While it is true that some environmental damage is inevitable in the extractive industry, there are ways of reducing potential harm and preventing irreversible damage. By way of illustration, at the Veladero Mine in Argentina, Barrick Gold Corporation did not attempt to improve their pipe system despite having three major cyanide spills within a year and a half (Castilla, 2017). During the first incident, an astonishing
one million liters of cyanide was leaked into the river that is used for drinking (Castilla, 2017). Concerned that the cyanide
would seriously contaminate the water and put the local citizens at risk, all citizens living within 150 kilometers from the site were brought in for blood testing (Castilla, 2017). In another instance, Barrick Gold Corporation stated that it was going to relocate huge portions of glaciers at the Pascua Lama Mine in Chile so as to get at certain deposits in the area (Gordon, et. al., 2008, p. 75). Despite being informed that disrupting the glaciers could drastically disturb a fragile ecosystem and reduce crop production, Barrick Gold Corporation was not persuaded (Gordon, et. al., 2008, p. 75). While the company has vowed to not move the glaciers at the moment, it has declared that it intends to break the ice apart in order to get to the gold underneath (Battle Over Gold, 2006). On top of this, at their operation in Nevada, Barrick Gold Corporation was found to be illegally disposing of hazardous waste (Sonner, 2015). While the company was notified that it needed to report all of its material to the federal government, it was simply throwing away highly toxic mercury and lead (Sonner, 2015). Besides exceeding safe limits set by the United States, it is a prime example of Barrick Gold Corporation ignoring the potential risks to human health (Sonner, 2015). In particular, the Environmental Protection Agency has stated that exposure to hazardous substances including mercury and lead can harm kidneys, lead to respiratory failure, and can even cause death (Sonner, 2015).
In all three of these cases, Barrick Gold Corporation can be described as careless. Not only is it crystal clear that the companies behaviour in these instances are wrong, they also clearly demonstrate that Barrick Gold Corporation is thoughtless. As has been demonstrated, Barrick Gold Corporation regularly makes poor decisions that dramatically impact the environment and the individuals living in close proximity to their operations. While Barrick Gold Corporation is completely aware of its irresponsibility, it is apparent that the company has not tried nor intends to improve. With that in mind, the most effective solution would be for Canada to take a leadership role by guaranteeing that its companies are always complying with international environmental and human rights standards (Macklin, & Simons, 2010).
While it is true that this solution was proposed in the form of Bill C-300, it was not passed into law as Prime Minister Stephan Harper and the Conservative party strongly opposed it (Whittington, 2010). However, the bill was narrowly defeated, and with a new forward thinking Prime Minister now in office, it is likely that this bill could eventually be passed. Not only would Bill C-300 allow the Canadian government to investigate any allegations of non-compliance against their extractive companies overseas, it would also allow the government to punish their companies including withdrawing financial support – if they were found to initiate conflict with local citizens, engage in unethical behaviour such as human rights abuses, or deliberately destroy the environment (Macklin, & Simons, 2010). By passing Bill C-300, the Canadian government would be in a position to regulate Barrick Gold Corporations activity even when it operates in foreign territory (Lamarche, 2010).
No longer able to operate without supervision, Barrick Gold Corporation would be obligated to drastically change how it behaves and more importantly, make a commitment to improve its corporate social responsibility (Whittington, 2010). To
elaborate, if the Canadian government had the regulatory power to not just oversee but also disrupt Barrick Gold Corporation if it was not complying with international standards, it is likely that the corporation would endeavor to reduce the adverse impacts of its operations. On top of striving to engage in safe and sustainable practices, it is probable that Barrick Gold Corporation would try to understand the context of the areas in which it operates (Di Santo, 2014). For example, Barrick Gold Corporation is notorious for operating in regions that already experience an assortment of health concerns, are politically unstable, and face human rights violations/violence (Di Santo, 2014). With a commitment to improve its corporate social responsibility, Barrick Gold Corporation would not be able to intentionally cause or aggravate these existing problems, nor could it worsen the economic, social, or environmental living conditions of communities living near their sites (Di Santo, 2014; See Figure 5).
Barrick Gold Corporation is a company that routinely worsens the conditions of the environment in which in operates, and it also threatens human health and well-being in numerous ways. When considering the former, renowned bioethicist Aldo Leopold claimed that a thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the natural environment (First Bioethicist, 2018). Without taking any precautionary measures including monitoring operations, doing impact assessments, or planning how it will close a site, Barrick Gold Corporation does not properly look after nor strive to return the environment back to its original state. Rather, Barrick Gold Corporation continuously devastates once healthy and intact ecosystems by operating carelessly, which is nothing short of wrong as it can lead to irreparable damage.
Not only taking a massive toll on the natural environment, Barrick Gold Corporations actions have serious implications for the physical, and mental well-being of individuals that live in close proximity to their operations. Besides encountering physical abuse including sexual assaults and police brutality, individuals living in the communities near Barrick Gold Corporations operations are face numerous health impacts from being exposed to high concentrations of toxic substances, from having their local water source poisoned, and from spoiled crops. On top of this, these communities oftentimes do not see any economic advantages of mining, are not taken seriously when they speak out about their concerns, and are usually left with a site that has not been properly remediated. With the above causing serious physical health problems and mental disturbances, it is apparent that Barrick Gold Corporation must acknowledge its inappropriate behaviour and more importantly, take drastic steps to become better.