Canadian mining and ill health in Latin America: a call to action


This commentary argues that Canada’s public and global health communities have a special ethical and political responsibility to act to reverse the harms associated with Canadian mining activities in Latin America and beyond through advocacy, research, and using their public voice. We begin with an overview of the direct and indirect health effects of mining, drawing especially on Latin America where 50-70% of mining activity involves Canadian companies. Then we examine the judicial, legislative, financial, and diplomatic contexts that make Canada such a welcome host and champion of the mining sector. Finally, we turn to the responsibility of the public and global health communities, offering concrete recommendations for using research, practical expertise public health solidarity networks, and political clout to speak out and advocate for policies that redress the harms caused by mining.


Ce commentaire présente le point de vue que les communautés de santé publiques et globales du Canada ont une responsabilité morale et politique en vue d’agir au travers de leur plaidoyer, de leur recherche, et de leur voix publique – pour défaire les dommages générés par les activités de l’industrie minière canadienne en Amérique latine et ailleurs. Nous commençons en offrant une vue d’ensemble des effets directs et indirects sur la santé causés par l’extraction minière, soulignant spécialement le contexte latino-américain, là où de 50 % à 70 % des activités minières impliquent des compagnies canadiennes. Nous examinons aussi les contextes judiciaires, législatifs, financiers, et diplomatiques qui font que le Canada est un hôte bienvenu et un champion du secteur minier. Finalement, nous nous retournons vers la responsabilité des communautés de santé publique et globale, en offrant des recommandations concrètes afin d’utiliser la recherche, l’expertise pratique, les réseaux de solidarité de santé publique, et le poids politique afin de redresser les torts causés par l’industrie minière.

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The research for this article was carried out as part of the work of the University of Oslo Independent Panel on Global Governance for Health, with partial financial support from the University of Oslo. However, the views expressed are exclusively those of the named authors.

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Correspondence to Anne-Emanuelle Birn.

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Birn, A., Shipton, L. & Schrecker, T. Canadian mining and ill health in Latin America: a call to action. Can J Public Health 109, 786–790 (2018).

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  • Mining
  • Public health
  • Latin America
  • Business
  • Social determinants of health
  • Extraction and processing industry


  • Industrie minière
  • Santé publique
  • Amérique latine
  • Canada
  • Secteur privé
  • Déterminants sociaux de la santé
  • Industrie extraction et transformation