil sands leases containing reserves of about 1.9 billion barrels.

For many, however, the Athabasca deal was notable for the value it assigned to oil sands assets, whose worth has been debated ever since Total made a hostile bid for UTS earlier this year that analysts said ascribed no value to its oil reserves. Analysts calculated that PetroChina will pay just over 60 cents a barrel for Athabasca, which marks a return to some of the valuations seen in 2007 and 2008, and implies a value for companies like UTS that is roughly double their current trading price.

"I think you'll probably hear UTS speak up a lot more and saying, 'Look, here's the valuation,' " said FirstEnergy Capital analyst William Lacey.

Athabasca's MacKay River and Dover projects contain an estimated five billion barrels of recoverable bitumen. Athabasca plans to extract those barrels with technology known as steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD). Unlike oil sands mines, SAGD operators use underground injections of high-pressure steam to coax the thick bitumen to the surface.

Athabasca has applied for permission to build two pilot projects, but does not expect to begin commercial production until at least 2014, when it hopes to turn on an initial, 35,000-barrel-a-day phase of production from MacKay River.

Athabasca's partnership:

Athabasca Oil Sands Corp. is selling a 60-per-cent interest in two major development projects to PetroChina. Here's a closer look at them:

How much? Estimated to have 4 billion to 5.6 billion barrels
When? First steam in 2,000-barrel-per-day pilot project expected in late 2010. First commercial production slated to start in 2014.
Where? About 35 kilometres northwest of Fort McMurray,

MacKay River:
How much? Estimated to have 1.2 billion to 1.9 billion barrels.
When? First commercial production slated to start in 2014.
Where? About 60 km west of Fort MacKay, Alta.
Source: Athabasca Oil Sands Corp.

China Tightens Grip on Rare Minerals, Keith Bradsher, August 31 2009.

HONG KONG — China is set to tighten its hammerlock on the market for some of the world’s most obscure but valuable minerals.

China currently accounts for 93 percent of production of so-called rare earth elements — and more than 99 percent of the output for two of these elements, vital for a wide range of green energy technologies and military applications like missiles.

Deng Xiaoping once observed that the Mideast had oil, but China had rare earth elements. As the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries has done with oil, China is now starting to flex its muscle.

Even tighter limits on production and exports, part of a plan from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, would ensure China has the supply for its own technological and economic needs, and force more manufacturers to make their wares here in order to have access to the minerals.

In each of the last three years, China has reduced the amount of rare earths that can be exported. This year’s export quotas are on track to be the smallest yet. But what is really starting to alarm Western governments and multinationals alike is the possibility that exports will be further restricted.

Chinese officials will almost certainly be pressed to address the issue at a conference Thursday in Beijing. What they say could influence whether Australian regulators next week approve a deal by a Chinese company to acquire a majority stake in Australia’s main rare-earth mine.

The detention of executives from the British-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto has already increased tensions.

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has drafted a six-year plan for rare earth production and submitted it to the State Council, the equivalent of the cabinet, according to four mining industry officials who have discussed the plan with Chinese officials. A few, often contradictory, details of the plan have leaked out, but it appears to suggest tighter restrictions on exports, and strict curbs on environmentally damaging mines.

Beijing officials are forcing global manufacturers to move factories to China by limiting the availability of rare earths outside China. “Rare earth usage in China will be increasingly greater than exports,” said Zhang Peichen, the deputy director of the government-linked Baotou Rare Earth Research Institute.

Some of the minerals crucial to green technologies are extracted in China using methods that inflict serious damage on the local environment. China dominates global rare earth production partly because of its willingness until now to tolerate highly polluting, low-cost mining.

The ministry did not respond to repeated requests for comment in the last eight days. Jia Yinsong, a director general at the ministry, is to speak about China’s intentions Thursday at the Minor Metals and Rare Earths 2009 conference in Beijing.

Until spring, it seemed that China’s stranglehold on production of rare earths might weaken in the next three years — two Australian mines are opening with combined production equal to a quarter of global output.

But both companies developing mines — Lynas Corporation and smaller rival, Arafura Resources — lost their financing last winter because of the global financial crisis. Buyers deserted Lynas’s planned bond issue and Arafura’s initial public offering.

Mining companies wholly owned by the Chinese government swooped in last spring with the cash needed to finish the construction of both companies’ mines and ore processing factories. The Chinese companies reached agreements to buy 51.7 percent of Lynas and 25 percent of Arafura.

The Arafura deal has already been approved by Australian regulators and is subject to final approval by shareholders on Sept. 17. The regulators have postponed twice a decision on Lynas, and now face a deadline of next Monday to act.

Matthew James, an executive vice president of Lynas, said that the company’s would-be acquirer had agreed not to direct the day-to-day operations of the company, but would have four seats on an eight-member board.

Expectations of tightening Chinese restrictions have produced a surge in the last two weeks in the share prices of the few non-Chinese producers that are publicly traded. In addition to the two Australian mines, Avalon Rare Metals of Toronto is trying to open a mine in northwest Canada, and Molycorp Minerals is trying to reopen a mine in Mountain Pass, Calif.

Unocal used to own the Mountain Pass mine, which suspended mining in 2002 because of weak demand and a delay in an environmental review. State-owned Cnooc of China almost acquired the mine in 2005 with its unsuccessful bid for Unocal, which was bought instead by Chevron; Chinese buyers tried to persuade Chevron to sell the mine to them in 2007, but Chevron sold it to Molycorp Minerals, a private American group.

A single mine in Baotou, in China’s Inner Mongolia, produces half of the world’s rare earths. Much of the rest — particularly some of the rarest elements most needed for products from wind turbines to Prius cars — comes from small, often unlicensed mines in southern China.

China produces over 99 percent of dysprosium and terbium and 95 percent of neodymium. These are vital to many green energy technologies, including high-strength, lightweight magnets used in wind turbines, as well as military applications.

To get at the materials, powerful acid is pumped down bore holes. There it dissolves some of the rare earths, and the slurry is then pumped into leaky artificial ponds with earthen dams, according to mining specialists.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has cut the country’s target output from rare earth mines by 8.1 percent this year and is forcing mergers of mining companies in a bid to improve technical standards, according to the government-controlled China Mining Association, a government-led trade group.

General Motors and the United States Air Force played leading roles in the development of rare-earth magnets. The magnets are still used in the electric motors that control the guidance vanes on the sides of missiles, said Jack Lifton, a chemist who helped develop some of the early magnets.

But demand is surging now because of wind turbines and hybrid vehicles.

The electric motor in a Prius requires 2 to 4 pounds of neodymium, said Dudley Kingsnorth, a consultant in Perth, Australia, whose compilations of rare earth mining and trade are the industry’s benchmark.

Mr. Lifton said that Toyota officials had expressed strong worry to him on Sunday about the availability of rare earths.

Toyota and General Motors, which plans to introduce the Chevrolet Volt next year with an electric motor that uses rare earths, both declined on Monday to comment.

Rick A. Lowden, a senior materials analyst at the Defense Department, told a Congressional subcommittee in July that his office was reviewing a growing number of questions about the availability of rare earths.

China is increasingly manufacturing high-performance electric motors, not just the magnets.

“The people who are making these products outside China are at a huge disadvantage, and that is why more and more of that manufacturing is moving to China," Mr. Kingsnorth said.

Natives, mining firm dig in their heels in 11-year long dispute, Patrick White, Tuesday Sep 01 2009.

Remote reserve squares off against Toronto-based Platinex over land claims north of Thunder Bay

Winnipeg — In purely physical terms, it was a duel between a Beaver floatplane and a small aluminum skiff.

But the symbolic heft of the brief standoff on Nemeigusabins Lake last Wednesday was far greater.

In the boat sat a lone man, Donny Morris, chief of the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation, a fly-in community 600 kilometres north of Thunder Bay that has vowed to stop a mining company drilling for platinum on their traditional lands.

Aboard the plane, representatives from the company, Toronto-based Platinex, were trying to land on a lake that abuts 221 mining claims it has in the area.

The plane swooped down several times, but the man steering the boat blocked their passage, and the plane finally buzzed off toward the horizon.

It was the latest chapter in an 11-year land-claims saga, one that pits a remote reserve against a tiny mining company, and Ontario's 136-year-old mining legislation against an obligation for the province and developers to consult native groups.

“Legally, the company might be allowed to come back,” Mr. Morris said. “But we won't let them set up. That's where we hunt and fish and always have. It's our livelihood. We don't want any development on that site.”

Under Ontario's 1873 Mining Act, anyone with a prospector's licence can stake mineral claims anywhere in the province, virtually heedless of property rights or aboriginal concerns. Revisions to the free-entry legislation that would require more aboriginal consultation have entered second reading in the legislature, but likely wouldn't effect the Platinex case.

Until then, “it's a system where mining supersedes all else,” said Anna Baggio, director of conservation land-use planning with Wildlands League, an environmental group working with the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, also known as the KI. “Ecological values are not taken into consideration.”

And so, when James Trusler bought mining rights to the area in 1998, he saw few barriers to exploring a site he believes is one of the world's richest deposits of platinum and chromium. He launched Platinex to do just that and began speaking with the KI about the site.

But that conversation came to an abrupt end in 2006 when the province informed Platinex that it would either have to assay the site or risk losing the claim. Mr. Trusler said the order prompted him to forgo consultations with natives and send workers to the lake. When those workers were blocked by native protesters, Platinex and the KI First Nation launched a series of lawsuits and injunction applications that eventually sent Mr. Morris and five other KI protesters to jail and granted Platinex legal access to the land.

Even after spending several days in jail, Mr. Morris and the KI First Nation are refusing to acknowledge the latter ruling, arguing that it rests on a 1929 treaty that was designed to hoodwink the aboriginal leadership of the day.

“In those days, we didn't know the English language,” Mr. Morris said. “We just sat down and signed an X.”

Even so, subsequent Supreme Court decisions bind the province to consult natives before development takes place on their traditional land.

“We have been very actively engaged in trying to bring Platinex and KI together,” said Michael Gravelle, Ontario's Minister of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry. “Tensions right now are very high.”

But both the KI and Platinex see little value in such a meeting, insisting that Ontario must first sort out what level of government – native or provincial – holds authority over the region.

“We can't negotiate the treaty, we can't speak to first-nations rights,” said Mr. Trusler. “Only the government can deal with that and they have been sidestepping the issue for long time. Meanwhile, this is our flagship investment. We have people going without pay while this goes on. We are right down on our knees.”

Mr. Trusler said he won't give up on his claims, despite Mr. Morris's presence on the lake. “We will continue to embarrass this government unless we get access or some kind of value out of this property,” he said. “At this stage, if we gave this claim up, we'd go bankrupt.”

China Oil Deal Is New Source of Strife Among Iraqis, Timothy Williams, September 5 2009.

WASIT PROVINCE, Iraq — When China’s biggest oil company signed the first post-invasion oil field development contract in Iraq last year, the deal was seen as a test of Iraq’s willingness to open an industry that had previously prohibited foreign investment.

One year later, the China National Petroleum Corporation has struck oil at the Ahdab field in Wasit Province, southeast of Baghdad. And while the relationship between the company and the Iraqi government has gone smoothly, the presence of a foreign company with vast resources drilling for oil in this poor, rural corner of Iraq has awakened a wave of discontent here.

“We get nothing directly from the Chinese company, and we are suffering,” said Mahmoud Abdul Ridha, head of the Wasit provincial council, whose budget has been cut in half by Baghdad in the past year because of lower international oil prices. “There is an unemployment crisis. We need roads, schools, water treatment plants. We need everything.”

The result has been a local-rights movement — extraordinary in a country where political dissent has historically carried the risk of death — that in the past few months has begun demanding that at least $1 of each barrel of oil produced at the Ahdab field be used to improve access to clean water, health services, schools, paved roads and other needs in the province, which is among Iraq’s poorest.

The ripples are traveling far beyond this province, too. Frustrations have spilled over into sabotage and intimidation of Chinese oil workers, turning the Ahdab field into a cautionary tale for international oil companies seeking to join the rush to profit from Iraq’s vast untapped oil reserves.

Because Iraq is so heavily dependent on oil revenue, any international hesitation by oil companies to invest could mean years of continued economic and political instability in the country. All oil revenues go directly to the government in Baghdad and are the foundation of the national budget.

The Iraqi government has so far rejected the locals’ demands, but people here are clearly beginning to feel that something new is possible.

“No one would have dared to ask for such a thing during Saddam’s regime; if he did, he would definitely be executed,” said Ghassan Ali, a 43-year-old farmer who lives near the oil field. “But now we are a democratic country, so we have the right to ask for our rights like any other province in Iraq.”

The basis of the complaints here is that, aside from the hiring of a few hundred residents as laborers and security guards at salaries of less than $600 a month, the Ahdab field — a roughly $3 billion development project — has provided no local benefit.

Some local farmers began reacting by destroying the company’s generators and severing electrical hoses, angry because they believed that their fields were being unfairly handed over to the company. Other residents began expressing outrage that very few jobs were being opened to them.

China National Petroleum says it needs relatively few workers because it is still in the exploration phase of its 23-year project at the Ahdab field. Oil production is not scheduled to begin for two and a half years.

Now, the field’s 100 or so Chinese workers rarely leave their spartan compound for fear of being kidnapped, the company said, even though the Iraqi government recently deployed extra security to the area.

But the Iraqis’ anger has been increasingly channeled into an above-board labor movement, expressing concerns about workers’ rights, local government authority, pollution, transparent hiring practices and public accountability, among other issues.

Ghassan Atiyyah, executive director of the nonprofit Iraq Foundation for Development and Democracy, said the nascent activism in Wasit Province was part of a broader shift in a society that had until recently been resistant to such demands because of years of dictatorship, economic sanctions, war and a culture that retains a strong tribal influence.

“There is a social transformation going on in Iraq that will take years to sort out,” Mr. Atiyyah said, “but what we are seeing is a new social order emerging as rural people challenge the urban people who have always looked down on them.”

The Iraqi government and the Chinese oil company have played down the tensions in Wasit Province, saying that aside from a few hiccups, things are going according to plan.

Still, the unrest also comes at a critical time for Iraq’s oil industry, which has struggled to reach prewar production levels and is preparing to auction off 10 oil fields to international companies this fall after a first round of bidding for a group of other oil and gas fields this summer led to only one signed contract.

The Ahdab field contains about one billion barrels of oil, modest by Iraq’s standards. In comparison, the Rumaila field in southern Iraq, for which the Chinese company and British Petroleum signed a development deal in June, is Iraq’s largest field with an estimated 17.8 billion barrels.

China National Petroleum said it renegotiated a Saddam Hussein-era contract at Ahdab last August knowing that it would take away profits of barely 1 percent.

“We wanted to get a foot in the door,” said Han Ruimin, vice president of Al Waha Petroleum Company, the name of the joint venture at Ahdab between the Chinese company and ZhenHua Oil, also based in China. “Our strategy worked, because we just got another contract,” he said, referring to the Rumaila field.

The Ahdab field is surrounded by tenant farmers living in cramped, mud houses without electricity or running water. They had hoped the arrival of the oil company would end their poverty.

Instead, China National Petroleum has hired only about 450 workers, many of whom lived outside the province, according to residents and local officials.

“The problem is that people were expecting thousands of jobs right away, and then they realized that the company depended more on machines than on people,” said Ali Hussein, head of the local district council.

Mr. Hussein said the extent of local suffering had emboldened him to begin discussing the situation with the Chinese company in unvarnished language. But troubles have persisted.

Earlier this year, the area’s farmers complained that the oil company’s electrical and seismic equipment — used to help determine where wells should be drilled — was damaging fragile homes and crops.

About the same time, electrical lines, many of which were laid across farmland, were severed or stolen, as were expensive generators and other equipment. This spring, a rocket was fired, though it fell harmlessly. Mr. Han said he believed that it had been aimed at a nearby American military base, though local farmers said they suspected that the Ahdab field was the target.

More trouble could be on the way next spring when 1,000 Chinese workers arrive to build a central processing plant.

Mr. Han said hiring Iraqis to do the job was out of the question. “We don’t have enough time to train local people to do that work,” he said.

In the meantime, the field’s neighbors say they worry that they are about to be swallowed by the pursuit of the oil beneath their crops.

Ghazi Hwaidi, 39, whose wheat field now shares space with towering seismic oil prospecting equipment, said he had sought compensation for his damaged crops — and just in case, had also applied for a job with the oil company. He has not received word about either effort.

“My farm is now more like an oil field,” he said, “and I have gotten nothing for it.”

Respect Your Children, NYT Editorial, September 4 2009.

The American right has directed many silly and offensive attacks at President Obama. But so far nothing compares with the news that right-wing demagogues on talk radio and the Web, along with Republican Party officials, are trying to stop children from hearing the president urge them to stay in school — because, they say, that is socialist propaganda.

Perhaps this shouldn’t come as a surprise after a summer in which town hall meetings on health care have been turned into mindless shouting matches, where protesters parade guns and are cheered on by elected officials. Not only Sarah Palin, but people who know better — like Senator Charles Grassley — have been tossing around the fiction that Mr. Obama is planning to institute “death panels” to speed the infirm elderly to their ends.

Still, it was startling to read in Friday’s Times about the overheated and bizarre response to Mr. Obama’s plan to give a speech in a Virginia school next week that schools around the country also can show.

The White House says Mr. Obama will talk about the importance of education — hardly, we hope, a controversial topic. But the article said that in a growing number of school districts, especially in Texas, parents, talk-show hosts and some Republican officials are demanding that schools either refuse to show it or allow parents to keep their children home. The common refrain is that Mr. Obama will offer a socialist message — although nobody said what they meant by that.

There is, of course, nothing socialist in any of Mr. Obama’s policies, as anyone with a passing knowledge of socialism and its evil history knows. But in this country, unlike actual socialist countries, nobody can be compelled to listen to the president. What is most disturbing about all this is what it says about the parents — and the fact that they have such little regard for their children’s intelligence and ability to think.

Bomber Release Involved Oil, British Minister Says, John F. Burns, September 5 2009.

LONDON — In an admission likely to prolong the controversy over the release of the only man convicted in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, Britain’s justice minister told an interviewer that trade deals, especially in oil, had been a “very big part” of Britain’s decision to include the bomber in a prisoner transfer agreement with Libya.

In an interview published Saturday by The Daily Telegraph, Jack Straw, the justice minister and a senior member of Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s cabinet, said trade deals with Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s government in Libya weighed heavily in his decision to abandon his opposition to the release of the bomber, Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi.

Asked by a Telegraph reporter whether trade and oil were part of the cabinet decision to include Mr. Megrahi in a prisoner transfer agreement with Libya, Mr. Straw replied: “Yes, it was a very big part of that. I’m unapologetic about that. Libya was a rogue state. We wanted to bring it back into the fold and trade is an essential part of it — and subsequently there was the BP deal.”

The reference was to a $900 million oil exploration agreement between Libya and BP in January 2008. BP, Britain’s largest company, beat out a field of other international energy companies seeking to gain a foothold in Libya’s rich oil fields after the lifting of international sanctions — imposed in part because of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, a Scottish border town, on Dec. 21 1988, which killed 270 people, including 189 Americans.

Mr. Straw’s statement that oil deals were part of the calculations in negotiations with Libya over Mr. Megrahi stood uneasily with the British government’s previous statements. Mr. Brown insisted in a speech on Wednesday that there had been “no conspiracy, no cover-up, no double-dealing, no deal on oil” involved in Mr. Megrahi’s release.

Further, he said his government had played no direct part in the final decision by the Scottish regional government to free Mr. Megrahi on compassionate grounds related to his diagnosis of terminal prostate cancer.

The Scottish justice secretary, Kenny MacAskill, said that in reaching his decision to free the bomber, he had decided not to transfer Mr. Megrahi to Libya under the prisoner agreement because of objections from the United States. Instead, he used his own power under Scottish law to grant a compassionate release.

But the uproar on both sides of the Atlantic that accompanied Mr. Megrahi’s return to Libya left the Brown government scrambling to explain what its attitude to Mr. Megrahi’s application for release had been, and to answer suggestions that it was happy to have Scotland free the bomber because of Britain’s efforts to secure lucrative oil deals from the Qaddafi government.

That has led to a tangle of statements and explanations from London, and charges by the Conservative opposition leader, David Cameron, that Mr. Brown and his ministers have been deceitful in their dealings with Washington and their public statements at home. Last week, the government and the Scottish authorities released, separately, thick files of correspondence between them on the issue, each effectively seeking to placate the anger of the Obama administration and American families of bombing victims.


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