Hollywood star visits Afghanistan to shine light on UN demining campaign

30 June 2010The actor Jeremy Renner, who shot to fame playing a bomb disposal expert in the Academy Award-winning film The Hurt Locker, has wrapped up a five-day visit to Afghanistan to highlight the real-life efforts of the United Nations to remove landmines from the war-scarred country. Mr. Renner, whose Afghan trip ended earlier this week, toured UN de-mining projects in Kabul, Bamyan and Bagram, took part in an education session with high school students, spoke with survivors of explosions and even ventured on to a minefield.Afghanistan remains plagued by mines, despite the ongoing efforts of the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) and the Mine Action Coordination Centre of Afghanistan (MACCA), as a result of decades of conflict. Nearly 7,000 separate mines or other hazards are estimated to still exist, and last year and average of 40 people were killed or injured by landmines or other explosive remnants of war – a figure that represents a significant decrease on the numbers of previous years.So far this year UN de-miners have cleared or cancelled 63 minefields and three battle areas, destroying more than 11,000 anti-personnel mines, over 400 anti-tank mines and nearly 400,000 explosive remnants of war in the process. Yet new hazards continue to be found each year.The so-called Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty requires total clearance by a target date of 2013, but at this stage only 39 per cent of the hazards have been removed.Mr. Renner said he saw first-hand the benefits of the UN’s activities, particularly in former minefields where farmers are now growing wheat, potatoes or other crops.“I’m a man of action and that’s why I like what the United Nations is doing here, action – mine action. We are not just talking about it, but taking action to solve this problem,” he said. “I’m here to be educated and then educate people about an issue that can be solved with the proper levels of funding.” read more

BC Haisla First Nation ink deal aimed at fasttracking natural gas exports

VANCOUVER — The B.C. government has struck a deal with the Haisla First Nation that the province says could help fast track a liquefied natural gas plant near Kitimat, B.C.The agreement would allow the purchase or lease of land that will enable the Haisla to work with the industry to develop both the plant and an export terminal on Douglas Channel.Aboriginal Relations Minister Ida Chong says the deal is the key to unlocking a whole new natural gas export industry in B.C.The government has committed to having three terminals running by 2020, and says the plan could create more than 1,400 jobs and generate $600-billion in economic activity over three decades.[np-related /]The agreement follows an announcement earlier this week from Spectra Energy and a British company on plans to build a natural gas pipeline from northeast B.C. to the coast, joining a throng of companies aiming to export Canadian natural gas to Asia.Premier Christy Clark was also in Hong Kong earlier this week pitching the potential of B.C.’s natural gas exports.The Canadian Press read more