GOLDCORP IN GUATEMALA: DESPITE THE DESPITES, the struggle for human rights and the environment continues
By Grahame Russell, Rights Action co-director, September 22, 2010
Tensions mount again, as Goldcorp tries again to expand its “Marlin Mine” into the Mayan-Mam community of Sacmuj (municipality of San Miguel Ixtahuacan, department of San Marcos, near the Mexican-Chiapas border).
Despite years of investigations (by local groups, national and international NGOs, the International Labor Organization and Organization of American States) documenting environmental and health harms and other human rights violations caused by Goldcorp’s “Marlin” mine in western Guatemala,
Despite calls from local, national and international organizations to suspend the “Marlin” mine and undertake a complete and impartial human rights and environmental assessment,
Despite Sacmuj community resistance to the expansion of Goldcorp’s mine onto their lands in June 2009, that resulted in the burning of company equipment and the laying of trumped up criminal charges against impoverished villagers (this incident is documented in the film “The Business of Gold in Guatemala: Tale of a Conflict Foretold”),
Despite the attempted assassination of a Sacmuj villager in July 2010. Two local men – a former and an actual employee of Goldcorp’s “Marlin” mine – shot Diodora Antonia Hernandez Cinto in front of her isolated rural home. The bullet entered her right eye, and exited by her right ear, leaving her blind in that eye; she remains in stable condition, recovering from the operation and has not yet returned home,
Despite the fact that no justice has been done for the attempted assassination of Diodora Antonia Hernandez Cinto,
Despite the fact that the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights has ordered the government of Guatemala and Goldcorp to suspend the mining operation, which they refuse to abide by, … .
Despite all the despites, Goldcorp is again trying to expand its mining operation in the lands of the small community of Sacmuj, and the vulnerable, poor villagers continue to resist – in defense of their lives and environment.
September 20, 2010
STATEMENT OF THE COMMUNITIES & FAMILIES AFFECTED BY GOLDCORP’s “MARLIN MINE” & OF FREDEMI (SAN MIGUEL IXTAHUACAN RESISTANCE FRONT)
TO: Milton Saravia, General Manager, Montana Exploradora SA (subsidiary of Goldcorp Inc.) and his team of managers
RE: Violation of human rights in the community of Sacmuj
Dear Mr. Saravia,
We are writing you to express our concern and overwhelming condemnation of your failure, as General Manager of Montana and as well the failure of all your managers and of your workers employed in the area of the Marlin Mine, to respect the right of all the local community to oppose the mine.
We refer, in particular, to families living in the village of Saqmuj, where Montana has resumed its operations in a climate of threat to the people who live in that community.
Mr. Saravia, you are fully aware of the legal process [of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights] which obliges you to suspend your operations in our territory. Once again, Montana and Goldcorp have clearly usurped and pillaged the legacy of the Maya Mam people of San Miguel lxtahuacán.
Montana and Goldcorp know very well that none of the studies carried out by international experts were in favour of the company’s operations. Even the study carried out by Goldcorp concluded that Montana violated and continues to violate the rights of local communities. This study also concluded that the presence of Montana has engendered social conflict in San Miguel lxtahuacán.
So we must ask what inconceivable drive against universal human rights is making the Montana company continue with its operations in San Miguel lxtahuacán?
“Violence and impunity. The level of violence and insecurity in Guatemala represents a major human rights concern. The State has shown itself to be unable to respond to this violence. There is little in terms of investigation, prosecution or conviction for violent crime and human rights abuses. The risk of social protest turning violent is high, as can be seen with the incidents involving the Marlin mine and other industrial projects.” (Page 8, Executive Summary, Report by On Common Ground Consultants Inc.)
We therefore hold you and your colleagues responsible for what has happened and may happen to the families that live in Saqmuj, given that your operations have resumed in this place. You know that the local community does not want to see you in the municipality but despite this, you continue with your operations, even though you have been notified by the Ministry of Energy and Mines that you must close the mine by August 10, 2010. You must respect these orders and respect human rights, cease your operations and never again set foot in Saqmi.
The community will not take responsibility for what happens in legitimate acts to defend our rights. We give you two days from this date to leave the area.
COMMUNITIES & FAMILIES AFFECTED BY GOLDCORP’s “MARLIN MINE” & SAN MIGUEL IXTAHUACAN RESISTANCE FRONT (FREDEMI)
COMPLICITY OF CANADIAN GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS, SHAREHOLDERS & INVESTORS
The situation of on-going harms and violations, of social tensions and divisions, of company and government pressures and repression has gone far beyond that of “not knowing”.
For years, many groups have denounced the harms and violations to the governments of Guatemala and Canada, to the World Bank (an early major investor in and beneficiary of Goldcorp’s mine), to Goldcorp’s shareholders in Canada and the USA, to investors in Goldcorp (such as the Canada Pension Plan, and many other funds), to the Toronto Stock Exchange, etc.
No public official, shareholder, company director or investor can say “they didn’t know” about the on-going harms and violations.
ACTION IN CANADA & USA
Guatemala organizations, from the mine-affected communities to the national level, are doing their best – despite the deeply entrenched impunity and corruption of Guatemala’s legal and political systems, despite on-going threats and repression – to denounce the harms and violations and to slow down the process of harms and destructions to people’s lives and the environment.
At the same time, this is a “Canadian problem”. All the vital corporate, investors and public policy decisions that affect and benefit Goldcorp (while harming the local communities and environment) are taken in Canada and the USA.
If North American voters, investors, shareholders, and consumers of gold do not demand accountability, justice and reparations for the harms and violations, Goldcorp (and similar global companies) will continue to operate in ways that contribute to harms and violations in Guatemala (and countries around the world) with impunity.