Tuesday, May 31, 2011
By Grahame Russell, May 2011
Not surprisingly, Goldcorp Inc. did not agree, at its annual general meeting in Vancouver (May 18, 2011), to a shareholder’s resolution to suspend the “Marlin” mine in Guatemala, as ordered by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights.
In defiance of this binding suspension order, Goldcorp continues to mine gold and silver in Guatemala; huge profits continue to flow north to company directors, shareholders and millions of other investors across North America.
Neither government of Guatemala or Canada has done anything to ensure respect for the suspension order. The OAS (Organization of American States) has again shown its weaknesses, doing nothing to insist upon respect for the suspension order.
A GOOD (NECESSARILY LONG-TERM) STRUGGLE
This is not a failure of education and activism work to put a stop to a long list of environmental and health harms, acts of repression and other human rights violations caused directly or indirectly by Goldcorp’s two open pit/ mountain-top removal, cyanide-leaching mines in Guatemala and Honduras.
THE ENORMITY OF GLOBAL INEQUALITY & IMPUNITY
Rather, it is a reminder of the enormity of the challenge of ending the impunity and immunity from legal accountability with which mining companies operate around the world and of transforming an often-times unequal and unjust global economic order. This impunity and immunity exist not only for mining companies, but also for many global industries producing fruits, ethanol based bio-fuels, oil and gas, textiles, tourism sites, dams, etc.
Moreover, this impunity and immunity are not narrow legal issues (ie, a lack of enforceable laws); rather, they are broad political, economic and social issues.
Reflecting on a struggle, now 7 years old and counting, to put an end to and hold Goldcorp accountable for harms, repression and other violations at its mines in Honduras and Guatemala, I find two major learning points.
Firstly, this is part of a long-term struggle to transform the often-times unjust and unequal global economic order. Goldcorp is a normal mining company operating in a normal way that brings huge benefit to some, and causes huge suffering to others. It is the very global economic model that needs transformation, with its inherent inequalities and injustices both inside and between nations.
Secondly, this remains an urgent struggle to reform laws in Canada and the USA so that enforceable environmental and human rights standards attach to all corporate and investor activities, whether at home or globally.
Any person or community from around the globe should have the right to file civil suit, or demand criminal proceedings in Canada and the USA if and when their rights and well-being are violated or harmed by Canadian or American corporate or investor actions.
The Goldcorp struggle is just one more example of the need to break the North American wall of impunity and immunity from legal accountability.
While Goldcorp continues its mining operation in San Miguel Ixtahuacan, Guatemala, generating great profits and harms, it is worth high-lighting that this struggle has served to inspire other communities across Guatemala, and elsewhere in Central America, to take actions (holding community based consultations; doing community education work; organizing peaceful resistance; etc) to stop mining in their communities before it starts.
DETERRING OTHER COMPANIES
This increasingly well-known struggle serves as a cautionary note and partial deterrent to other companies that, like Goldcorp, would love to operate mines in Guatemala or Honduras where there is little mining oversight intention or capacity, and where the companies leave no more than 1% of profits in country. Almost all the profits flow north, while all the harms, repression and other violations remain in these countries of the global south!
PUTTING A DENT IN THE IMAGE OF “CANADA THE GOOD”
Canada has long marketed the image of “Canada the good”, a peace-maker country giving “aid” to the poor. As Goldcorp and other Canadian mining companies continue to cause harms, repression and other violations in countries across Latin America and the globe, the veneer has been taken off this myth.
UNREGULATED GLOBAL INVESTMENTS
This struggle has served not only to better educate Canadians and Americans about what some of our corporations are doing elsewhere, but also of how our own investments are often benefiting from unjust, harmful corporate activities.
Many more Canadians and Americans now know that they are (via pension funds, private funds and even “ethical” funds) invested in Goldcorp - and in a long list of global companies -that can and do cause harms, repression and other violations as part of their corporate operations, and that there is no direct way to hold our investment institutions accountable to even a minimum set of environmental or human rights standards. Over and over, we are reminded that our investment managers have one fundamental responsibility and fiduciary duty – to maximize profits!
A CANADIAN/ AMERICAN PROBLEM
Essentially, this struggle to hold Goldcorp accountable has served to educate North Americans that our governments and ourselves, as investors and consumers, are ultimately the enablers and beneficiaries of these often times unjust and harmful corporate and investor activities.
WHAT TO DO
"There are no magic answers, no miraculous methods to overcome the problems we face, just the familiar ones: search for understanding, education, organization, action ... and the kind of commitment that will persist despite the temptations of disillusionment, despite many failures and only limited successes, inspired by the hope of a brighter future."
Until we bring about legal, political and economic changes in Canada and the USA, companies and investors from our countries will continue to operate in ways, across the planet, that often benefit from harms, repression and other violations.
Slowly and steadfastly, more and more Canadian and Americans must get involved in this, and similar, global corporate struggles.
Support for local groups:
It remains imperative to directly fund and otherwise support community based groups in the mining affected communities who are leading the work (often at risk of repression) to put an end to the harms and violations. Delegations of concerned North Americans (including politicians, journalists, donors) must continue to visit the families and communities being harmed by mining, to learn from them, and to build direct solidarity alliances and partnerships.
Follow the money:
As stated above, whether we know it or not, most North Americans are invested in Goldcorp and many more companies that directly and indirectly cause harms, repression and violations around the world. North Americans should investigate whether their own pension fund, private investment fund and/or “ethical” fund is invested in Goldcorp (let alone a list of other controversial companies and industries) and then start demanding the implementation of binding environmental and human rights standards to all investor activities.
As policy, the governments of Canada and the USA work endlessly to expand North American investor and corporate interests across the planet, more often than not turning a blind eye to harms, repression and other violations that our investments and companies sometimes cause. This makes the harms, repression and violations our issues, and we need to hold our governments accountable to uphold the highest environmental and human rights standards in all of our international dealings.
Our media usually relegates corporate and investment issues to the business and financial sections of their coverage, more often than not ignoring the environmental and human rights impacts of businesses and investments. Across North America, we need to keep on challenging our media to properly do their jobs.
LA LUCHA SIGUE / THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES FOR ‘ANOTHER WORLD IS POSSIBLE’
Thank-you to all organizations and people who are involved in on-going efforts to hold Goldcorp accountable for the harms, repression and other violations it is causing and benefiting from, and who are involved, more broadly, in on-going efforts to create a just and equal global order.
We look forward to continuing this struggle over the years to come with people and organizations in Guatemala, Honduras, Canada and the USA.
Grahame Russell, Rights Action
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Goldcorp Asks Shareholders to Ignore International Consensus to Suspend Operations at its Marlin Mine in Guatemala
May 19, 2011
Jennifer Moore, Latin America Program Coordinator, MiningWatch Canada
Tel: 613-569-3439, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kris Genovese, Senior Attorney, Center for International Environmental Law
Tel: 604-220-4009, email@example.com
Goldcorp Asks Shareholders to Ignore International Consensus to Suspend Operations at its Marlin Mine in Guatemala
Vancouver—After a year in which every major human rights body has called for the suspension of the Marlin mine in Guatemala, on Wednesday Goldcorp asked its shareholders to trust its judgment instead. Six percent of shareholders voted in favour of a resolution presented at the company’s Annual General Meeting that would bring Goldcorp into compliance with international law, including an order by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued in May 2010.
Goldcorp CEO, Charles Jeannes, defended his company, citing its support for a new measure to regulate consultation of indigenous peoples in Guatemala.
“Indigenous organizations in Guatemala have roundly condemned the proposed administrative decree to regulate consultation,” comments Benito Morales, attorney with the Rigoberto Menchú Tum Foundation in Guatemala City, who attended the AGM today. “The government has put forward the decree to ensure that mining is able to continue in the face of over 50 local plebiscites in which roughly a million people have voted against mining in the Guatemalan countryside.”
Jeannes also referred to the company’s plans to implement recommendations from a human rights assessment it commissioned, and a new human rights policy that the company adopted in October 2010.
“What is your human rights policy worth if you disregard the findings of international human rights bodies?” asks Francois Guindon with the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala.
“Goldcorp said that it will no longer report on its implementation of recommendations from the human rights assessment,” remarks Wyanne Sandler of the Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network. “Also, many of the most important recommendations have not been implemented, such as posting a sufficient financial guarantee to ensure adequate funds for mine closure.”
Vice President of Corporate Affairs David Deisley argued against voluntary implementation of the IACHR recommendations, saying that affected communities or civil society organizations concerned about Goldcorp’s operations should enter into dialogue with the company.
“Dialogue requires trust,” says Jen Moore, the Latin America Program Coordinator for MiningWatch Canada, “but when the company is actively lobbying against the implementation of recommendations of human rights bodies, while ignoring the results of independent scientific studies that provide evidence of serious impacts on water supplies and local health, that trust has not been earned.”
“It is just as important to comply with international law as it is to comply with tax law,” said Kris Genovese, Senior Attorney with the Center for International Environmental Law in Washington D.C. “This case could not be any clearer. The mine must be suspended.”
Friday, May 6, 2011
The continued operation of the Marlin mine is in contravention of the precautionary measures issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in May 2010.
What Goldcorp isn’t saying: The recommendations of the IACHR are binding on Guatemala, which should have resulted in the immediate suspension of the Marlin mine.
The IACHR did not ask the government of Guatemala to open an administrative process to investigate the merits of its recommendations, but rather to suspend the mine to prevent irreparable harm while pending complaints are properly investigated. The measures were issued not only to ensure the health and safety of the communities, but also due to the severity of underlying human rights allegations.
2 Goldcorp asserts that the Guatemalan government is carrying out an administrative procedure that “involves a thorough investigation of the Marlin Mine.”
What Goldcorp isn’t saying: Goldcorp is relying on studies that have not been made public and were conducted by agencies without the capacity to do them.
Of 23 studies referenced by the Government of Guatemala, not one has been made public. Goldcorp’s own Human Rights Assessment found “a lack of capacity and limited experience [by the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (MARN) with the issues required to enforce environmental standards in the mining industry.”
3 Goldcorp asserts that based on government information, “there has been no harm to human health or damage to the environment as a result of the operation of the Marlin Mine.”
What Goldcorp isn’t saying: Goldcorp is ignoring independent scientific studies.
Physicians for Human Rights found “some residents living near the mine have relatively high levels of lead in their blood and arsenic in their urine.” Belgian researchers at the University of Ghent found evidence to indicate that the Marlin mine is depleting surface waters and drawing arsenic- rich groundwater to the surface.
US-based E-Tech International found that water in the tailings impoundment did not meet IFC effluent guidelines in 2006 for cyanide, copper and mercury being 3, 10 and 20 times IFC guidelines, respectively.
4 Goldcorp asserts, there is “…no existing danger to the life or physical integrity of the population and definitely no possibility of irreparable harm.”
What Goldcorp isn’t saying: Peoples’ lives are at risk. Threats and intimidation against human rights defenders have been on the rise since the mine opened.
Impacts are not only on water. Amnesty International issued three urgent actions about the Marlin mine since 2010, including for the attempt on the life of a known activist.
5 Goldcorp asserts that a multi-stakeholder roundtable dialogue is an example of its contributions to human rights advancement in Guatemala, saying the process is addressing the petition before the IACHR as well as development issues.
What Goldcorp isn’t saying: The IACHR did not convene this dialogue, nor is it the appropriate forum to address the petition.
The dialogue table does not include diverse voices. It does not include all the legal representatives for the petitioners or those who oppose the mine.
6 Goldcorp asserts that Guatemala’s decision to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative is another step ahead for human rights.
What Goldcorp isn’t saying: The importance of this revenue transparency initiative is in its implementation, which has been poor.
EITI ensures the verification and publication of revenues member governments receive from oil, gas, and mining. Joining is only the first step; compliance can take years. This initiative does not verify compliance with human rights standards, nor has it prevented socio-economic conflict in other parts of the region where it is being adopted.
7 Goldcorp asserts that Guatemala’s proposal for a law to regulate consultation of indigenous peoples also advances human rights.
What Goldcorp isn’t saying: The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has criticized this law as another violation of indigenous rights.
As a result of having failed to consult with indigenous peoples in Guatemala over the design of this law, tensions within the country are being further aggravated rather than being addressed.
8 Goldcorp asserts that it “strives to continuously improve its performance in all aspects of its business, and believes that many positive results have been achieved, particularly with respect to the Company’s respect for human rights.”
What Goldcorp isn’t saying: Goldcorp is selectively responding to recommendations, avoiding crucial issues such as land acquisition and adequate consultation.
Goldcorp is not implementing key recommendations from its own Human Rights Assessment, such as “to halt all land acquisition, exploration activities, mine expansion projects, or conversion of exploration to exploitation licenses, pending effective State involvement in consultation with local communities, and agreements put in place with communities to structure future land acquisitions.”
Goldcorp should voluntarily comply with the recommendations of the IACHR and voluntarily suspend the Marlin Mine. It should also halt all land acquisitions, exploration activities, mine expansion projects, or version of exploration or exploitation licenses, until it complies with international law.
For more information, contact:
In Canada, Jennifer Moore, MiningWatch Canada, firstname.lastname@example.org
In the US, Amanda Kistler, Center for International Environmental Law, Amanda.email@example.com
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
SIGN THE PETITION:
The Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board currently has $256 million worth of shares in Goldcorp, the company that operates the highly-contested Marlin mine in Guatemala’s western highlands. In May 2010, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued precautionary measures urging that the mine be suspended in order to ensure the health and safety of affected communities, and as a result of the severity of alleged underlying human rights violations regarding the lack of consultation and consent from local indigenous peoples. Almost a year later, the Marlin mine continues operating; intimidation and threats persist against those who are critical or outspoken against the mine.
Shareholders have presented a resolution to Goldcorp asking the company to voluntarily suspend operations at its Marlin mine in compliance with the precautionary measures. The proposal comes in the wake of violent confrontations at the mine site and highlights the increasing national and international press focus on this issue.
Through your pension payments, Canadians help finance Goldcorp’s operations and alleged human rights abuses in the Americas.
Please take action today to tell the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board to vote for the shareholder resolution.