The activities of Canadian mining companies operating abroad are often carried out under the banner of bringing badly-needed development and democracy to impoverished regions of the globe. Many of these projects, however, can often lead to increased poverty, conflict and insecurity in communities near the mines. There have also been egregious violations of human rights and grave environmental damages documented at Canadian mines worldwide. As a result, numerous countries in the Americas and beyond have seen burgeoning grassroots resistance movements rejecting the presence of Canadian extractive projects on their territory — movements that are almost invariably rejected as illegitimate by industry and Canadian government representatives, and almost always repressed by host country governments.
Using critical discourse analysis and Foucault’s work on governmentality and biopower, this dissertation argues that discourses of democracy and development are increasingly being used to advance projects that are often fundamentally anti-democratic, destructive and exploitative, and that this represents a critical component of a nascent strategy by which neoliberal regimes of capital accumulation are advanced and legitimized today. Through discursive construction of Canadian mining regimes as purveyors of collective “development,” and strategic delegitimization of critics of Canadian mining activities as irrational, radical, dangerous threats to the betterment of society at large, support for the mine is galvanized and conflict surrounding the mine intensifies.
This argument is grounded in exploration of three case studies: two open-pit gold/silver mines owned/operated by Goldcorp — their Honduran San Martín mine and their Guatemalan Marlin mine — and the politics of land claims near a non-functioning Guatemalan nickel mine previously owned by Canada’s Skye Resources and HudBay Minerals. Further evidence for this argument is offered in two accompanying documentary films that I have produced, exploring these particular case studies. In demonstrating how foot soldiers are being enlisted into an army that defends the interests of Canadian mining companies and the neoliberal economic order that they proliferate and prosper from — despite the fact that local benefits may be negligible and the harms incurred can be severe — this dissertation seeks to shed light upon a broader dynamic of resistance/counter-resistance playing out globally in areas beyond resource extraction.