The Canadian International Resources and Development Institute (CIRDI)–previously called the Canadian International Institute for Extractive Industries and Development (CIIEID)–is a project originally mandated by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)– now rolled into the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Development (DFATD), headquartered at the University of British Columbia (UBC), and governed and operated by UBC, Simon Fraser University (SFU) and the École Polytechnique de Montreal (EPDM).

The original $24.6M funding from DFATD is to set the Institute up and run it for five years. It’s expected to have found income from the universities and industry to keep it running after that. The below chart shows where most of CIRDI’s funding comes from. See also this partial list of Letters of Support from CIRDI’s partners, hard-won through Access to Information legislation.

$45.7 million promised cash and in-kind contributions from CIRDI's partners

$45.7 million promised cash and in-kind contributions from CIRDI’s partners

The Institute is beginning work especially in the Andean region – a key region for Canadian interests – particularly in Colombia and Peru.

UBC describes the objectives of this Institute as reducing poverty and promoting good governance in developing countries by sharing Canadian expertise on resource extraction.

According to the Acting Executive Director of the Institute, Prof. Bern Klein, CIRDI will “deliver to national governments” and will not work with industry. He describes the Institute as “independent” and to help national governments with “mineral, oil, and gas resource potential but not necessarily…experience…in knowing what are the best practices”.

In describing the Institute when it was announced, the then-Minister in charge of CIDA, Julian Fantino said that “[t]his institute will help developing countries reap the benefits of their natural resources, and also benefit Canadian companies in fair, transparent, and foreseeable regulation in the extractive sector” (emphasis added).

In one of the initial press releases for CIRDI (then CIIEID) in 2011, the Prime Minister’s office said:

The…[Institute] will undertake policy research to identify best practices in extractive sector management for individual countries, and arrange technical assistance for governments and communities in developing countries through a partnership between the Federal government, Canada’s private sector and Canadian civil-society organizations.


[The Institute] complements the Government of Canada’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)Strategy for the Canadian International Extractive Sector, announced in March 2009, and Sustainable Economic Growth Strategy, announced in 2010.

The objective of the Strategy is to improve the competitive advantage of Canadian international extractive sector companies by enhancing their ability to manage social and environmental risks.” (emphasis added)

For a critical perspective on Corporate Social Responsibility, and the “Building the Canadian Advantage” and “Sustainable Economic Growth” policies please see here and here.

Objectives and governance

According to a brief prepared for the UBC Board of Governors,

Through collaboration with in-country partners or participants, the Institute will engage in capacity building in policy, legislation, regulatory development and implementation, training, technical assistance and applied research related to the developing country’s extractive sectors.

The Institute will focus on three priority areas for programming: Governance Processes, Integrated Resource Management, and Economic Development and Diversification.

Four integrated activity centres were initially established: Advisory Centre (UBC), Applied Research Centre (UBC/EPM), Engagement and Dialogue Centre (SFU), Learning and Education Centre (SFU/UBC), but these have been rolled into Program Areas (see below).

According to this brief from the Institute, “A non-governing Advisory Council, comprised of non-governmental organization, industry, and government representatives will ensure consideration of the multiple views of stakeholders, and provide advice on international business development in relation to extractive sectors as well as direction and strategy for initiatives undertaken by the Institute.” (emphasis added)

Program Areas

PA#1. Sustainable development and governance of the extractive sector

According to CIRDI’s website, they’ll “work with national governments to develop sustainable legal, fiscal, environmental and technical frameworks for resource extraction; share tools and information to build the in-country capabilities to monitor and enforce effective frameworks; and develop and implement best practices for industry sustainability affecting all systems and stakeholders.”

…so they’re going to fiddle with other countries’ mining codes…

PA#2. Transformation of artisanal and small-scale mining

A technical program area. According to their website, CIRDI hopes to “provide training programs on [artisanal & small-scale mining]-related topics; enhance local awareness of artisanal mining issues; conduct needs assessments on environmental, social and health impacts; and review how ASM can better contribute to the livelihoods of those involved in the sector.”

PA#3. Multi-stakeholder integration of extractive projects in communities

Here’s a good one… CIRDI leadership says they’re going to “develop local and regional capacity to manage extractive-sector activities from a community perspective; align resource development with community- and regional-development activities, addressing shared land and water, and public health and well-being; and support research on current mining issues that will inform policy makers and lead to better management of the risks associated with resource extraction,” and that it’ll be done “through dialogue and engagement with stakeholders.”

And yet they endorse an October 2014 National Post article by tweeting “Rise of ‘social licence’: Claiming they speak for their community, protest groups are undermining the law” but offering no critique, not even of the article’s conclusion that the answer is to diminish the influence of “social license,” or consent, for an extractive sector project.

With CIRDI tweeting junk articles like this, we get a hint of their politics on what “dialogue and engagement with stakeholders” might look like.

PA#4. Economic diversification of local supply chains

Poor countries and needy organizations will supposedly receive support from CIRDI to develop “inclusive growth through local enterprises; assist governments in the effective development of local procurement facilities, and local and regional mechanisms; enable extractive-sector companies to partner with local business, transferring skills and creating jobs; and develop value-added downstream industries.”


West Africa: Governance strengthening program of the extractive sector in the UEMOA region (PA#1)

In partnership with a commission of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo), to develop a ‘Joint Action Plan’ to “significantly improve the ability, effectiveness and results of member governments in using their extractive sectors to stimulate diversified economic growth and development of local markets.” They claim that their Joint Action Plan  “will lead to reduced poverty and creation of sustainable livelihoods for local people.

Colombia: Building legislators knowledge and skills for better governance of the extractive sector in Latin America (PA#1)

A project actually run by strategic partner Parliamentary Centre, it’s designed to “establish a long-term, local, sustainable mechanism to address gaps in the knowledge and capacity of legislators and related stakeholders regarding governance of the extractive sector. The initial activity will gather key congressional stakeholders, experts and parliamentarians in the region to discuss the challenges of the extractive sector and the role of Congress in developing a legal framework for sustainable development of the extractive sector.” Colombia is the program’s first target, to be templated to other Latin American countries afterward.

DRC: Higher education program reform in the Democratic Republic of Congo (PA#1)

Already under way, this program will somehow “reinforce national education capacity to offer programs that respond to both industry needs and national development priorities in the mining sector,” and will “review existing engineering education programs and propose new programs that are better adapted to modern industry requirements.”

International: International learning and engagement awards program (PA#1)

In April 2014 the ILEAP program brought 23 “decision makers, practicioners, and leaders from across sectors with responsibility for implementing mineral development initiatives in their respective countries and organizations” from government, NGOs, and academic institutions in 8 countries to Vancouver for a six-day “learning and engagement” program. It addressed the “leadership skills needed to implement sustainable mineral development.”

Mongolia: ‘Study mission’ (PA#1)

Oh boy. In May 2014, a delegation of un-named members of “Mongolia’s NGO, civil society, academia and government” visited Canada, and met with CIRDI. According to CIRDI, they talked about “ integrated resource management, foreign investment laws, procurement policies, governance, economic diversification, finance and taxation, transparency and accountability, and mine closure,” and were taken on a tour of a nice mine near Kamloops, BC.

Colombia: Agro-mining training centre–AMTC (PA#2)

Collaborating with Colombian government jurisdictions and the National Learning Service, CIRDI touts the AMTC as a center that “will train professionals in formal mining and artisanal mining industries,” claiming its own role will be in the “assessment of collaborators, educational curriculum, a sustainable business model, and the organization of the centre in the field and within the Government of Antioquia.”

Ecuador: International training centre for artisanal mining–ITCAM (PA#2)

Evidently already underway, CIRDI website claims the group is supporting Ecuador’s government in the creation of ITCAM, which is “expected to become a world reference on the use of cleaner technologies and well-structured business practices for artisanal miners.” We wonder if CIRDI’s really involved, since artisanal mining expert Marcello Veiga has very publicly parted ways with the institute.

Peru: Inclusive growth, collaboration practices and the role of universities as a development partner (PA#3)

In another experiment they hope to template to other countries, CIRDI hopes to strengthen some Peruvian universities’ “capacity to partner and by improving links between extractive sectors and the regional economy.” They claim this will “contribute, in very practical ways, to enhancing local governance and inclusive market-based approaches to growth.” Is someone warning the Peruvians?

Mongolia: Health impact assessment curriculum development and capacity building (PA#3)

Here’s a bit of a paternalistic one. CIRDI claims to “enhance governance of the extractive sector in Mongolia through increased capacity to embed health impact assessment (HIA) processes and evaluation within the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process.” Further, to ensure Canadian values are imprinted on future decision-makers and technical teams, CIRDI’s program will include “curriculum development in HIA methodologies, design and delivery of a capacity building educational program, preparation of best practices in HIA for application in Mongolia, and documentation in a case study report.

Southern Africa: Inclusive socio-economic development in the southern African region (PA#4)

Wrap your head around this one. First try is in Zambia, partnering with CARE Canada and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, of course to be templated to five other countries in the region. CIRDI literature claims to “strengthen the administrative and fiscal capacity of government authorities and facilitate multi-stakeholder dialogue platforms.” Is this just some kind of project to gain that elusive ‘social license’ for their industry clients?

Strategic Partners

CIRDI has over 60 strategic partners which will be engaged with its activities. These partners include law firms, extractive corporations, NGOs, industry associations, representatives of foreign governments, and other academic institutions.

Here is a report about the human rights and environmental records of the strategic partners.

Initial funding from Strategic Partners was initially valued at $4.3 million; from the Letters of Support we’ve accessed through Freedom of Information requests, all told, that’s somewhere around $21 million now.

Why are universities involved in this?


As part of UBC’s “Place and Promise” plan, UBC wants to “strengthen its role in international development”, and “increase the number of CIDA… projects”.

Additionally, as part of the plan’s goal for UBC to “increase the quality and impact of UBC’s research and scholarship”, CIRDI is listed as an example of the expansion of UBC’s “globally influential areas of research excellence”.

Again, according to the UBC Board of Governors brief on the Institute, one of the benefits to UBC that is discussed is how “Reputational benefits will lead to new development and fundraising opportunities from Industry (mining, oil & gas) for the Institute but also more broadly for UBC” (emphasis added).

University contributions

UBC is set to provide the Institute with $3.39 million cash and $3.3 million in in-kind contributions over five years. In addition, one of the possible funding sources for its $1.7 million yearly operating budget is tuition.

SFU will provide CIRDI with $4.15 million of in-kind contributions over five years.

EPDM will provide $1.3 million of in-kind contributions over five years.

Stephen Harper's CIRDI Mining Institute at UBC and SFU: unaccountable to the universities