#127 – The Job Fairy, Part Seven: The Bullies that Won’t Get Nailed

English Canada wants you to know that bullying in schools is not okay. Bullying an entire territory, on the other hand, is totally cool.

Tha Nahanni region of the Northwest Territories and the Dene people who live there made the horrible mistake of existing near a tungsten deposit. Obviously, this is entirely their faults – the Nahanni region and the people therein ought to have taken their river and their natural beauty somewhere else. Cantung and the later Vancouver-based North American Tungsten Corporation (because of course “Canadian Tungsten” pulled a Canada and went bankrupt because it shockingly couldn’t deal with the market) set up the Cantung Mine in 1962. After several flirtations with collapse the company finally got back to controlling the extraction of a vital resource in the modern world.

Here’s the problem – cleanup. Amazingly, the North has a poor track record of cleaning up. Aboriginal Engineering and Tlicho Engineering and Environmental Services, the Inuit-owned cleanup system had to walk away from a major cleanup project because they lacked the resources to do the job. And when the people who live there can’t do the job, the obvious answer is to put more of the onus for cleanup on the companies doing the mining in the first place. Considering how poorly the North is understood and the decades of delicate negotiations between the restive First Nations and Inuit and the brick wall that is Ottawa, routing the costs of cleanup for mining and other operations to the private sector is a logical way to maintain stability.

Which is, of course, why the useless Department of Indian Affairs or Whatever it Calls itself This Week has the final say in whether or not an iron mine can override Inuit mining controls and instead be presented to the federally-(under)funded Nunavut Impact Review Board. And why Cantung is threatening “consequences” as a result of the Northwest Territories daring to consider asking for more money in securities to help with cleanup when Canada’s useless business class once again fails at doing, well, anything. Demanding that a population plow ahead with dangerous precedents and unknown consequences is of course the most Canadian reaction to anyone seeing a problem with its companies’ mean-spirited and short-sighted acts. Demanding that Canada’s businesses do something other than gash the land open and Hamburglar the ore away is clearly the crazier idea here. Because hey – nothing says safety like Canada’s rusting infrastructure carrying cargo throughout the year in one of the most hostile and delicate climates on Earth.

Never mind that there’s a two-tiered system for ecological damage which somehow provides less care and concern to the far more vulnerable and less understood North and that Pamela Strand, the director of a diamond mine that went belly-up and hooked taxpayers for millions in cleanup money, is now employed by the territory’s mining division. Never mind that this has happened before and the toxic legacy of mining in the North leaves a costly footprint for those least able to pay; let’s instead browbeat, under-report, and have Ottawa’s tendrils infecting Northern regulation and self-government so that mining companies can dig shit out of the ground without having a clue what happens when there’s nothing left to dig up.

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