MAC: Mines and Communities

More pressure is applied to Goldcorp in Guatemala

Published by MAC on 2010-08-16
Source: EFE, Statement (2010-08-11)

Three new independent studies have confirmed allegations of serious health and environmental violations by GoldCorp' at its Marlin mine in Guatemala. See previous MAC post from July 2010: Shooting of community leader opposing Goldcorp Mine

Meanwhile, hundreds of Indians living near the mine are accusing a Supreme Court justice of illegally acquiring some of their territory, on behalf of the mining company.

 

ESPAÑOL

Guatemalans Sue Supreme Court Chief Justice

EFE

29 July 2010

GUATEMALA CITY - Hundreds of Guatemalan Indians who live near a gold mine owned by Canada's GoldCorp on Wednesday filed a criminal complaint against Supreme Court Chief Justice Erick Alvarez for his actions nine years ago as a private attorney.

The Indians say that Alvarez in 2001 - while representing Peridot, a company linked to GoldCorp subsidiary Montana Exploradora - resorted to a law known as "supplementary titling" to appropriate the terrain where the Marlin mine is located.

That law was initially intended to give land title to smallholders who had worked the property for at least 10 years, but in practice has led to a number of abuses.

According to the Indians, the land where the Marlin mine is situated legally belongs to the municipality of San Miguel Ixtahuacan.

"The law states that (a person) who would seek to appropriate the property of a third party commits the crime of ‘ideological falsehood,' and in this case Mr. Alvarez sought for his client to take possession of the lands where the mine operates," plaintiffs' attorney Benito Morales told Efe.

Morales said the plot of land covers an area of 20 square kilometers (7.7 square miles) and is registered in the name of San Miguel Ixtahuacan, where, despite the objection of local residents, the Marlin mine has been in operation since 2005.

Alvarez should be prosecuted for "the continued crime of ideological falsehood because the action he undertook in 2001 continues to affect the inhabitants" of that community, Morales said.

Although the courts still have not ruled on Peridot's intention to register the property in its name, the mine began operations five years ago, according to Morales, "due to the complicity of the state, which has supported mining exploitation even though it is detrimental to the health and safety" of the inhabitants of the surrounding area.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on May 21 ordered the Guatemalan state to suspend the operations of the Marlin mine as a cautionary measure, citing harm to the health of the residents of the Sipacapa and San Miguel Ixtahuacan municipalities, as well as their water sources and the environment.

The government announced on June 23 that it will heed the commission's order, although without providing details.

The Marlin mine produces an average of 250,000 ounces of gold and 3.5 million ounces of silver annually, according to government figures.

The complaint against the chief justice is backed by the Catholic Diocese of San Marcos and the Archdiocese of Guatemala City, the People's Council of the Western Guatemalan Highlands and the Rigoberta Menchu Tum Foundation.

If the lawsuit is allowed to proceed, the Attorney General's Office must first ask Congress to revoke Alvarez's immunity from prosecution and suspend him from his post before he could be tried in court.


New evidence supports suspension of Guatemalan mine

Three new reports find human rights violations, water contamination, and other concerns at Marlin gold mine

11 August 2010

Oxfam America Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC - International humanitarian organization Oxfam America cites three new independent studies as further evidence that Marlin gold mine in the San Marcos department of Guatemala should be suspended until community concerns are adequately addressed. The studies support the government's recent announcement that it would suspend operations the mine, owned by the Canadian company Goldcorp, following environmental and human rights complaints.

"Together, these reports indicate that Marlin Mine has had serious social and environmental impacts on surrounding communities. It's time for the government to take action to suspend mining operations to protect the health, safety, livelihoods, and most importantly, the rights of these communities," said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America.

On June 24, the government of Guatemala announced it would begin a process to suspend operations at Marlin Mine responding to a request from the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights on behalf of 18 communities citing water contamination and adverse health effects on members of the communities. The suspension is pending an investigation into these allegations by Guatemalan officials.

A report launched today by environmental research nonprofit E-Tech International raises concern about groundwater and surface water contamination around the mine. The report examined the accuracy of Marlin Mine's Environmental and Social Impact Study, which claimed there would be no significant negative effects to water resources or aquatic life in the areas surrounding the mine. However, the E-tech report showed environmental impacts are already occurring, including increasing concentrations of arsenic and sulfate in groundwater, , decreasing health of aquatic life, and potential contamination downstream of the tailings dam. The report calls for more water-quality monitoring and improved communication of the results and their significance to local communities.

The 1997 mining law in Guatemala encouraged metal mine development and offered little protection of local land ownership. Marlin Mine was the first to open under the new law and the first to receive funding from the World Bank's International Finance Corporation (partial owner of the mine until the load was repaid in 2006). Since the initial exploration phase of Marlin Mine, communities have lodged numerous complaints and protested against the mine.

"Marlin Mine was established - like so many mining projects in developing countries - without adequate consultation with the surrounding indigenous communities. Too often, these communities pay the price for the negative effects of mining, but rarely have a say in how the mining industry is developed or a fair share of the resulting profits," said Offenheiser.

An additional study by Guatemala-based research organization Association for Social Research and Study, known by their Spanish acronym ASÍES, found Marlin Mine does not comply with national and international laws protecting indigenous peoples, including Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization, which grants communities the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) regarding mining operations.

The analysis showed threats to communities in mining areas - including the contamination of natural resources, damage to health and livelihoods, and with non-compliance with national and international consultation laws - have instigated social conflict and rejection of mining operations. Even further, evidence suggests that social conflict generated by mining operations, especially Marlin Mine, is growing worse in Guatemala and could eventually impact governability in these regions leading to substantial social and economic costs.

In a separate report, ASÍES surveyed more than 700 people in communities surrounding mining activities. According to the findings, the majority of those interviewed:

"Time and time again, indigenous communities have spoken without being heard. Guatemala is not only facing irreparable land and water degradation in these areas - the country could face real challenges to peace and prosperity if the concerns of these communities are not addressed," said Andres McKinley, program officer for Oxfam America's extractive industries program in Central America. "The government must take a critical look at the benefits of mining in Guatemala versus the significant costs to communities that are eager to support their families and through traditional livelihoods like fishing and agriculture."

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Oxfam America is an international relief and development organization that creates lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and injustice. Together with individuals and local groups in more than 100 countries, Oxfam saves lives, helps people overcome poverty, and fights for social justice. Oxfam America is an affiliate of the international confederation Oxfam.

For More Information:

Maura Hart, (202) 496-1196, (202) 476-0093 (m) or mhart@oxfamamerica.org

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