Extraction Casino: Mining Companies Gambling with Latin American Lives and Sovereignty through Supranational Arbitration (May 2019)
During the last couple of decades—and particularly during the last ten years—mining companies have filed dozens of claims against Latin American countries before international arbitration panels, demanding compensation for court decisions, public policies and other government measures that they claim reduce the value of their investments. In a majority of these cases, the communities most affected by the mining projects have been actively organizing to defend their territories and natural resources.
This report analyses 38 cases filed by global mining corporations against Latin American governments using the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) system. Reflective of the disproportionate participation of Canadian financing in the global mining sector, the majority of these cases were brought or threatened by Canadian-domiciled firms, although U.S., U.K., South African, Swiss, French, Dutch, Chilean, Australian and East Indian companies have also taken part. While companies do not always win, the low risk that corporations face to gamble on a case valued in the millions, or even billions of dollars, along with the increasing availability of third-party funding and rules biased in their favor, provide strong incentives for ever more outrageous suits.
The purpose of this brief is to document the magnitude of the problem in the context of mining conflicts in Latin America and the troubling implications that these suits pose for the already difficult struggles of Indigenous Peoples and mining-affected communities to exercise their self-determination and to defend lands, water and ways of life from the destructive impacts of industrial mining. In particular, these suits further undermine the already marginal protections mining-affected communities have access to through their courts, regulatory systems and governments to guarantee their rights, enforce laws and regulations, and otherwise act in their interest.