Goldcorp fights off calls for indigenous consentPublished by MAC on 2010-05-23
Source: Canadian Press and others (2010-05-19)
Goldcorp has been under fire at its company AGM, where it rejected a shareholder resolution calling for it to implement free, prior and informed consent at its projects.
The resolution was primarily focused on the company's controversial Marlin mine in Guatemala. The company was forced to publish an "independent" human rights impact assessment. Despite much criticism of the independence of the assessment (see: http://www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=9186) it has still returned a partially damning report.
In time for the meeting, environmental health scientists found that a sample of villagers living near the Marlin mine have higher levels of potentially toxic heavy metals in their bodies.
Goldcorp won't develop corporate policy to consult with indigenous communities
By Kristine Owram
The Canadian Press
19 May 2010
TORONTO - Goldcorp shareholders have defeated a resolution calling on the company to explicitly outline how it will consult with indigenous communities affected by its mining operations in Guatemala.
Shareholders who sent in their votes before the gold miner's annual meeting in Toronto on Wednesday voted 90 per cent against the resolution, which also recommended that Goldcorp cease all operations, expansion and exploration in areas where the state hasn't received the consent of local communities.
At particular issue is the company's Marlin mine in Guatemala, which began operating in 2005 and has been a bit of a millstone around Goldcorp's neck ever since.
Activist groups have asked the company to immediately cease operations at the mine because it didn't hold a legally binding referendum of the area's residents to gauge support.
However, Goldcorp president and CEO Chuck Jeannes said Wednesday the company met all the legal requirements of the Guatemalan government when it consulted with residents before the mine was built.
"We literally took over a year and held thousands of meetings with individuals," he said.
Jeannes added that it doesn't make sense to shut down the mine and put 2,000 people out of work, and said the consultation process is ultimately the government's responsibility, not the company's.
A group of about 30 activists and representatives from the Central American communities where Goldcorp operates assembled outside the annual meeting to protest Marlin and other projects in the region. They raised environmental and health concerns, and said Goldcorp has failed to address people's fears that its mines are making them sick.
Jeannes vehemently denied this.
"We know we're not causing any ill health effects," he said in an interview after the meeting, adding that studies commissioned by the company as well as independent studies prove this.
"It has nothing to do with mining, it has nothing to do with our mine, but it is a circumstance that comes from the lack of development.... That's why I think we can be of net benefit to these places, because we bring those kinds of advancements in infrastructure that can actually help people," he added.
"We are looked at as someone who can fix a lot of things that have been wrong for a long time, and it's a tall order. We try to do the best we can, but not everyone is going to be satisfied with our efforts."
Wednesday's meeting followed on the heels of an independent human rights assessment of Marlin, released Monday, which recommended that Goldcorp cease all exploration and expansion activities at the mine until further consultations are held.
Jeannes said the company is already doing that voluntarily.
"We have not done any expansion or exploration in areas where we're not wanted," he said, adding that the company hasn't pursued "some very interesting exploration projects" in the area at the request of one of the local communities.
Talking to reporters after the meeting, Jeannes said Goldcorp continues to look for acquisition opportunities, and will also consider divesting its non-core assets as it sees fit. The company recently sold the Escobal silver deposit in Guatemala to Tahoe Resources Inc., a private company headed by former Goldcorp CEO Kevin McArthur.
Jeannes also said the company will begin generating positive cash flow by the end of 2010 and could consider upping its dividend once that happens.
"Things can change very quickly as opportunities present themselves," he said. "We may find a great way to spend that money, but we may also find ourselves in a position where we can be both a growth company and pay a higher dividend, and I think that would be fairly unique in our sector and something worth looking at."
Shares in Goldcorp lost $2.05 or 4.5 per cent to $44.04 amid a broader decline in the gold sector Wednesday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
Independent report criticizes Goldcorp's human rights record in Guatemala
By Kristine Owram
The Canadian Press
17 May 2010
TORONTO - Goldcorp Inc. should halt all land acquisition, exploration activities and mine expansion projects in Guatemala until local communities are properly consulted, according to a new assessment.
The independent report, released Monday, says the Canadian gold miner and the Guatemalan government didn't do enough to get the approval of indigenous communities before the Marlin mine was constructed.
To remedy this, Goldcorp should avoid any new activities at the mine until proper consultations are held and agreements are reached with the communities to structure future land acquisitions, according to the report.
The human rights assessment was undertaken by an independent consultant at the behest of Goldcorp after "a group of socially responsible shareholders" asked the company to assess its track record in Guatemala, the company said.
Goldcorp said Monday it will issue a response and action plan once it has reviewed the report, but did not make any other comment.
Activists who have worked with the Guatemalan communities that have been affected by the Marlin mine said the report raised important questions of indigenous rights.
"This is one of the things that the communities have highlighted this whole time, that the procedures that were used to acquire land in the communities were flawed and didn't respect indigenous rights," said Kristen Genovese, a senior attorney for the Centre for International Environmental Law, which has been working with the communities near the Marlin mine for about two years.
However, Genovese and her colleague Beth Geglia criticized the report for failing to ask communities to participate in its assessment process.
"The communities have always been very clear, that they don't want the mine there anymore and have asked Goldcorp to close the mine," Genovese said. However, she acknowledged that not everyone wants the mine closed and those employed by the operation tend to support it.
The report also found the Goldcorp hasn't properly addressed the health impacts of mine contamination and has actively discouraged the formation of a union at the mine.
"There is reasonable evidence that during 2006 (Goldcorp) infringed on the right to freedom of association by taking retaliatory action up to and including dismissal against employees that attempted to form a union," the report says.
The report also found that employees' safety is at risk due to an ongoing pattern of social unrest at the mine, including a person who was killed by public security forces while blockading the mine's equipment and shots being fired at buses transporting employees.
However, it also commended Goldcorp on some aspects of its human rights record in Guatemala, including the mine's contribution to local communities and government revenue streams through employment of local people.
"The ability to hire and retain local, indigenous workers with lower levels of literacy or formal skills is made possible in large part through the focus (Goldcorp) has given to on-the-job training rather than formal qualifications," the report says.
The report concludes with a series of recommendations.
Among the suggestions are a recommendation that Goldcorp needs to address how it will monitor the environmental impacts of the mine's eventual closure; repair houses that have been cracked by blasting and heavy traffic; and support collective bargaining and establish a grievance mechanism for workers.
The International Labour Organization called in March for the suspension of mining activity at Marlin due to alleged human rights violations.
Representatives from communities that have been affected by Goldcorp's mines in Central America plan to attend the company's annual shareholders' meeting in Toronto on Wednesday to push it to end its operations in Guatemala and Honduras.
Analyst John Ing said this type of human rights assessment is commonplace in the mining industry.
"Mining companies are well used to having to engage everything from environmental to social issues. It's all part and parcel of mining," said Ing, president of Toronto-based investment dealer Maison Placements.
Besides the Marlin mine, Goldcorp operates the San Martin mine in Honduras, as well as several other mines in Mexico, Argentina, the U.S. and Canada.
Shares in Goldcorp lost 89 cents to $46.25 in Monday trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
Goldcorp Announces Receipt Of Human Rights Assessment Report
GoldCorp Press Release
17 May 2010
Vancouver, British Columbia - GOLDCORP INC. today announced the receipt of the final human rights assessment report from the Steering Committee for the Human Rights Impact Assessment of the Marlin Mine. The report, prepared by On Common Ground Consultants Inc., is the result of an eighteen month assessment of how the Marlin Mine's presence and operations have affected human rights, and whether the company's policies, procedures and practices comply with international human rights standards. Goldcorp agreed with a group of its socially responsible shareholders to undertake the independent human rights impact assessment of the mine in 2008. The Steering Committee, comprised of a representative of the shareholder group, a representative from Guatemala, and a company representative, oversaw the assessment process which was guided by the tenets of transparency, independence, and inclusivity.
"The delivery of the assessment report is the next step of a continuous process of engagement with interested stakeholders," said Chuck Jeannes, Goldcorp President and Chief Executive Officer. "Goldcorp appreciates the diligent efforts by the Steering Committee to manage the process, by On Common Ground to conduct the assessment, to analyze the information gathered, and to provide constructive recommendations to Goldcorp regarding improvements to the Company's human rights performance, and to all Guatemalans who participated in contributing information to the assessment. This report further demonstrates Goldcorp's commitment to contributing positively to the sustainable prosperity of the communities in which the Company operates." Consistent with its commitment to respond to the report's findings and recommendations, a detailed response to the recommendations and an action plan will be announced once the company has had an opportunity to review the over 200-page report.
Scientists find elevated levels of mercury, copper, arsenic and zinc in the urine, and of lead in the blood of Guatemalans living near Canadian-owned mine
Physicians for Human Rights
18 May 2010
Environmental health scientists from the University of Michigan find that a sample of Guatemalans who live near a controversial gold and silver mine in the country's western highlands have higher levels of potentially toxic heavy metals in their urine and blood than a sample of residents who live farther from the mine.
Looking at environmental impacts, the scientists also find significant differences in the quality of water samples taken from creeks just downstream from the mine, as compared to a site upstream and a river farther downstream. The scientists warn that metals exposure caused by the mine is likely to increase over time, and could last for decades.
"Little is known about the cumulative and combined health impacts on humans - especially children - following chronic exposure to complex, real-world mixtures," said Dr. Howard Hu of the U-M School of Public Health, co-author of the Marlin Mine report with Niladri Basu, assistant professor of environmental sciences in the School of Public Health.
"That's why it is imperative that large-scale, long-term epidemiological and ecological follow-up studies be conducted," Basu said.
The scientist's study, which was coordinated and published today by Physicians for Human Rights, examines the health and environmental impacts of the Marlin Mine, owned by Canada's Goldcorp company through its Guatemalan subsidiary, Montana Exploradora, Inc. The study finds that a sample of residents living near the mine have higher levels of mercury, copper, arsenic and zinc in their urine, and of lead in their blood, than a sample of persons living seven kilometers away.
A delegation, including the study's lead scientist, presented the findings to villagers in Guatemala today, some of whom had concerns that a range of physical ailments were caused by the mine. The study cautions, however, that it is "not clear if the current magnitude of these elevations pose a significant threat to health." Although each metal tested is toxic at high enough levels, none of the levels in the samples exceed those considered acceptable by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention and by widely recognized scientific standards. The Marlin Mine opened in 2005 and is expected to remain in operation for most of this decade.
The study recommends that follow-up health and environmental studies be overseen by an independent panel. "This panel would allow for a forum that is transparent and inclusive, and it would facilitate dialogue amongst the stakeholders," the report says.
In releasing this study, Physicians for Human Rights noted that the report implicitly delivered a message to the government of Guatemala regarding its obligations to its citizens. "The State is responsible not only to protect citizens from harms to their health from possible environmental contamination; it also has positive obligations to prevent new future health risks that may be caused by this mine and other mines," said Susannah Sirkin, deputy director for Physicians for Human Rights.
The authors caution that the study, based on biological samples drawn from 23 individuals during a one-week visit to the vicinity of the mine in August 2009, cannot be viewed as definitive, but rather as a preliminary baseline study. Still, the results show "qualitative and generalized trends that enable conclusions to be drawn."
Samples from creeks near the mine have significantly higher levels of pH (a measure of acidity), conductivity and temperature, as well as aluminum, manganese, cobalt and, in one creek, arsenic. Researchers also compare a sample of mine workers to a sample of non-mine workers, finding no significant difference between the levels of heavy metals in their urine and blood. Because the mine workers have access to a better diet and to medical services provided by the mine, they consider themselves to be in better general health.
The study does not find any significant association between levels of heavy metals and the severe skin rashes and respiratory illness reported by some persons living near the mine, especially children and the elderly. However, the study took no urine or blood samples from children, because of the informed consent protocol approved by the university's Institutional Review Board. Nor did it take samples from the persons who had complained.
Skin rashes and respiratory effects, the study notes, are consistent with exposure to cyanide, which is used at the mine, but was not analyzed in the study.
The research was conducted at the request of the Independent International Panel on the Human Rights Impacts of the Marlin Mine, a four member panel composed of three academics from the Center for Civil and Human Rights of Notre Dame Law School and a lawyer from Oxfam Americas. The Panel will draw on the study as one component of its analysis. Funding for the study was provided by the Due Process of Law Foundation, based in Washington, DC.
The panel engaged Physicians for Human Rights and the University of Michigan team to conduct an independent and impartial analysis of the mine's health and environmental impacts. Physicians for Human Rights mobilizes the health professions to advance the health and dignity of all people by protecting human rights. The group shared the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize.
The Marlin Mine is located about 185 miles northwest of Guatemala City. It consists of two open pits and one underground mine. A cyanide leaching process is used to extract gold and silver from crushed ore. Goldcorp is actively prospecting dozens of other sites in the region near the Marlin Mine.
Jim Erickson, University of Michigan, firstname.lastname@example.org, 734-647-1842
Benjamin Greenberg, Physicians for Human Rights, email@example.com, 617-510-3417
WHY DOES GOLDCORP Inc. RECOMMEND THAT SHAREHOLDERS VOTE AGAINST A "FREE, PRIOR and INFORMED CONSENT" RESOLUTION - A REQUIREMENT OF NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL LAW FOR MINING ???
Rights Action communiqué & media release
10 May 2010
Goldcorp Inc. management received a shareholder's resolution asking Goldcorp to implement a policy ensuring that "Free, Prior and Informed Consent" (FPIC) is obtained from communities and indigenous peoples potentially impacted by mining before Goldcorp proceeds to mine, ... and that Goldcorp suspend mining in those places where it has not done so.
This should be a simple policy to implement and ensure. Obtaining FPIC is required by international law and by national law in Guatemala and Honduras.
However, at neither of its gold mines - the "San Martin" mine in Honduras nor the "Marlin" mine in Guatemala - was the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of the impacted municipalities and indigenous communities obtained, before Goldcorp began mining.
All the ensuing health and environmental harms and human rights violations that have occurred in and around their mine sites since Goldcorp began mining in Honduras (2000) and Guatemala (2005), flow from and out of this initial violation of not obtaining FPIC.
BELOW: Information that Goldcorp Inc. has had on its website since March 26, 2010, encouraging shareholders to vote against the resolution that was submitted by shareholders.
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GOLDCORP Inc COMMENTS:
Page 77, of schedule B of the Goldcorp Inc. Management Circular, March 26, 2010
Goldcorp makes every effort to be responsive to concerns expressed by its shareholders by engaging in dialogues, participating in issuer/investor working groups and adopting policies or initiatives responsive to shareholder concerns when the Company concludes that doing so is in the best interests of all shareholders.
In 2007, Goldcorp met with several socially responsible investors as part of an ongoing dialogue regarding corporate social responsibility, human and indigenous rights. As a result of that consultation, Goldcorp agreed to undertake a human rights impact assessment of its operations in Guatemala.
[Rights Action comment: This "human rights impact assessment" has been widely discredited in Guatemala and in Canada. On request, Rights Action can provide background articles explaining how and why this "human rights impact assessment" is discredited.]
The results of that assessment are scheduled to be reported to the Steering Committee for the assessment and to be presented to Goldcorp, the interested stakeholders, and the general public prior to the Meeting. Goldcorp anticipates addressing the recommendations of the report with shareholders during the Meeting.
In addition to the opportunities available during the Meeting, the Company encourages shareholders to communicate with management and the Board. Any shareholder wishing to communicate with management, the Board or an individual director should send a request to the Corporate Secretary as described on page 65 in this management information circular.
Kathryn Anderson, RR#3, Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia B0K 1V0, owner of 10 Common Shares (NOBO list dated March 26, 2010), and Brenda Cooper, 103 Highway 19, Port Hastings, Nova Scotia B9A 1J9, owner of 1 Common Share (NOBO list dated March 26, 2010), have submitted the following proposal for consideration at the Meeting:
"That the Board create and adopt, by September 1st, 2010, a corporate policy on the right to free, prior, and informed consent ("FPIC") for its operations impacting indigenous communities and all communities dependent on natural resources for survival."
REASONS: "We ask the Board to consider the following in creating this policy:
1. To respect the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as best practice with regards to FPIC rights.
2. Take specific note of the legal difference between consultation and consent.
3. Implement this policy retroactively to ensure that all our mining licenses were obtained in adherence to this policy.
4. Cease all operations, expansion, and exploration where consent of the affected population has not been obtained by the state.
5. Apply this policy to any license with partial or full Goldcorp ownership."
GOLDCORP MANAGEMENT COMMENT:
The Board recommends a vote AGAINST this proposal. Goldcorp is committed to building strong, open and transparent relationships with the communities in which it operates as the foundation for contributing to the sustainable prosperity of these communities.
[Rights Action comment: "Sustainable prosperity" - On request, Rights Action can provide extensive information about how Goldcorp's mines in Guatemala and Honduras are directly and indirectly causing health and environmental harms and numerous human rights violations ..., anything but "sustainable prosperity.]
Consultation with communities that will or may be affected by the Company's exploration and mining operations is essential to establishing the partnerships with community groups, government officials, non-governmental organizations, and other stakeholders that are the basis for open, constructive dialogue, and trust between Goldcorp and the communities in which it operates.
[Rights Action comment: "Consultation requirements" - the mines that Goldcorp is operating in Honduras and Guatemala complied in no way whatsoever with legally binding consultation requirements.]
As a member of the International Council on Mining & Metals (ICMM), Goldcorp is committed to implementing and measuring its performance against the ICMM's 10 Principles, which include:
ii#3. Uphold fundamental human rights and respect cultures, customs and values in dealings with employees and others who are affected by Goldcorp activities.
ee#9. Contribute to the social, economic and institutional development of the communities in which it operates.
- B2 -
--#10. Implement effective and transparent engagement, communication and independently verified reporting arrangements with Goldcorp stakeholders.
The ICMM's Position Statement on Mining and Indigenous Peoples Issues, available at http://www.icmm.com/our-work/sustainable-development-framework/position-statements, includes a commitment to: "Participate in national and international forums on Indigenous Peoples issues, including those dealing with the concept of free, prior and informed consent."
In addition, Goldcorp is in the process of developing a corporate policy on human rights that will be consistent with the ICMM Principles and best industry practices.
[Rights Action comment: These ICMM principles - and virtually all the non-binding international statements of principles - undermine the most basic and minimal tenets of the rule of law and administration of justice by ignoring basic and minimum standards of enforceability, sanctions and remedies. Voluntary, non-binding, non-enforceable principles, with no sanctions or remedies whatsoever for non-compliance, are next to useless.]
The Board and management believe that these efforts adequately and thoroughly address the issues raised by the proposed resolution.
The Board and management also believe that the proposed resolution confuses the role of private companies and national governments. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was adopted in September 2007, is a non-binding declaration that directs national governments to consult with indigenous peoples to obtain their "free, prior, and informed consent" before approving any project affecting the lands, territories or other resources of indigenous peoples.
The International Labor Organization's Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention No. 169, which has been ratified by five countries in which Goldcorp has operations (Argentina, Chile, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico) requires national governments to establish procedures for consulting with indigenous peoples regarding the development of natural resources on lands occupied or used by indigenous peoples.
Goldcorp's engagement with the communities in which it has developed or in the future will propose to develop its operations have complied and in the future will comply with the consultation requirements mandated by national governments; indeed, Goldcorp's engagement has and will exceed these mandatory consultation requirements to ensure the development and maintenance of robust partnerships with all communities that may be affected by Goldcorp's operations.
Because Goldcorp is committed to open, transparent, and continuing engagement with all communities that may be affected by its operations and will soon adopt and publish a corporate policy on human rights, this proposal is unnecessary and the Board recommends that you vote AGAINST this proposal.
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RIGHTS ACTION: WHY REJECT EVEN THE MOST MINIMUM OF STANDARDS AND OBLIGATIONS?
Why does Goldcorp Inc. encourage shareholders to vote against even the most minimal of international and national law requirements - to get the free, prior and informed consent of peoples and communities potentially affected and harmed by its mining operations?
This is not a resolution that goes against mining. This is a simple and basic resolution concerning having an obligatory and binding procedure to get the informed permission from and consent of communities, populations and peoples potentially affected and harmed by mining.
Certainly, Goldcorp executives, shareholders and investors would want no less for their families and home communities, were some potentially harmful economic activity to possibly take place in and harm their homes, families, communities, water sources, forests, etc.