Mining.com reports that Canada has been spying on Brazilian mining:
Brazilian television OGlobo aired Sunday night a program showing that U.S. National Security Agency contractor, Edward Snowden, leaked documents that reveal Canadian spy agencies tracked the country’s Mines and Energy Ministry e-mails and phone calls.
Based on those records, OGlobo said Canadians also spied on the ministry’s phone communications to other countries, including the Ecuador-based Latin American Energy Organization (OLADE).
Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff tweeted Monday that the spying was “unacceptable among countries that claim to be partners.” She added she would demand answers from Canada about the allegations.
No answers are forthcoming, so we are free to speculate.
Why would Canada, or any part of the government thereof, want to spy on the Brazilian Mines and Energy Ministry?
Are they trying to find other ways of regulating mining? I know too little about Brazilian mining regulations to decide if Canada could find anything that, by way of regulation, could hurt or help the Canadian mining industry. I suspect any practices imported from Brazil to Canada to “better regulate” mining would be to our detriment.
Or is Canada looking to establish the Canadian equivalent of Vale and is seeking spying insight from Brazil?
Maybe the Canadian government simply wants to know more about Vale’s intentions and practices before allowing them to buy Canadian mining assets? Did we spy on the Australians and hence block BHP from buying mines in a socialistic province where free-market practices would have been to the detriment of the few?
A worse thought is that the results of spying were fed to Canadian mining companies who are seeking to open mines in Brazil. Think how nice it would be to know in advance what the regulators think of your application to open a new mine.
Or maybe favorite Canadian investors were fed early information about Brazilian decision re mines that Canada invest in. But a few seconds ahead of the crowd and you could make a killing on the Toronto stock exchange.
Last week I was in meetings with Brazilian mining consultants. They are smart and skilled. Even though they are better than we in some regards, I cannot imagine why Canada would seek to steal mining technology from the Brazilians. Surely personal contact and conferences are a better way to learn from each other?
Although, I cannot but wonder if there was a hidden microphone in our meeting room. Imagine some mining specialist in Ottawa listening in, making transcripts, and disseminating our discussions to his favored clients? All for his and their profit.
I find the whole idea repellent. There is no security issues involved are there? Surely the Brazilian mining regulators are not plotting to come blow up Canadian mines or undercut prices? Well Russia is doing that, so maybe justifiable commercial concerns are at the basis of the reported spying.
I have never seen anything coming out of the Canadian government that would indicate they have learnt anything from Brazilian mining practices and plans. But the Brazilians are coming, along with the Chinese, so spy in the hopes of learning how to repulse them.
The only possibility is that the Canadian government is spying to get information to help Canadian investors in Brazil. But if that is the case—I can only shudder at the ethical and other implications. Ley us hope my imagination is too wild, and that there is another valid reason for spying on other countries mining ministries.
PS. Or is this, as has just been suggested to me, yet another example of a crazy young computer kid: working for a government agency; over-funded; undermanaged; and keen to display his ability to hack networks? Either way, all Canadian miners owe an apology to all their Brazilian mining colleagues.
PPS. At this link is a report on demonstration in Chile about indigenous right to the land and the right of mine o come mine. Much the same issue that has racked Canadian mining for years and where the tide appears to be turning in favor of Native Peoples. They report reads in part:
This week I’m joining thousands of other Quilombola and indigenous people on the streets of Belém, a city in the northern Pará State, to take part in a three-day protest to highlight the Brazilian government’s unnecessarily long bureaucratic delays in granting Quilombola communities legal title to their own land.
This is an ongoing problem that often leaves communities like mine without formal title to the land. That, in turn, leaves the door open to big business to undertake potentially environmentally damaging exploratory work, with potentially devastating consequences for our way of life.
This is exactly what is happening now here in Oriximiná. Bauxite producing mining company Mineraçao Rio do Norte (MRN) – its key shareholders include FTSE 100-listed BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto Alcan, which between them own nearly a quarter of the company – has recently started exploratory work on the land where we live.
A little spying by Canada on what the thinking is in Brazil’s mining authorities minds would be useful: both for dealing with native rights here in Canada and for helping mining companies decide how to respond.
PPPS. The local newspaper that I read today in Edmonton starts the front page report thus: “Canadian security official and mining companies were skeptical Monday over claims Canada had spied on Brazil’s mining and energy departments.”
One official said: “Like any crime drama, you look for capability and intent. Could CSEC do Brazil? Of course, it has significant capability to collect intelligence in the national interest. But on motive, you come up way short. If it was Iran, nobody would be surprised. But this is Brazil. I am really short on motive.”
P4S. Maybe this is the reason for all that spying. Here are extracts from a report that seems to me to get to the essence:
In 2007, Brazil announced it had discovered the largest oil patch to date on its territory.
The Libra Oil Field is estimated to contain between eight billion and 10 billion barrels of oil. That’s enough to keep oil platforms busy for 100 years and make it the largest known deposit outside of OPEC countries.
Brazil decided its largest energy company — Petrobas — likely needs help to properly exploit the resource, so it has proceeded with a plan to auction off the rights.
The Department of Mining and Energy is in charge of the auction.
With an oil deposit this large, Brazil was expecting about 40 companies from around the globe to take a shot at landing the contract.
But when registration closed on Sept. 19, only 11 companies had signed up and paid the deposit of 2.1-million real (the Brazilian currency, or almost $1 million).
The largest of those were Chinese companies — including CNOOC and Sinopec — and Malaysia’s Petronas. Canadians may be familiar with these companies because all have made moves to invest in Canada’s energy sector in recent years.
What had market analysts scratching their heads when registration closed, though, was the companies that didn’t apply: Exxon, Chevron, BP — some of the world’s largest petroleum producers took a pass on the project.
When contacted, the companies said they wouldn’t publicly discuss their business decision-making process.
So, we are left wondering why not one energy company based in the U.S., U.K., Canada, New Zealand or Australia is participating in an auction for what is billed as the largest oil find in 40 years.
And how they got the information on which they based their decision.
We do know that Canadian energy sector stakeholders regularly meet with Canadian government officials to discuss security and threats to the energy infrastructure.
The classified briefings take place every six months at the offices of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and are attended by representatives of many government agencies including CSIS, RCMP and CSEC.
The stated purpose of the meetings is “to discuss national security, criminal intelligence, threat risk assessment and to share energy-related classified intelligence.”
One of the briefings’ chief organizers has said publicly that the get-togethers also provide an opportunity for energy stakeholders to develop relationships with other participants and have “off the record” conversations with them.
The condition being: they tell no one where they obtained their information.