When Mining Firms Sue | LRB Blog
Last week a fracking company was refused permission to drill in the South Downs National Park. Celtique Energie is considering an appeal to Eric Pickles to overrule the decision. He might be reluctant to cause a furore in West Sussex, but would he feel the same if aggrieved companies could sue the government for lost profits? This can happen if foreign firms have access to an investor-state dispute settlement, as provided for in the new trade agreements being finalised by the EU with Canada and the US. Ministers reassure us that the provisions are nothing new, without mentioning that US companies are the world leaders in making ISDS claims. The two main ISDS tribunals, run by the World Bank and the UN, operate behind closed doors, with private attorneys who rotate between being judges and advocates, and have no appeals mechanisms.
North American mining companies appear to find making claims against foreign states almost as profitable as prospecting for minerals. Lone Pine Resources, registered in Delaware, is using an ISDS to bring a $250 million suit against Canada for not allowing it to frack under the St Lawrence River. Big money is already being made by suing poor countries in Latin America that have signed trade agreements with ISDS clauses and struggle to meet the legal bills (typically $8 million per case). Peru is being sued for $800 million by Renco for ordering a pollution clean-up that allegedly forced the company into bankruptcy; Costa Rica for $94 million by Infinito Gold. In October 2012, in the biggest ever ISDS award, Occidental Petroleum was granted $1.7 billion (plus interest) for a terminated contract in Ecuador.
Pacific Rim is suing the El Salvador government for $301 million for refusing a gold mining permit. To make the original claim in 2009, it shifted its HQ from the Cayman Islands to benefit from the ISDS clause in a US trade agreement. When this was rejected, it moved the claim to the World Bank’s tribunal, which begins its secret hearing of the case today. According to El Salvador’s rejoinder, Pacific Rim never complied with the requirements for a mining permit in the first place, preferring to rely on lobbying of government ministers. It didn’t own all the land involved or have permission from landowners. Activists have been threatened or killed and water supplies polluted during exploration.
Canadian mining firms are looking forward to the ‘remarkable agreement’ that could soon be signed between the EU and Canada. Like the TTIP between the EU and US, the CETA hasn’t been published, but both agreements are believed to include sweeping ISDS clauses. France’s moratorium on fracking since 2011, defended twice in domestic courts, could be especially vulnerable to ISDS claims from the US or Canada. In Britain, where George Osborne thinks there is a broad consensus in favour of fracking, local prohibitions or regulations to control it could be threatened under the treaties. Fortunately, Germany seems to be having last-minute doubts about signing them.
In 2008 El Salvador imposed a moratorium on all new mining operations. Pacific Rim’s suit is the first challenge against it, and defending it cost the government $5 million before the case even went to court. If the claim succeeds in full, El Salvador will have to pay the mining company the equivalent of half its national health budget. Today is El Salvador’s independence day. As the country celebrates 193 years of freedom from Spanish rule, its sovereignty is under threat from a private company, pressing its claim behind closed doors at the World Bank.
The myth that we have an unsustainable deficit that must be reduced at all costs is being used to deny us choice.
So we’re told that raising tax will drive wealth creators out of the country – whichever country we have next week. But that’s not true. We are the wealth creators. You, I and all the people in this country make our wealth if only we’re liberated to do just that. Government investment and support could help us achieve that aim, but we’re being denied the chance to fulfill our potential whilst the wealth extractors are being given every opportunity to do as they wish.
And we’re told we can’t afford green taxes because people are already too hard up to pay them. But it was government policy that has left people in that situation.
And they say we must not interfere with the workings of the market so we must charge as little tax as possible. We must stand back, they say, and let the market work. Except we know it doesn’t.
And to make all that happen they find a deficit very useful, because that can deny us choice because we’re told choice is an option we cannot afford when cuts are our priority. So cuts are the ultimate ‘there is no alternative’ policy option.
Except there is a choice.— Richard Murphy, Tax Research UK – quote from speech: We can’t reinvent the economy unless we reclaim the right to tax
The Commission is seeking to block-out the voice of European citizens by refusing to admit this Citizens’ Initiative. Despite the selective reasoning given by the Commission for not admitting the initiative, nobody should be in any doubt that this is a politically-motivated decision. The Commission does not want to be inconvenienced by having to confront the reality of massive public opposition to the TTIP negotiations.
This cannot stand. Incoming commission president Juncker has made clear that the concerns of citizens must be taken into account and we call on him to overturn this decision and ensure the citizens’ initiative goes ahead.
There is a large and growing sense of unease and concern among the European public and civil society about the ongoing TTIP negotiations. This concern reflects the broad scope of the negotiations and their possible implications on European standards, and is reinforced by the opaque negotiation process. The voices of these citizens must be heard and we will work to ensure today’s setback is not the final say.—
Yannick Jadot, trade spokesperson for the Greens
Read complete Stop TTIP article together with the European Commission’s refusal of the proposed European Citizens’ Initiative
85% of GPs believe NHS will be privatised within ten years | Pulse
Almost 85% of GPs believe the NHS will be privatised within ten years, with 45% predicting it will occur within five years, a survey of 1,137 NHS staff has revealed.
The survey, conducted by Cogora, which publishes Pulse, also revealed that GPs felt less engaged in the CCG decision-making than practice managers.
It found that 91% of GPs felt the reforms resulted in more work, while 97% of practice managers believe workload had increased.
The survey questioned 548 GPs, 418 nurses and 171 practice managers.
It found that exactly half of practice managers felt that privatisation will happen within seven years, compared with 45% of GPs.
Only 14% of GPs and 11% of practice managers felt that privatisation will not occur in the next ten years.
Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chair of the GPC, said that practice managers’ estimates could be more accurate as they are closer to commissioning decisions.
He said: ‘Practice managers are increasingly the ones within the practice that are getting involved with the day-to-day CCG roles on behalf of the practice because GPs themselves are so overwhelmed with their practice commitments.’
New fees cause 70 per cent drop in employment tribunal cases
Employment tribunal statistics published by the Ministry of Justice this week have revealed a stark 70 per cent fall in individual claims between April and June 2014, relative to the same period in 2013. The figures reinforce the perception of the fees as a “tax on justice”, with TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady saying that “Britain’s bad bosses are getting away with harassment and abuse of workers”.
The following graph from the report details the total number of cases brought by individuals and by groups between April 2012 and June 2014 - the effect of the introduction of fees in July 2013 is immediately clear: