Unearthing Justice

Unearthing Justice

How to Protect Your Community from the Mining Industry

By Joan Kuyek


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The mining industry continues to be at the forefront of colonial dispossession around the world. It controls information about its intrinsic costs and benefits, propagates myths about its contribution to the economy, shapes government policy and regulation, and deals ruthlessly with its opponents.

Brimming with case studies, anecdotes, resources, and illustrations, Unearthing Justice exposes the mining process and its externalized impacts on the environment, Indigenous Peoples, communities, workers, and governments. But, most importantly, the book shows how people are fighting back. Whether it is to stop a mine before it starts, to get an abandoned mine cleaned up, to change laws and policy, or to mount a campaign to influence investors, Unearthing Justice is an essential handbook for anyone trying to protect the places and people they love.


Unearthing Justice is the most authoritative, valuable, and necessary book written about the mining industry in Canada. Mapping the industry from early financing to final cumulative impact, Kuyek provides communities with the tools and knowledge to challenge non-consensual development at every stage. Guided by decades of experience, she demystifies the complex financial and political institutions that underwrite the raid on Indigenous lands. Most of all, Kuyek’s dead smart analysis keeps you turning the pages to understand how an industry that literally drains the resources of the earth, our communities, and the public coffers has managed to sustain its spectacular growth and investment. The genius of Unearthing Justice is that it is devastating and empowering in equal parts.”

– Shiri Pasternak, assistant professor of criminology, Ryerson University, Research Director, Yellowhead Institute

“In Unearthing Justice, Joan Kuyek pulls into sharp focus the fuzzy ideas that shape most Canadians’ understanding of what it means to live in a ‘mining country’. For over a century, Canadians have largely accepted Canada’s mining practices without acknowledging the long-term costs. However, as Kuyek shows us, the threads of colonial violence that run through the fabric of Canada’s mining history reappear in modern-day Canadian mining projects from Vancouver Island to Guatemala to isolated northern Indigenous communities. Unearthing Justice provides the tools to prevent, disrupt, or reshape inherently destructive mining projects and put a true price on mining.”

– Tara Scurr, business and human rights campaigner, Amnesty International Canada

Unearthing Justice reveals the false equation between mining and prosperity in stories of mine disasters, toothless regulation, and environmental contamination. Kuyek illuminates the legal and financial contexts of mining development, providing practical advice to help readers challenge the promises and legacies of mining in their communities.”

– Dr. Rachel Ariss, Ontario Tech University

Unearthing Justice is absolutely essential reading for people in Canada and anywhere else the mining industry has been allowed to shape public policies that maximize profits, minimize taxes, and offload all the real, long-term environmental and health costs to citizens.”

– Joan Baxter, award-winning author and journalist

“This book is an invaluable resource for anyone who opposes the violence and waste of Canadian mining operations. While many studies have assessed the impacts of mining, Kuyek goes deeper in explaining how the mining industry works at every level, providing a richness of analysis that is uncommon and much-needed. This is an urgent and informative read.”

– Tyler Shipley, professor of culture, society and commerce, Humber College, author of Ottawa and Empire: Canada and the Military Coup in Honduras

“Joan Kuyek has written an excellent book, describing in layperson’s terms all aspects of mining, from exploration to reclamation, as well as the laws, operations, and financing of the mining industry. Even though I have worked with two Indigenous communities to stop mining exploration, I didn’t understand the whole process or industry. This book provides clear advice how to hold the mining industry in check and how to stop a mine. I highly recommend this book for anyone having to deal with potential or existing mines.”

– Russ Diabo, Kahnawake Mohawk, Indigenous policy analyst, editor and publisher of the First Nations Strategic Bulletin

“Kuyek thoughtfully weaves together facts with her own experience and immense wisdom to expose what the mining industry would prefer stay buried. A community organizer renowned for her knowledge of mining in Canada and abroad, Kuyek reminds us of the many brave people who have resisted, sometimes triumphantly, destructive extractivism.”

– Tracy Glynn, activist, instructor, critical development studies, University of New Brunswick

“Joan Kuyek is an authority when it comes to researching and organizing against destructive mining projects. This book provides a detailed understanding of many different types of mineral extraction and shares strategies for opposing them. Filled with dozens of examples drawn from decades of experience, this book is essential for understanding this powerful industry.”

– Sakura Saunders, co-founder, Mining Injustice Solidarity Network

“A very informative and disturbing book. Unearthing Justice shines a light on how Canadian mining companies operate and how Canadians and the environment end up suffering as a result. More to the point, it outlines how to oppose mines, how to force mining companies to improve their operations, and how we as Canadians can hold these corporations accountable for their actions.”

– Lewis Rifkind, Mining Analyst, Yukon Conservation Society

“This book is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the mining industry. Kuyek’s experience and analysis shine through the stories she tells.”

– Jamie Kneen, co-manager, MiningWatch Canada

“A clear and helpful overview of the mining industry from a Canadian perspective that includes powerful observations regarding colonial violence, perpetual care, and sacrifice zones.”

– Jen Moore, former Latin American Coordinator for MiningWatch Canada

“Kuyek cuts to the on-the-ground realities of mining, revealing industrial formulas and ongoing systemic colonial approaches. Her insight and experience shed light on a new path forward for empowered communities facing mining today.”

– Nuskmata (Jacinda Mack), Nuxalk Nation Mining Advisor

“When it comes to offering support to communities fighting against mines and the international mining industry, there’s no one I know who’s quite like Joan Kuyek. She combines a sophisticated researcher’s nose for how and where to find the information that will increase the odds of stopping a mining corporation in its tracks with a grassroots organizer’s strategic savvy for how best to help endangered communities fight to preserve what’s theirs. In Musicians United’s work to help stop the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, Joan’s knowledge and experience were one of our most important assets. In Unearthing Justice, she shares her lifetime of earned experience and hard won knowledge. This book will help rebalance the scales of justice in favour of people and communities.”

– Si Kahn, civil rights, labour, and community organizer and musician; co-founder, Musicians United to Protect Bristol Bay

“When a mining company comes to your town it brings its imperialist ideology, its private militia, its army of lawyers, its lobbyists, its public relations experts, its tax haven-connected accountants, and the various levels of government it has purchased. It will threaten your community’s living conditions, its ecosystems, its agriculture, its security, and its culture. You will have to pour all of your energy into an entirely uphill battle. But Joan Kuyek’s book reminds you that your community is not nearly as alone or as isolated as it may seem, that bonds of solidarity are as possible as they are necessary. Above all, her book shows us why we must tear down the institutions that make Canada a legal and regulatory haven for the global mining industry.”

– Alain Deneault, co-author of Imperial Canada Inc.: Legal Haven of Choice for the World’s Mining Industries


Foreword by John Cutfeet
Introduction Mining and Community Resistance in Canada
Part I What Mining Looks Like
Chapter 1 The Physical Footprint of a Mine
Chapter 2 The Mining Sequence
Chapter 3 Key Environmental Impacts
Part II What It Costs
Chapter 4 Mining and Colonialism on Turtle Island
Chapter 5 Social Impacts
Chapter 6 Working in the Mining Industry
Chapter 7 After the Mine: Closure and Long-Term Care
Part III Profits from Loss: Industry Structure, Financing, and International Presence
Chapter 8 The Structure and Financing of the Mining Industry in Canada
Chapter 9 Canada’s International Mining Presence
Chapter 10 Externalizing Machines: Ecological Economics
Part IV Justice or Just Us? Regulation and Enforcement
Chapter 11 The Mining Lobby
Chapter 12 Canadian Mining Law and Regulation
Chapter 13 Why Taxation Matters
Chapter 14 Notes on Uranium
Part V How to Put Mining In Its Place
Chapter 15 Stopping a Mine Before It Starts
Chapter 16 Dealing with an Operating Mine
Chapter 17 Organizing When the Mine Is Gone
Chapter 18 International Solidarity Work
Chapter 19 Taking on the Company and Its Investors
Chapter 20 Scaling up: Work to Change Law, Regulation, and Policy
Chapter 21 Creating a New Story: Putting Mining in Its Place