Having grown up the grandchild of a mining engineer, it’s hard to avoid discussing the topic of being in a mine, from the processes to the devastating effects that they have, there always ends up being some debate on how MNCs operate and the responsibilities that they have. Canadian mining MNCs have been particularly offensive in this sense, almost always being associated to some extent with environmental or humanitarian disasters in the host countries that they operate in. Placer Dome, the Canadian mining firm based out of Vancouver that my grandfather worked for, is no exception to such allegations. In 1996, the Marcopper Mine majority-owned by Placer Dome suffered a fracture in one of their drainage tunnels, causing massive environmental damage to the island of Marinduque. Originally, Placer Dome took responsibility and was willing to cooperate for the cleanup from the disaster, but quickly pulled out of the project via divesting from the Marcopper Mining Corporation. In 2001, citing an agreement made with Marcopper, Placer Dome saw their selling of Marcopper as ending their responsibility for the cleanup of the mine tailings.
This change of heart by the company is particularly concerning when examined through the lens of corporate social responsibility. In particular, the fact that a firm would openly consider their responsibility ended the moment they sell their subsidiary in the host country reflects the attitude of many firms at the time. This tact that MNCs during this time took shows how, despite the immense power that they held, there is very little incentive for them to consistently aid in global governance. Nevertheless, these actions by Placer Dome did create positive change in terms of strengthening the Philippine Mining Act to ensure greater protection for the environment and the groups in close proximity to mining operations. Overall, based on examples like this, I find that it is hard not to see MNCs as wanting to be a part of the governance framework only when it is convenient. This notion is especially prevalent with regards to MNCs in extractive industries, as Shell just recently called for the Canadian oil lobby to support the imposition of a carbon tax, yet conveniently did so after divesting from the Alberta tar sands.