Declarations of the Colombian Minister of Environment about the need to change its mining licenses to be competitive with Peru are a slap in the face to the environmental reforms that have been done recently in Colombia.(1) Peru can’t be used as a reference for mining development even if the ciphers of the investments from US and China seem a great deal for the Inca Nation. Colombian Ministers should not be comparing their country’s poor mining development with Peru, a country that is compromising its environmental assessment process. This is especially the case considering the ethical problems related to the extermination of Colombia’s forest, rivers and, the slaughtering and displacement of its native communities.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was conceived originally as a tool to safeguard the environment in developments while balancing economic viability and positive social impacts (2). However, Latin American nations have shown problems with EA procedures. Peru, the nation that was pointed out by the Colombian Minister, has several examples of poor development of the baseline(3). In the Conga mine assessment, for instance, there was not a comprehensive study of the area, and the communities were severely affected. Mining residues have been polluting the water from the region leaving huge devastation.(4) Unfortunately a poor baseline inhibits mitigation and follow-up mechanisms, bringing deplorable consequences. The lack of comprehensive baselines can annihilate communities and their environment.

Peru has been called the best place in Latin America to invest in mining (7). Even with a gigantic growth of 400% during the last decade and a GDP expansion of 2.4% during 2014 (5) Peru has nothing to envy in terms of sustainability. One of the most catastrophic examples of this ravage mining is at The Madre de Dios, a southern region in Amazonas. With demolishing practices mining in Madre de Dios has destroyed more than 50,000 hectares, leaving a yellow stain of sulfur in the middle of the jungle in 2012.(6) The best place to invest in mining is not the best place for the environment.

There is evidence that an indiscriminate exploration of the land is ravaging the native population of Peru (7). Multiple deadly riots are part of the news in the country. The impact of flexible legislation is represented in hundreds of people and children displaced to other parts of the forest or the cities. There are high levels of child labor, inhumane conditions for the miners, plus  most of the populations that live in nearby areas present very high levels of mercury in their blood(6).  All of this in spite of Peru’s efforts to incorporate the informal miners into the legal mining industry. This problem has increased over the last years caused by the increasing price of gold and the government’s mis-management because of the gold rush (4).

The gold fever seems to be attracting the Colombian Minister of Mines. It seems that he needs a reminder of the consequences that Peru is battling, and how unmanageable the gold fever became for Peru. Colombia is not ready for a bigger development in this sector. There are not conditions to preserve its natural resources. There should not be a proposal from the Mines Minister to change mining legislations. He should be talking about strengthening and enforcing the actual labor mining conditions in order to protect the communities and environment that, after irresponsible development, are in most cases impossible to restore.

Video :




1.Chacon, J. (2015, January 18). Debacle minero se abre camino. Retrieved January 18, 2015, from


  1. (2007, November 2). Retrieved January 10, 2015, from

3.Environmental Impact Assessment Review 30 (2010) 247–261Environmental impact assessment in Colombia: Critical analysis and proposals for improvement Javier Toro a , Ignacio Requena b , Montserrat Zamorano c. ⁎


4.Scientist Calls Peru Conga Mining Project an ‘Environmental Disaster:’ Interview with Reinhard Seifert. (2012, May 1). Retrieved February 10, 2015, from


5.Finally, Good News for Mining in Peru: Ricardo Carrión and Alberto Arispe. (2014, June 3). Retrieved January 19, 2015, from

6.Gold-Mining In Peru Is Much Worse Than Anyone Thought. (2013, October 28). Retrieved January 19, 2015, from


7.Superneau, L. (2015, February 1). Peru usurps Chile as best Latin American country for mining investment. Retrieved February 15, 2015, from

Pushing the Ideas of a Green Economy: Methods for Evaluating Ecosystem Services and Natural Capital

Decisions are founded on simplistic cost-benefit principles and for the better part of human existence, this shallow approach has led us to the staggering seven billion people sharing this one Planet. Unsurprisingly, this caused us to surpass four of our nine planetary boundaries, also known as thresholds in which this Planet is safe for human life.

Planetary boundaries according to the paper by Rockström et al. published in Nature 2009.

This information is made widely available, but is generally ignored by decision and policy-makers. Science has now turned to its lacklustre cousin, economics, to solve the world’s issues, under the umbrella of a Green Economy. It seems that when an ecosystem service can be pegged with a price tag policy makers begin to shift in their seats. Organizations like TEEB are at the forefront of these initiatives, translating the benefits of our natural world into dollar signs with huge success. The Institute for European Environmental Policy refines this idea in practice through its presentation titled Nature and its role in the transition to a Green Economy. A shortcoming is addressed as the efforts for assessing ecosystem value are heavily diluted as we move up the Benefits Pyramid. They state that:

  • There must be a clear understanding of the value of nature and how to take this value into account in public and private decisions in light of the multiple benefits it provides. This is one of many ways of assessing the role and importance of nature.
  • It is important to understand that identifying the value of nature does not suggest that it should have a cost or a price or be traded in the market and hence commoditized.
  • Furthermore, an economic valuation does not necessarily imply a policy response using market-based instruments; there are many instruments that can be used to reflect the values of nature.

Benefits Pyramid

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) can greatly benefit from incorporating natural capital by bringing forth the much needed economic dimension of ecosystem services. According to Noble (2010), scoping is designed to delineate the “key issues and the boundaries to be considered in the assessment”. After the initial scoping phase, impact prediction, evaluation, and management become the crux of the EIA process since they contribute to environmental protection plans. Natural capital can be integrated at the onset of the EIA process as an economic indicator highlighting the importance of ecosystem services. The question you should be asking is: How do I calculate natural capital for EIA?

Henceforth, this will be Dillon Crosilla and my contribution to the ‘science’ of economics and its implications for EIA. The inspiration for an equation comes from Risk Analysis as explained by Peter Sandman and the many initiatives put forth by TEEB. The equation is based on calculating a Return on Investments (ROI) by incorporating natural capital through ecosystem service.

The Return on Investment formula according to Investopedia:

The goal of the following section is to encapsulate the Benefit Pyramid into one economic indicator. The process of evaluating impacts to ecosystem services is based on the degree of change from a natural state (magnitude) followed by the anthropogenic viewpoint that boils down to ‘how much do we care about that change’ (outrage). Next we can add the actual risk these changes may have (hazard). It does not have to stop there; natural capital can encompass the entire range of variables.

Natural Capital =

Hazard * Magnitude * Outrage * Hazard * Extent (Temporal and Spatial) * Degree of Reversibility * Likelihood to Occur * Nature (Direction of Change)…

The best part of this equation is how it can be modified to integrate whatever ecosystem services could be impacted by adding them all together. Natural capital, in this case, is meant to encompass the full value of an ecosystem. Our (simple) modification is based on adding a measure for natural capital to the equation of ROI to better reflect the loss of ecosystem services due to the proposed project’s impacts.

ROI =  (Gain From Investment – Cost of Investment) ÷ (Cost of Investment + Natural Capital)

Going forward would mean that this idea is put in practice and used as a measure for decision making. There exist plenty of other ways to gauge environmental impacts and many more ways of understanding ecosystem services and hopefully this minor contribution can solicit a different take on the EIA process.



Institute for European Environmental (2014) Nature and its role in the transition to a Green Economy. Policy. Accessed February 1st, 2015 from:

Noble (2010). Introduction to Environmental Impact Assessment – A Guide to Principles and Practice. Oxford University Press, Second Edition, Canada, 2010

There May Still Be Hope for Coral Reefs

Coral reefs, often referred to as the rainforests of the oceans, are the most diverse of all marine ecosystems. One quarter of all the oceans’ species depend on reefs for either food or shelter. It is noteworthy to mention that they only cover one percent of the Earth’s surface and less than 2 percent of the bed of the ocean. Coral reefs are very important to our economy: the value of coral reefs has been estimated at around 30 billion US dollars. They provide food, jobs based on ecotourism and even medicine. (Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History).

Unfortunately, we humans pose the greatest threat to coral reefs. “The threats faced by these extremely diverse and fragile ecosystems are numerous and difficult to control. In addition to weather-related damage, pollution, ocean acidification, coral mining, disease, overfishing and destructive fishing practices, coral reefs are subjected to the negative effects of global warming—increasing sea surface temperatures lead to coral bleaching, a process that makes corals become bone white and often die.” (Attanasio, 2014).

Established in 1984, the Abbot Point Coal Terminal is one of Queensland, Australia’s major coal export terminals. After conducting an Environmental Impact Assessment, the Australian Government has approved the expansion of the terminal. They reportedly found no significant impacts on the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. The project originally involved a 3 million cubic meters dredging of the seabed and dumping of the sediments within the Great Barrier Reef Park boundaries. According to the Australian Marine conservation Society, dredging is the act of cutting away or lifting at sucking up the seafloor and dumping it somewhere else. It is undertaken to allow large ships to have easier access to the port. Dredging destroys the seabed and contaminants can be suspended in the water as a consequence, causing a widespread of impacts. A different dredging site in Queensland, Australia impacted corals 12 kilometers away from the dredging site. (Greenpeace, 2007). Recently, the dumping site was changed. The sediments will now be dumped in the Caley Valley Wetlands near the terminal. (Fight for the reef, 2015)


Source: Peter Broelman

A study conducted by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and the Australian Institute of Marine Science, has found that the suspended sediments from dredging “double the frequency of the diseases afflicting the corals”. They can even lean them to suffer from white syndrome: a condition that destroys the corals completely. Joe Pollock, the lead author of the study explains “White syndrome is like if your flesh fell off at the fingertips leaving just bone, and then kept going on up your arms and then the rest of your body.” (The Guardian, 2014), and the destruction of the corals will have a ripple effect up the food chain.


Source: Green Humour

According to Australian Marine Conservation Society and Greenpeace, the public consultation regarding this project was cut short and the public’s outrage was neglected.

A similar case is found in Miami, Florida, where corals are removed, either to be transplanted to an artificial reef a mile south to where they were originally or by blowing them up, to create a wide passage “in hopes to attract larger cargo ships into its port after an expansion of the Panama Canal”, as reported by the International Business Times. But researchers from the University of Miami have found large colonies of healthy corals along the channel. These colonies are important since their resilience could offer insight that could save the coral reefs. These corals could be the ideal research project to figure out how they have adapted and how corals around the world could possibly adapt to the ever-changing environment.


“In The Turf War Against Seaweed, Coral Reefs More Resilient Than Expected”. Science Daily. June 3, 2009.

Attanasio, Roberta. The global decline of coral reefs: Is there hope for Recovery?.July, 2014.

Jabour, Birdie Great Barrier Reef authority approves dredging and dumping to expand port. January,2014

EPA Water.

Dumping of dredge spoil approved by Great Barrier Reef authority. January, 2014.

Fight for the Reef campaign.

Boom Goes The Reef. Greenpeace. 2007.

Corals and coral reefs. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society.

Ross, Philip. Massive port Miami dredge project ‘Wiping out’ vast coral field. June, 2009.

Alvarez , Lizette. Researchers Race to Save Coral in Miami. June, 2014.

International Coral Reef Initiative.

Age of Crises

Whether it is the most recent financial crisis, political instabilities or never ending environmental disasters, life in the 21st century has become a succession of calamities one after the other. This is further complicated by the fact that globalization has intertwined our economies to the extent that a crisis in one part of the planet could severely affect communities halfway around the world. The most recent drop in oil price is a perfect example of this interconnectedness.  Recent changes in the output production of oil, made by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), have devastated the province of Alberta among other places. According to Alberta premier Jim Prentice, “Things have turned so dramatically that we’ve gone from a $1.5-billion surplus in November to what looks like a $500-million deficit based on today’s projections”(CBC News, 2014). In the face of such overwhelming challenges, not to mention the ever loom global crisis of climate change, many are beginning look to themselves and their local communities for long term viable alternative to meet their most basic of needs. One such approach has been the application of permaculture as a means of becoming self-sufficient and self-reliant.

So, What Exactly Is Permaculture?

The term was first coined by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the mid 1970s who saw the need to drastically change the way things were done. Their concerns grew from the understanding that our monocrop production methods, global environmental degradation and wasteful consumption habits were not sustainable and would eventually lead us to certain doom. Thus they came up with permaculture which was a meddling of “permanent agriculture” and “permanent culture” (Greyson, 2007). Permaculture can be defined as “the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive systems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of the landscape with people providing their food, energy, shelter and other material and nonmaterial needs in a sustainable way” (About Permaculture, n.d).


Example of how permaculture can save the world

The second permaculture principle is energy cycling (Principles, n.d) and is concerned with the recycling of energy by capturing and storing this energy for use on site. The idea here is to mimic natural systems as close as possible so that energies that follow through a site can be utilized to perpetuate life. For example in nature, in autumn when leaves fall from a deciduous tree, they return back into the system through decomposition providing nutrients to insects and microbes. If we can recreate these natural cycles through permaculture design, then we can establish a system in which energy is cycled efficiently and requires minimal input.


Permaculture is catching on and it is spreading around the globe. Some people are going it alone and others are cooperating. So before you decide to surrender and give in to the world as it is today, give permaculture a try. What do you have to lose?


CBC News. Alberta now facing $500M deficit due to dropping oil prices. (2015, January 9).

Retrieved, from

Grayson, R. (2007, July 26). A short and incomplete history of permaculture. Retrieved, from

About Permaculture. (n.d). Retrieved, from

Principles. (n.d). Retrieved, from

EIA and oil and gas in Libya

By Itad Shiboub

First, I would like to thank the members of Eni North Africa – Libyan Branch for all their efforts exerted to preserve the environment and the strategic plans for the development of Libya. Also I would like to thank the Managing Director of the Company for his encouraging words concerning the 2009 Eni North Africa sustainability report. However, many people have been asking for inquiries to be made. Eni, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2009, only managed to hold a single workshop in all those years! Why didn’t the company seek to protect the environment and strive for sustainable development in the past years?


How can the company be talking about building clinics and working on the restoration of archaeological and historical sites in its report while it is destroying or damaging human lives and the environment at the same time?  Naturally all the activities and projects presented are useful and needed, but there are priorities that must be dealt with by this company and other companies. These priorities consist of maintaining quality of life for human beings and preserving the environment.


I know that the company’s gas pipeline projects includes a pipeline that extends from the field Alwfa to Italy. On this pipeline there is a station called Mellitah, it’s located between Sabratha and Zuwarah.  This recent project involves building a station that emits gas in a residential area and results in unpleasant odors. Furthermore, studies have shown that these emissions cause a high increase in the abortion rate in the area.  Some of the obstacles faced in realizing sustainable development stem from the former regime and its policy in the fight against development. However, the ultimate responsibility lies with the companies that pollute – whether it be in Libya or elsewhere.  There needs to be accountability for their actions.  The international community, General Assembly of the United Nations and OPC need to raise global awareness of companies from the developed world who operate irresponsibly in the developing world.  The actions of companies such as Eni North Africa will affect both the North and the South, including Libya.  All local and international organizations and citizens of the world need to cooperate to avoiding or mitigate such human tragedies and ecological disasters. Everyone has to be involved and accelerate their effort, especially those who don’t feel concerned, are indifferent or who stay silent while the world is being destroyed.


The insane regression of the EIA process for in situ oil sand projects in Alberta

Oil sands industry in Alberta is an extensive and intensive development which is economically primordial for Canada but it has damaging impacts on the surrounding environment. Therefore, to regulate and mitigate these impacts, oil sand projects are subjected to environmental impact assessments.


Location of Alberta’Tar sands

Source:  Alberta Geological Survey

Prior to October 2013, projects of in situ oil sand extraction were subjected to both federal and provincial EIA but now, only provincial EIA remains. The federal government claims that they made this decision because they wanted to concentrate their effort towards “major projects that have the greatest potential to generate negative environmental impacts under federal jurisdiction, such as impacts on waterways, and other projects would not be “unduly burdened” with extra work” (CBC news, 2013). They further argue that this type of project has less negative impact on the environment. But are the government actors really aware of the reality? Because if they are, they would know that these projects are especially responsible for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada, habitat fragmentation and water pollution. And there are still leaks and accidents related to oil sands projects, such as the one polluting the Cold Lake in northeast Alberta in 2013. So, the truth is that these projects have tremendous impacts on the surrounding environment and federal EIAs will be a great help, as a complement to a provincial EIA, to better identify and assess their environmental impacts. But the government and decision-makers don’t seem to have the same opinion…

Yet, there were some previous cases where federal and provincial EIA didn’t get to the same conclusion, as for the case of the project of Taseko Gold-Copper Mine at Fish Lake in British Columbia. First, as the organization Ecojustice explains in 2012, this project was approved by the provincial government but then a federal EIA was conducted and experts found that this project would adversely impact fish habitat and First Nations in particular and therefore the federal government rejected it.

Federal EIA is primordial and necessary for projects such as in situ oil sand extraction, as the leader of the New Democratic Party, Thomas                                                                                 Mulcair, explains in this video:


In addition, a report released in 2013 by two environmental groups shows that about 4,000 violations of environmental laws committed by oil sands projects since 1996 were not punished by the government of Alberta. According to Global News (2013), it means that “Alberta’s enforcing fewer than one per cent of potential violations in its oilsands region”, which is outrageous and inconceivable considering the environmental impacts that these projects have.  Moreover, Thomas Muclair argues that even the Alberta’s Environmental Department focus its effort to hush the critics towards oil sand projects by preventing environmental groups to assist at reviews and public participation concerning oil sand operations. Therefore, I really doubt that the true intentions of the government of Alberta are to protect the environment and the ecosystems from in situ oil sand projects. Until last year, the federal government could interfere and conduct their own EIA for projects of in situ oil sand extraction, to detect any problems or failures in the provincial EIA process, and possibly fix them. But the fact that this type of project had been removed from the list of projects requiring a federal EIA is completely absurd, because now the environmental protection against oil sand projects in Alberta only depends on the provincial government. Thus, it is concerning news for the well-being and the future of Alberta’s ecosystems, and a sign that the environmental protection is regressing in Alberta.



CBC news. (2013). New environmental review rules anger oilsands critics.


Ecojustice. (2012). Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.



Global News. (2013). Alberta enforcing fewer than one per cent of oilsands environmental violations: Report. Montreal.


Human Rights and Small Nations Environmental Impact Assessment

by Paula Cortes

The constantly changing world direction in politics and economy and the speed given by new technologies are continually modifying human lifestyle, environmental conditions and life perspectives. Many human rights (HR) have been transformed through the last century; rights have appeared, as the right to vote for women or to go to school in some countries. The primary meaning of a right is what it is given, and it seems natural to people; like natural events as the right to be born, to have a nationality or the right to water (1). In the history of human rights, changes and challenges happen every day. Women, for example, saw the modification of their rights the last century, those rights that now females possess were different in 1930. There wasn’t a baseline for female participation in politics 80 years ago. After this simple example of transformation, I wonder what is going to be the baseline in terms of water, air, or land rights in the future? Can big projects such as the construction of a dam or a tar sands operation exterminate a small nation’s lands and culture?


In 2011, leaders of the world with the UN released the guide to human rights in EIA and management (1). One of its aims was to determine under which circumstances it should be used; it targets what they have called the umbrella of rights. The guide recommends that it be used as an instrument for numerous cases where human rights   are compromised: such as weak governance zones; areas where human rights are poorly implemented, and areas with high environmental and social risks (1).  It presents steps to follow under different situations in projects and shows how to implement fair approaches in HR. It has a clear structure an it offers detailed mitigation examples for HR when they have been impacted. It also has HR identification exercises that can be applied to real cases. The use of the guide is optional for those cases when human rights are under threat.


HR in EIA and management are meant to protect, and provide protection for human and natural resources, they shouldn’t be treated as low-value items expecting to be considered as an option. Developing countries shouldn’t be left in a marginal situation. The weakness of their governments normally does not guarantee protection for small communities, especially for the ones that are isolated. Human rights have been notably forgotten during the implementation and decision of many environmental projects in Canada, as well as in Latin America in countries like Peru, Colombia and Ecuador in addition to other countries across globe. In Canada, for example, the First Nations were isolated for years. They did not participate in projects for years before the James Bay agreement. In the Ecuadorian Amazon, the communities were ignored, and their rights over their lands not recognized for almost 50 years, leaving people without access to potable water and with very poor soil conditions. The use of a guide of Human rights should be a frame for EIA’s and in the management of natural resources. It should also be part of international protocols and agreements.

It is well known that there are gaps in the approaches and assessments in the management of human rights (1), as well as in EIA projects (2). Therefore ensuring mega projects adhere to  real regulations in terms of the future human conditions and sustainability should be mandatory for big corporations and companies in all countries. The inclusion of all of a community’s needs, principles and cultural backgrounds should always be addressed in the execution of the EIA’s for new projects. Human rights are an issue today in many countries around the world, but how is this going to change in the next century? Are future generations of an entire nation at risk for what big companies have left them, in terms of land, environment and rights?



  1. Guide to human rights impact assessment and management, 2011 . International Business Leaders Forum, the International Finance Corporation, and the United Nations Global Compact.
  2. International study of the effectiveness of environmental assessment. Final report. Environmental assessment in a changing world. Evaluating practice to improve performance, prepared by Barry Sadler. CEAA and IAIA. June 1996
  3. Environmental Assessment in Canada: Encouraging decisions for sustainability pg 478 in in Resource and Environmental Management in Canada Bruce Mitchell Oxford University Press.
  4. Bram, Noble 2010. Applying adaptive environmental management pag 458 in Resource and Environmental Management in Canada Bruce Mitchell. Oxford University Press .