Friday, May 6, 2011

What You May Not Know About the Marlin Mine in Guatemala

From CAMIGUA (The International Coalition Against Unjust Mining in Guatemala):

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.

1 Goldcorp asserts that the administrative process initiated by the Guatemalan government to consider a possible suspension of the Marlin mine “is in compliance with the precautionary measures granted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).”

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,

In the US, Amanda Kistler, Center for International Environmental Law,