ArticlePDF Available
CJWL/RFD
doi: 10.3138/cjwl.31.1.01a
Resource Extraction and the Human
Rights of Women and Girls
Sara L. Seck and Penelope Simons
The relationship between women and resource extraction is complex and multi-
faceted. Women may work within the extractive industry or in jobs that support
or service the industry. They may be part of a community affected by resource
extraction and suffer differentiated impacts to those of men, which are either linked
to, among other things, their gender roles within the community, their intersectional
vulnerability to violence, or as activists and leaders resisting resource extraction.
Their roles and identities in their communities may change due to resource ex-
traction, and they may suffer inequalities in relation to accessing the benefits of
extractive projects.1
Large-scale mining and oil and gas development has historically been highly
gendered and deeply masculine. While there are an increasing number of women
working within these industries, whether as executives, employees, lawyers,
or business partners, globally, women remain under-represented.2 In large-scale
resource extraction, women are more likely to find work in “human resources,
communication, accounting [and] finance” rather than as managers and, as a re-
sult, have trouble advancing to executive roles.3 Even as it becomes more common
for women to be directly engaged in industrial mining, there is a need to address
structural issues so as to ensure gender equality and a safe and discrimination-free
workplace.4
10.3138/cjwl.31.1.01a
31
1
1. Katy Jenkins, “Women, Mining and Development: An Emerging Research Agenda”
(2014) 1:2 Extractive Industries and Society 329 at 330.
2. See e.g. Adriana Eftimie, Katherine Heller & John Strongman, “Gender Dimensions of
the Extractive Industries: Mining for Equity” in Extractive Industries for Development
Series #8 (Washington: World Bank, 2009) at 9; Clare Beckton & Umut Riza Ozkan,
“The Pathway Forward: Creating Gender Inclusive Leadership in Mining and Resources”
(2012) Centre for Women in Politics and Public Leadership at 18. This is not the case with
artisanal and small-scale mining. See Eftimie, Heller & Strongman, supra note 2 at 23.
3. Beckton & Ozkan, supra note 2 at 6. See also Raywat Deonandan, Kalowatie
Deonandan & Brennan Field, “Mining the Gap: Aboriginal Women and the Mining
Industry” (2016) Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council [forthcoming, pre-
print] at 8; Deanna Kemp et al, “Retention of Women in the Minerals Industry” in
Unearthing New Resources: Attracting and Retaining Women in the Australian Miner-
als Industry (Canberra: Australian Government Office for Women et al, 2011) at 22–23.
4. Jenkins, supra note 1 at 332.
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ii Seck and Simons CJWL/RFD
Other women from resource extraction-affected communities may be vocally
opposed to mining or oil and gas development projects, at times leading opposi-
tion to proposed projects that may have been approved without their consultation
or consent. Katy Jenkins points to a number of negative impacts of resource ex-
traction that differentially affect women and girls,5 including the contamination of
lands and water, its effect on biodiversity, and the increased burdens on women
and girls who may be responsible for food production or gathering and for finding
clean water or for caring for family members sickened by such contamination;6
gender specific health impacts of resource extraction;7 the displacement and loss
of local subsistence livelihood leading to high-risk lifestyles8 or changes in gender
roles within the community;9 and increased risks of violence against women due
5. Ibid at 332–36. See also Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt, ed, Gendering the Field: Towards Sustain-
able Livelihoods for Mining Communities (Canberra: Australian National University
Press, 2011).
6. See also Eftimie, Heller & Strongman, supra note 2 at 17–18; Tinyade Kachika &
Samantha Hargreaves, “Land and Food Sovereignty Undermined: Impacts on Peasant
Women” in Women, Gender and Extractivism in Africa Series, INDRA WoMin Project
Paper no 3 at 9–17; WoMin, No longer a Life Worth Living: Mining Impacted Women
Speak through Participatory Action Research in Somkhele and Fuleni Communities,
Northern Kawazulu Natal, South Africa (Johannesburg: WoMin African Gender and
Extractives Alliance, 2016).
7. See also Danellie Lynas, “A Good Business or a Risky Business: Health, Safety and
Quality of Life for Women Small-Scale Miners in PNG” in Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt, ed,
Between the Plough and the Pick: Informal, Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining in the
Contemporary World (Acton, Australia: Australian National University Press, 2018) 151
at 157ff.
8. See also Patricia Hamilton & Samantha Hargreaves, “Extractivisim’s Impacts on
Women’s Bodies, Sexuality and Autonomy” in Women, Gender and Extractivism in
Africa Series, INDRA WoMin Project Paper no 5; Isabel Cane, Amgalan Terbish &
Onon Bymbasuren, “Mapping Gender Based Violence and Mining Infrastructure in
Mongolian Mining Communities,” International Mining for Development Centre (May
2014) at 29–32; Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), “Indigenous
Women and their Human Rights in the Americas”, OEA/Ser.L/V/II. Doc. 44/17 (17 April
2017) at paras 99–102 <http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/reports/pdfs/ IndigenousWomen.
pdf> [IACHR, “Indigenous Women”]; IACHR, “Indigenous Peoples, Afro- Descendent
Communities, and Natural Resources: Human Rights Protection in the Context of
Extraction and Development Activities”, OEA/Ser.L/V/IL, Doc.47/15 (31 December
2015) at para 315 <http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/reports/pdfs/extractiveindustries2016.
pdf> [IACHR, “Indigenous Peoples”].
9. See also Meentje Simatauw, “The Polarisation of the People and the State on the In-
terests of the Political Economy and Women’s Struggle to Defend Their Existence:
A Critique of Mining Policy in Indonesia” in Ingrid Macdonald & Claire Rowland,
eds, Tunnel Vision: Women, Mining and Communities (Victoria: Oxfam Community Aid
Abroad, 2002) 35 at 36–38; Julia Byford, “One Day Rich; Community Perceptions of
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Vol. 31 2019 iii
to the influx of large numbers of mainly male workers or the presence of military,
police, or private security forces purporting to protect the extractive project in
question, among other things.10 An added complexity in this time of climate crisis
is whether it is even possible to reconcile the development of new oil and gas proj-
ects with any vision of a rights- respecting future, particularly one that is respectful
of the rights of vulnerable women and children who disproportionately experience
climate harms.11
While the experiences of women and girls in, and affected by, resource extraction
differ depending on the country and extraction contexts, all such ventures risk ex-
acerbating existing problems of gender discrimination and violence. Different and
increased burdens and challenges confront Indigenous women and girls,12 and other
the Impact of the Placer Dome Gold Mine, Misima Island, Papua New Guinea” in Mac-
donald & Rowland, ibid, 30 at 30–31; Konstantia Koutouki, Katherine Lofts & Giselle
Davidian, “A Rights-Based Approach to Indigenous Women and Gender Inequalities in
Resource Development in Northern Canada” (2018) 27:1 Review of European, Com-
parative and International Environmental Law 63 at 66.
10. See also Rebecca Adamson, “Vulnerabilities of Women in Extractive Industries” (2014)
2:1 Indian Journal of Women and Social Change 24; Cane, Terbish & Bymbasuren, supra
note 8; Ginger Gibson et al, Indigenous Communities and Industrial Camps: Promoting
Healthy Communities in Settings of Industrial Change (Victoria, BC: Firelight Group,
2017) at 22; IACHR, “Indigenous Women”, supra note 8 at paras 99, 105; IACHR,
“Indigenous Peoples”, supra note 8 at paras 318–21; Amnesty International, Out of
Sight, Out of Mind: Gender, Indigenous Rights and Energy Development in Northeast
British Columbia, Canada (London: Amnesty International, 2016) at 42–43 <https://
www. amnestyusa.org/files/out_of_sight_out_of_mind_-_report_eng_web.pdf>;
Human Rights Clinic (Columbia Law School) & International Human Rights Clinic
(Harvard Law School), Righting Wrongs? Barrick Gold’s Remedy Mechanism for Sexual
Violence in Papua New Guinea: Key Concerns and Lessons Learned (November 2015)
<http://hrp.law.harvard.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/FINALBARRICK.pdf>;
Penelope Simons, “Unsustainable International Law: Transnational Resource Ex-
traction and Violence Against Women” (2017) 26:2 Transnational Law and Contempo-
rary Problems 415.
11. Sara L Seck, “Revisiting Transnational Corporations and Extractive Industries:
Climate Justice, Feminism, and State Sovereignty” (2017) 26:2 Transnational Law and
Contemporary Problems 383 at 385–89; Sumudu Atapattu, Human Rights Approaches
to Climate Change: Challenges and Opportunities (New York: Routledge, 2016)
at 198–213; UN Women Watch, “Fact Sheet: Women, Gender Equality, and Climate
Change” (2009) <http://www.un.org/womenwatch/feature/climate_change/downloads/
Women_and_Climate_Change_Factsheet.pdf>.
12. See e.g. Deonandan, Deonandan & Field, supra note 3 at 14; Pauktuutit Inuit Women
of Canada, “The Impact of Resource Extraction on Inuit Women and Families in Qama-
ni’tuaq, Nunavut Territory: A Qualitative Assessment”, University of British Columbia
School of Social Work (January 2014); Ginger Gibson & Deanna Kemp, “Corporate En-
gagement with Indigenous Women in the Minerals Industry: Making Space for Theory”
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iv Seck and Simons CJWL/RFD
women and girls who face intersecting forms of discrimination and violence due
to their age, race, socio-economic status, able-bodiedness, and sexual orientation,
among other things. Yet some projects that are undertaken in accordance with best
practices and gender-aware community consent practices may offer opportunities,
irrespective of gender, for adults and children, and the communities in which they
live, to lead resilient livelihoods and futures in harmony with local environments.13
There has been a general failure to acknowledge gender-based discrimination
against, and gendered impacts on, women and girls associated with resource ex-
traction. States have widely ratified international human rights treaties and endorsed
instruments on the promotion and protection of women’s and girls’ human rights and
gender equality.14 They have also recognized the need to ensure gender equality, re-
spect, protection, and fulfilment of the human rights of women and girls, the empow-
erment of all women and girls as a central component of sustainable development,15
and have endorsed the social responsibility of business actors to respect all human
rights.16 With respect to the governance of transnational resource extraction, much of
in Ciaran O’Faircheallaigh & Saleem Ali, eds, Earth Matters: Indigenous Peoples, the
Extractive Industries and Corporate Social Responsibility (Sheffield, UK: Greenleaf
Publishing, 2008) 104; Ciaran O’Faircheallaigh, “Women’s Absence, Women’s Power:
Indigenous Women and Mining Negotiations in Australia and Canada” (2013) 36:11
Ethnic and Racial Studies 1789.
13. As there is increased demand for minerals to support clean energy transition, it is import-
ant that human rights respecting practices are adopted in the projects that do proceed. See
“Clean Energy Transition Will Increase Demand for Minerals Says New World Bank
Report”, World Bank Press Release no 005 (18 July 2017) <https://www. worldbank.
org/en/news/press-release/2017/07/18/clean-energy-transition-will- increase-demand-
for-minerals-says-new-world-bank-report>.
14. See e.g. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against
Women, 18 December 1979, 1249 UNTS 13 (entered into force 3 September 1981);
Convention on the Rights of the Child, 20 November 1989, 1577 UNTS 3 (entered
into force 2 September 1990); Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, Office
of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (1993) <https://www.ohchr.org/en/pro-
fessionalinterest/pages/vienna.aspx>; Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action,
UN Report of the Fourth World Conference on Women, UN Doc A/CONF.177/20 (15
September 1995).
15. Draft Outcome Document of the United Nations Summit for the Adoption of the Post-
2015 Development Agenda, UNGA, 69th Sess, UN Doc A/69/L.85 (12 August 2015) at
para 20.
16. See John Ruggie, Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing
the United Nations “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework, Report of the Special
Representative of the Secretary-General on the Issue of Human Rights and Trans-
national Corporations and other Business Enterprises, UNHCR, 17th Sess, UN Doc A/
HRC/17/31 (2011) <https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Business/A-HRC-17-31_
AEV.pdf>.
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Vol. 31 2019 v
the focus has been on the development of soft regulatory mechanisms and policies. In
some jurisdictions, governments have modified domestic mining and other resource
extraction regimes to address select human rights issues, such as consultation with
Indigenous peoples.17 Nonetheless, to date, most domestic laws and international
standards providing guidance for the extractive industry do not sufficiently integrate
a gender perspective, if they do so at all.18 As a result, there is an ongoing failure
to prevent associated violations of the human rights of women and girls, a lack of
attention to accountability and remedy for past gender-based harms, and a failure to
empower women and girls with meaningful choices about their futures.
This special issue of the Canadian Journal of Women and the Law / Revue Femmes
et Droit gathers a number of key articles that were presented at a conference at the
University of Ottawa in October 2017, entitled Resource Extraction and the Human
Rights of Women and Girls.19 The conference brought together scholars, other ex-
perts, and activists from across Canada and the globe to consider the multi-faceted
nature of women’s relationship to resource extraction. The contributions explore a
number of themes from different disciplines and draw attention to diverse issues and
perspectives and the complexities inherent in the relationship of women to resource
extraction. They also each examine the role of law within, or with respect to, this
relationship, whether it is the limitations of a rights-based approach, the state’s use
of criminal law and its coercive powers, the role of Indigenous laws in protecting
Indigenous women’s rights, the silences with respect to international human rights
corporate accountability norms for state and business actors, or the role of relational
concepts in carving out new understandings of law to address these challenges.
17. See e.g. Ontario’s Mining Amendment Act, SO 2009, c 21, amending Mining Act, RSO
1990, c M-14.
18. With regard to intergovernmental and global multi-stakeholder initiatives, see “Volun-
tary Principles on Security and Human Rights” (2000) <http://voluntaryprinciples.org>;
United Nations Global Compact, “The Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact”
<https://www.unglobalcompact.org/what-is-gc/mission/principles>; OECD Guidelines
for Multinational Enterprises (Paris: OECD Publishing, 2011) <http://dx.doi.
org/10.1787/9789264115415-en>. But see a recent exception, Annex C on Engag-
ing with Women of the OECD, Due Diligence Guidance for Meaningful Stakeholder
Engagement in the Extractive Sector (Paris: OECD Publishing, 2017) <http://dx.doi.org/
10.1787/9789264252462-en>.
19. We are grateful to the following sponsors of this special issue, and the conference and
policy meeting, held at the University of Ottawa: the Social Sciences and Humanities
Research Council; the International Law Research Program at the Centre for Interna-
tional Governance Innovation; the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University; and
the Canadian Partnership for International Justice, along with the University of Ottawa’s
Shirley Greenberg Chair of Women in the Legal Profession, Faculty of Common Law,
Human Rights Research and Education Centre, and Interdisciplinary Research Group
on Territories of Extractivism.
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vi Seck and Simons CJWL/RFD
Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt’s article, “Do Women Have a Right to Mine?” takes issue
with what she sees as the narrow perspective of the rights-based approach to women
and mining. Such an approach, she argues, tends to focus on the stereotype of the
woman as the victim of resource extraction and ignores the agency of women who
work within the industry. Drawing on two case studies of coal mining in Southeast
Asia, Lahiri-Dutt illustrates that such an approach is anti-feminist and incomplete.
Her article reminds us of the complexity of women’s experiences and the variety of
roles they can play in this context as victims, workers, leaders, beneficiaries, and
activists, among others.
In their article, Kalowatie Deonandan and Colleen Bell address state violence
against women anti-mining activists. Using Guatemala as an example, they build on
Lara Coleman and Kate Tucker’s concept of disciplining dissent20 to explore the use
of direct and indirect violence by the state to quash, delegitimize, and criminalize
those opposed to resource extraction in Guatemala. Their contribution brings into
focus the close state–business nexus in resource extraction and the ability and/or
willingness of the state to use its coercive power over its own subjects to support
such economic development.
Sarah Morales’s contribution underscores the failures of the international human
rights system with respect to Indigenous peoples and the importance of engaging In-
digenous laws and legal traditions, particularly in the context of resource extraction.
She grapples with both the victimization of Indigenous women in resource extraction
and their empowerment. She provides a detailed assessment of how international
human rights protections embedded within the United Nations Declaration on the
Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including rights to health and physical well- being,
property, culture, and to participate in decision-making, should provide protections
for Indigenous women yet, in practice, have failed. Ultimately, she argues that
Indigenous women must have opportunities to engage in decision-making around
resource extraction in accordance with Indigenous laws and institutions and so be
empowered to choose, or not choose, the path of resource extraction in accordance
with their own rights to self-determination.
Mona Paré’s article shifts the focus to the variety of soft international instruments
that address corporate behaviour and their adequacy in protecting vulnerable groups,
such as the girl child, from business-related human rights violations. She documents
the differentiated impacts that resource extraction can have on the rights of children
and, in particular, the intersectional implications for girls and evaluates the variety
of non-binding intergovernmental and multi-stakeholder initiatives that have been
developed to govern transnational business conduct as well as the policies of major
resource extraction companies. She finds that these instruments and policies not
only ignore the rights of women and other vulnerable groups but that children are
20. Lara Montesinos Coleman & Karen Tucker, “Between Discipline and Dissent” (2011)
8:4 Globalizations 397.
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Vol. 31 2019 vii
particularly invisible within them. Paré argues that a feminist approach to under-
standing the impacts of resource extraction on girls and all children would help
to reveal the multi-dimensional and intersectional nature of the violations of their
human rights and provide guidance on how best to address them.
Penelope Simons and Melisa Handl’s article builds on Paré’s observations with
respect to the gender gap in the international human rights standards developed for
corporate actors. The authors draw on Dorothy Smith’s work on institutional ethnog-
raphy and, in particular, feminist textuality to engage in a rigorous feminist analysis
of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UN Guid-
ing Principles), the most widely endorsed global instrument aimed at addressing
corporate impunity for harm caused by business activity. Taking violence against
women associated with resource extraction as an example, Simons and Handl ex-
amine the various levels at which women’s interests and women’s human rights are
reflected or ignored in these principles. They draw attention to the silences with re-
spect to women, point to the consequent institutional repercussions of the UN Guid-
ing Principles androcentricity and call for a holistic reimagining of these principles
to address these gaps.
In the final article, Sara Seck draws upon the work of ecological vulnerability
and Indigenous feminist theorists, among others, to argue that one key piece of the
quest for environmental, climate, and gender justice in the context of the extractive
industries is to reimagine constructs and legal tools through a relational lens. Diverse
relational approaches to legal analysis share a desire to shine the spotlight away from
the bounded autonomous individual of liberal thought and towards interdependent
relationships existing among people and the material world, including relationships
in the international sphere. Attention to relational law, she argues, enables us to align
concerns for local and global environmental and climate justice, including gender
justice, with respect for Indigenous laws and institutions. Ultimately, Seck argues
that we must guard against unconscious acceptance of structures that invoke the
bounded autonomous individual and, instead, actively seek relational laws and prac-
tices, whether in international law, human rights law, business law, and even envi-
ronmental law. In this way, we can reimagine legal tools to better prevent violations
of the human rights of women and girls in extractive industry operations and so
better avoid environmental and climate injustice on local and global scales.
Penelope Simons is an associate professor at the Faculty of Common Law and a
member of the Human Rights Research and Education Centre at the University of
Ottawa. She is also a member of the Canadian Partnership for International Justice.
About the Contributors / Quelques mots sur nos collaboratrices
Sara L. Seck is an associate professor at the Schulich School of Law and Marine
and Environmental Law Institute, Dalhousie University.
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... Another gap is the critical nexus of environmental and gender justice in context of extractive industries, an area that has not yet been adequately untangled. This gap is mentioned by Seck (2017Seck ( , 2019, and Seck and Simons (2019), who point out that "an added complexity in this time of climate crisis is whether it is even possible to reconcile the development of new oil and gas projects with any vision of a rights-respecting future, particularly one that is respectful of the rights of vulnerable women and children who disproportionately experience climate harms" (p. iii). ...
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But see a recent exception, Annex C on Engaging with Women of the OECD, Due Diligence Guidance for Meaningful Stakeholder Engagement in the Extractive Sector
United Nations Global Compact, "The Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact" <https://www.unglobalcompact.org/what-is-gc/mission/principles>; OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (Paris: OECD Publishing, 2011) <http://dx.doi. org/10.1787/9789264115415-en>. But see a recent exception, Annex C on Engaging with Women of the OECD, Due Diligence Guidance for Meaningful Stakeholder Engagement in the Extractive Sector (Paris: OECD Publishing, 2017) <http://dx.doi.org/ 10.1787/9789264252462-en>.