Canadian government invokes national security to block Chinese takeover of Nunavut gold mine


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In May, TMAC announced its deal with Shandong at a time when fear and anxiety in Canada over the coronavirus pandemic was reaching an initial peak, and much of the country remained closed.

As of June, 97% of TMAC’s shareholders, including its two largest, both based in Colorado and who together control 53% of the company, Resource Capital Fund and Newmont Corp., the world’s largest gold mining company, voted in favor of the sale.

But news of the merger came amid heightened tensions with China.

In December 2018, the RCMP arrested Meng Wanzhou, a permanent resident of Canada who is also CFO of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies Ltd., so that she could be extradited to US prosecutors who accused her of having violated sanctions against Iran, as well as the theft of trade secrets.

Shortly after his arrest, in what many Canadians interpreted as an act of retaliation, China arrested two Canadians accused of espionage: Michael Kovrig, an analyst at the International Crisis Group in Washington and a former diplomat, and Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur who had been living near the North Korean border.

People hold placards calling on China to release Canadian detainees Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, in Vancouver, in March 2019. Photo by Lindsey Wasson / Reuters files

Gordon Houlden, director of the China Institute at the University of Alberta, said he viewed the government’s rejection of Shandong’s purchase of TMAC as part of a trend of less investment by the China in Canada.

He played down national security concerns over a Chinese state-owned company that owns a gold mine in the Arctic, and said he believed a public backlash against China for the arrest of the “Two Michaels” had likely played a role in the government’s decision to block the deal.


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