Case against Harmful Mining in Guatemala Passes Major Hurdle

Case against Harmful Mining in Guatemala Passes Major Hurdle

Friday, April 20, 2012


In Guatemala, campesinos defend their right to water by protesting the devastating impact of gold mining their water resources.

CREDIT: COPAE/2008

This week brought good news from the Pastoral Commission for Peace and Ecology (COPAE), a UUSC partner in Guatemala. COPAE, their legal advisors, and the indigenous communities organized under the Council of Western Peoples (known by its Spanish acronym, CPO) filed a claim in March 2012 that argued — in the face of harmful effects from unchecked Goldcorp silver and gold mining — that a Guatemalan law allowing such mining is unconstitutional on procedural grounds. In an exciting development, a court decided Wednesday to allow the petition to go forward.

The communities claimed the mining law is unconstitutional because it did not follow legal requirements for “free, prior, informed consent” of communities affected by extractive industries — nor Guatemala’s obligations under international law to obtain such consent from indigenous communities. The court, which has discretionary power to advance or deny petitions, found that there was evidence and significance in the petition based on insufficient consultation with affected indigenous communities. The mining law remains in effect during the case, but public hearings are now required.

This is an important first hurdle in the case. The timing, just weeks before Goldcorp’s annual general meeting, is ripe for UUSC shareholder action. UUSC has co-filed a shareholder resolution requiring the corporation to implement a reclamation plan for the Marlin mine, for which the mine has currently placed a bond of only $1million dollars. UUSC member expert Rob Robinson and his team estimate the cost of reclamation — restoration of the land that has been damaged by mining — to be $49 million. Molly Butler, a lawyer and member of Robinson’s team, notes that the mine made earnings of $607 million in 2011 and revenues of $907 million (as seen on page 14 of a Goldcorp financial report).

After the shareholder resolution was filed, Goldcorp published a reclamation plan that was previously not made public. Communities have until April 23 to give their views on the plan. Robinson and his team are busy analyzing the plan and preparing for meetings in Timmins, Ontario, and the Goldcorp annual general meeting of shareholders.

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