By Magalí Rey Rosa, Prensa Libre, October 1, 2010

(Translated by Rosalind Gill, for Rights Action)

Montana Explotadora in Guatemala, subsidiary of the powerful Canadian company Goldcorp Inc, has just taught us a major lesson in how to lie and deceive and get away with it.  Witness Montana’s paid advertisement that appeared yesterday: “The discharge of water at the Marlin mine was carried out in the presence of public regulatory agencies”.

What really happened is that Montana discharged contaminated water into a stream in the basin of the Cuilco river.

The advertisement assures us that: “Montana met the criteria established by the EIA (environmental impact assessment), including the regulation regarding discharge and re-use of residual waters and waste disposal.” The ad also says that “the discharge was carried out in a transparent manner and was monitored and supervised by public regulatory agencies.”

This is a lie.

Montana did not previously advise the Ministry of the Environment of the discharge and had no permit for releasing potentially contaminated waters into the river. The Ministry of the Environment (MARN) -the regulatory agency for environmental pollution- could not have properly supervised this discharge. By chance, someone from the Ministry monitoring team was in the area of the mine and he took samples several hours after the discharge had been carried out. “The discharge is mainly made up of excess rain water that accumulates during wintertime in the tailings pond and was re-circulated by the most modern industrial water treatment plant in the region”, according to the ad.

The statement omits to say that the tailings pond is in fact a toxic, dangerous, polluting soup.  This tailings pond is a storage place for water but, as well, waste rock, all the chemicals used in the process, (cyanide, for example) explosives, oils, grease, combustible materials, anti-coagulants, drainage water from the mine industrial complex, laboratories and other operations and possibly fertilizers and pesticides.

Guatemalans do not know the composition of the rock because this information did not form part of the EIA – any decent EIA would have included this. So we have to speculate that the tailings pond may contain aluminum particles, antimony, arsenic, barium, cadmium, copper, chromium, cobalt, iron, lead, magnesium, mercury, molybdenum, nickel, selenium, thallium, titanium, tungsten, vanadium, zinc and radioactive ingredients such as uranium, thorium and other [metals and heavy metals] which come from the rock itself: sodium magnesium, potassium silicate, sulfites, sulfates, nitrates, ammonium, boron, phosphorus and chlorine.

When these materials mix together and react, very small amounts of them can cause a great deal of harm.

Montana did not advise the MARN and carried out this so-called transparent discharge at night! They did admit that they discharged the water after the work shift was over.

The excuse they provided was that there was too much water in the tailings pond and it was about to burst. How pathetic! The rains did not start just last week. The company should have foreseen this situation and requested permits in good time, so that regulatory agencies could properly supervise this dangerous operation.

But let’s be realistic: this is the way mining companies operate.

To date, Montana has been able to have its own way:
it did not carry out a community consultation, and the mine is now operating;
it did not pay the millions of Quetzals it should to the MARN for failing to have permits to import cyanide, and it continues importing cyanide;
it still has not repaired the 140 houses it damaged; and
it has not closed the mine, as the CIDH ordered.

So it will keep on doing what ever it wants with no impediment whatsoever. And then what???


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