Mine closing sparks concerns: Activists travel from Central America to share concerns at Goldcorp AGM
Mine closing sparks concerns
Activists travel from Central America to share concerns at Goldcorp AGM
By Kyle Gennings, The Daily Press
Here in Timmins we are reminded of mining operations everywhere we look. It’s written on the sides of trucks, headframes thrust into the skyline and shafts driven deep into the Earth.
Here, mining means life, prosperity and reason.
For some in Central America, however, they claim mining means many other things: Suffering, loss of independence and sickness. Activists blame mining corporations.
“Goldcorp does not operate in Honduras and Guatemala the way it does in Canada,” said Reina Gamora, a Honduran school teacher and activist, who made the 6,000-kilometre trek to appeal to the hearts and minds of those who understand mining. “They operate through utilizing the corrupt government that operates in Honduras. They ignore the human rights and environmental impacts their operations have.”
Gamora and two colleagues made the trip to appeal to the shareholders in Goldcorp at the firm’s annual general meeting in Timmins on Thursday. They want to ensure proper cleanup measures are taken as the San Martin mine undergoes its closure process.
“They began their closing plan three years ago without considering the devastating consequences it will have on the people and the communities surrounding it,” Gamora said.
In Timmins, Goldcorp is a member of the community, a conscientious funding partner of initiatives, a provider of income, well being and security.
“Goldcorp has reaped the benefits of our communities and land while we have reaped the bitter consequences,” Gamora said. “We would like more than anything, to see the company compensate our community and help us re-establish our lives, our homes, and our well being.”
Mining issues are infinitely more complex in the Americas.
“Fifty-four mining licences have been granted in our department just this year,” said Alfonso Morales Jimenez, a member of the department of Hueheutenango in Guatemala. “We have filed unanimous referendums to stop them. We took the necessary legal measures, filed them with the government and they were ignored.”
Shrugged off by the powers that be, said Jimenez, but not by the people.
“We have ancestral Mayan laws,” he said. “Though the government refuses to acknowledge these referendums as binding, we see them as binding.
“The Earth is our mother, and she is not for sale.”
A far cry from the ever-present, always scrutinizing environmental watchdogs here in Canada.
“The rivers surrounding the Marlin Mine are contaminated,” said Jimenez. “Our people are sick, our people are suffering and the government is doing nothing and the mining companies are doing even less.”
Carlos Amador, another Honduran pleading for help, said the region is suffering.
“There are 50 million tonnes of contaminated material surrounding the San Martin mine and this poison is being left there,” he said. “80% of those living close to mine have suffered serious sickness.
“Lead and zinc are being found in high levels in the blood and urine of former workers and the residents of local villages.”
Amador said that once these findings were presented to the courts of Honduras, they refused to deal with them, saying it was a corporate issue. This was followed shortly thereafter by a statement from Goldcorp directing them back to the courts.
“We are struggling, crying out for help,” said Amador. “No one is listening.”
Goldcorp President and CEO Charles Jeannes told his shareholders that concerns in the Americas are unfounded, but he will still create new initiatives to ensure that all of the Canadian environmental standards are upheld.
“What we voted on today was to put those procedures in place. We are committed to putting up all of the money necessary to guarentee the clean-up,” he said. “Now, Goldcorp is a multi-billion dollar company. The people of Guatemala should not be stuck with the bill to clean up our mess and we absolutely agree with that, so now we are going to work with the government to put those procedures in place.”
Jeannes felt that the reaction to the concern at San Marin were unfounded.
“That mine is closed. All we are doing there is some post closure monitoring and it is all going well,” he said. “It is a remarkable reclaimation job that they have done there. It is a wildlife veiwing area, the old solution ponds have been turned into Tilapia farms and the old camp has been turned into an eco-toursim hotel.”
Jeannes stands by the reclaimation, going on to explain that he has eaten Tilapia harvested from the former solution ponds, claiming that it was delicious.
As for the concerns related to iron and zinc levels present in the bodies of residents, Jeannes feels that it is simply a utilization of selective research.
“If there is any problem as a result of our activities, we are fully responsible and we are never going to walk away from that problem,” he said. “It is just that we don’t agree with the characterization that has been set.
“There has been a health report showing elevated levels of heavy metals, what he didn’t say was that there was a control group from hundreds of miles away from the mine that had the same elevated levels of heavy metals.”
The Honduran government concluded that Goldcorp was not responsible for the level of toxins present in the surrounding communities, and Jeannes stands by that conclusion.
“Clearly we weren’t, it is the kind of thing that keeps being read back,” he said. “And we keep responding.”