Chinese Mining in Latin America
A Comparative Perspective
By Amos Irwin & Kevin P. Gallagher
The Journal of Environment Development
June 2013 vol. 22 no. 2 207-234
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Observers have expressed concern that Chinese mining companies operating in Latin America are more egregious violators of labor and environmental standards than other mining companies. Critics point to the case of one operation in particular—Shougang Hierro Peru—as evidence of China’s threat to Latin American labor and environment. Irwin and Gallagher combine archival research in Peru, personal interviews, and data analysis to examine the extent to which Shougang Peru is an outlier in labor and environmental performance relative to other foreign and Peruvian mining firms.
This paper finds that Shougang Hierro Peru has indeed established a poor labor and environmental record in Peru. However, a counterpart firm from the United States performed worse on many levels, and some Peruvian firms are not far behind. Such findings show that Chinese firm behavior should not be analyzed in isolation, especially in sectors such as mining where labor and environmental problems are endemic to the sector.
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The Global Development and Environment Institute’s Globalization and Sustainable Development Program examines the economic, social and environmental impacts of economic integration in developing countries, with a particular emphasis on the WTO and NAFTA's lessons for trade and development policy. The goal of the program is to identify policies and international agreements that foster sustainable development.