Goldcorp sponsored MP, senator trip to Guatemala mine

Goldcorp sponsored MP, senator trip to Guatemala mine
PUBLISHED: TUESDAY, 09/11/2012 5:40 PM EDT

Mining company Goldcorp Inc. flew four members of Parliament and a senator to visit its Guatemalan mine and meet with government officials, a trip a mining watchdog said undermines the government’s credibility.

Conservative MPs Dean Allison and Dave Van Kesteren, Liberal MP Massimo Pacetti, independent MP Bruce Hyer and Liberal Senator Mac Harb participated in the trip to Guatemala Aug. 29-31, according to monthly communications reports filed in the federal lobbyist registry. NDP MP Don Davies was invited on the trip but it didn’t fit his schedule, Davies’ legislative assistant David Horan-Lunney told The Lobby Monitor.

Hyer said Goldcorp chairman Ian Telfer and three of his executive staff were on the visit, which involved meetings with Guatemala’s ministers for economics and peace, and managers and technical staff at Goldcorp’s Marlin mine.

The group travelled on a Goldcorp chartered plane and the company paid for flights, rooms and meals, but nothing else, Hyer wrote in an email.

The group also met workers and townspeople in the municipality of San Miguel, and staff and patients at a medical centre partly sponsored by Goldcorp, he said.

Hyer said he participated in the trip because he speaks Spanish and because there are three Goldcorp mines near his northern Ontario riding. He also said he’s a small business supporter and “ardent” environmentalist, and he had “noted the criticism of Goldcorp from afar.”

While he said it was not his place to comment on the need for mining reform in Guatemala, Hyer said he was “favourably impressed” by Goldcorp’s performance. He also said locals he spoke to supported the mine.

Pacetti said the trip showed him a different side of the mining industry from what he normally hears from news and NGO reports.

“From what we saw, it’s not what you read,” he said in an interview. “We saw some really good things. I’m not going to promote the company but they have corporate responsibility and it looks like they adhere to all those principles,” such as environmental policies and giving back to community.

Goldcorp has a plan for when the mine closes that includes reforestation and looking after tailing ponds, he said.

Mining Watch Canada Latin America program coordinator Jen Moore learned about the trip after an email from Hill and Knowlton Strategies consultant Don Boudria was leaked to her, she said in an interview.

The trip itinerary, which was part of the email, included a visit to the mine to meet with mine and community officials, a pig roast and reception, and meetings with ministers in Guatemala City. Goldcorp vice-president Brent Bergeron and Boudria were listed among those attending.

Boudria is registered to lobby on Goldcorp’s behalf for the “Canadian International Development Agency Industrial Cooperation Program for Guatemala” regarding funding for a medical program, and for “policy related to mining industry operations and corporate social responsibility,” the registry shows.

Moore said Guatemalan indigenous organizations recently challenged the constitutionality of the country’s mining code “for having failed to carry out pre-legislative consultations with their organizations, given that their rights are significantly affected by the implementation of the code.”

The constitutional court’s decision is still pending after a hearing in July, she said.

Last month, Reuters reported the Guatemalan government was backing away from mining reforms that would give it as much as a 40-per-cent stake in new mining projects due to international pressure.

Moore expressed concern that indigenous organizations weren’t invited to or previously informed about the MPs’ meetings. She called parliamentarians’ participation on the trip “incredibly irresponsible” and “a slap in the face” to organizations like Mining Watch that are pushing for corporate accountability mechanisms.

“The parliamentarians, by going on a Goldcorp plane to Guatemala and holding the meetings this way, have just erased any possibility of being seen as credible actors in this situation that would have any possible independence to bring to bear, and I think it further erodes the credibility of the Canadian government in these spaces,” she said.

An independent parliamentary visit would be an important learning tool to see what’s happening on the ground, she said.

Moore said Mining Watch lobbies by bringing visiting delegations from other countries to meet with MPs. The organization is currently registered to lobby “for an end to Canadian diplomatic and financial resources being used to support controversial and damaging mining projects,” and on the regulation of Canadian extractive companies operating internationally, the registry shows.

Pacetti objected to the suggestion that a corporate trip would unduly influence parliamentarians’ opinions.

“We’re not that stupid. Obviously we saw things that Goldcorp wanted us to see. It was not like we have our eyes closed and do not have the ability to see the other side,” he said.

The group was given the opportunity to ask direct and hard questions, he said, and there wasn’t a specific policy issue that Goldcorp was trying to raise. He also said he’s met with more NGOs than corporations in recent years, and he gave credit to NGO work for some of the positive mining practices he witnessed.

In February, Goldcorp vice-president for corporate affairs Brent Bergeron told the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development that he would like Guatemala to “modernize” its mining regulations.

“Can I go as Goldcorp and start training the Ministry of Energy and Mines? I can’t do that. The credibility behind that is not right,” he said. “However, I think it makes a lot of sense to have a government institution come in to take our experience here in Canada—the National Resources Canada in terms of their experience—and bring that experience to Guatemala. That’s why we’re looking to partner with other organizations.”

Bergeron also told the committee that Goldcorp’s voluntary arrangements in Guatemala helped ensure that royalty payments contributed to local infrastructure. The company paid almost $80 million in taxes and royalties in the country last year, he said, including voluntary royalties to the local government.

Van Kesteren and Allison are both members of the foreign affairs committee.

Neither Goldcorp nor Don Boudria were available for comment by deadline Tuesday.

Hyer said Goldcorp did not attempt to have him influence Guatemalan government policy.

The Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner’s guidelines for sponsored travel state that MPs “may accept, for themselves and guests, sponsored travel that arises from or relates to their position.” MPs must disclose sponsored travel exceeding $500 to the commissioner within 60 days.

Senators must report sponsored travel to the Senate Ethics Officer within 30 days.

Conservative MPs Dave Van Kesteren and Dean Allison, and Liberal Senator Mac Harb were not available for comment by deadline Tuesday.


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