Modern mining: The charity bait-and-switch

In addition to the common mining-company maneuver of declaring bankruptcy before having to fork out money for reclamation, another set of common ploys appears to be tax dodging and bribing local communities. The story of Cameco Corp., a uranium-mining company in Saskatchewan, is a good illustration of those.

According to the National Observer article, the Canadian government is accusing the $2.8-billion company of operating a massive tax dodging scheme for years – and potentially depriving state coffers of as much $2.1-billion in cash. In addition,  the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is seeking (US) $32-million in back taxes from Cameco – and is investigating to see if the company owes more.

Cameco denies all and is headed for trial in September. But after what was revealed in the Panama Papers, would it be any surprise? This is the modern convenience for big business: off-shore tax havens.

From the story, “Yet, despite the vast sums involved, Kossick (a watchdog) is finding it difficult to raise awareness in Saskatchewan about the Cameco case. ‘What (Cameco does) is give away money here and there so everybody thinks they’re fine,” he explains. “They are very effective at dodging public concern.’”

This is an old trick that mining companies have long used: Toss a little short-term money at the local communities – help them fund parks and community efforts – so local politicians and citizens can’t criticize without catching heat from those who want the money. It’s bribery, because without that money, locals might complain a lot more when a mine degrades the land and water or has an accident.

This is what Tintina Resources – a subsidiary of a Canadian company bought by an Australian company – is doing with White Sulphur Springs: making promises of new wealth and prosperity. But will the area ultimately be poorer for it?