MAC: Mines and Communities

Canadian companies hammered for abuses in Guatemala and Mexico

Published by MAC on 2011-05-24
Source: Statements, Vancouver Sun, Guadalajara Reporter (2011-05-20)

Human Rights and Indigenous representatives rally in Vancouver

Last week, Latin American human rights advocates and Indigenous Peoples' representatives were in Vancouver, testifying to the devastating impacts that Canadian-owned mines are having on their lives, homes and territories.

They levelled accusations specifically against Goldcorp's Marlin mine in Guatemala and Majestic First Silver over its operations in Mexico.

Six per cent of shareholders in Goldcorp voted at the company's annual general meeting on May 18  for a resolution to bring Goldcorp into compliance with international law, including an order by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued in May 2010.

See: Pressure builds on Goldcorp, just before its AGM

In Mexico itself, on May 20, the Huicholes communities were to demonstrate for the first time in the streets of Guadalajara and in other cities in defense of their Wirikuta sacred site.

See previous on MAC: Mexicans call for cancellation of Canadian mining concession

For video of the protest see: http://www.mediacoop.ca/video/goldcorp-we-dont-want-your-dirty-gold/7304

Affected Communities from the Americas Demand that Canadian Mining Industry Respect Their Rights

Mining Justice Alliance Release

17 May 2011

Vancouver, BC - Latin American human rights advocates are in Vancouver to testify about the devastating impacts that Canadian-owned mines are having on their lives, homes and territories.

Protest at Goldcorp AGM - Marching band
Protest at Goldcorp AGM - Marching band Source: Flux, Media Coop

"World-wide, the mining industry must change the way they do business with Indigenous Peoples in their territories. The mining industry must embrace the spirit and intent of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples," said Chief Marilyn Baptiste, Secretary-Treasurer of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. "Poorly regulated Canadian-owned operations, such as those belonging to Goldcorp and First Majestic Silver, are putting in jeopardy the health, security, and rights of Indigenous communities."

Goldcorp in Honduras: "The company has a responsibility for the damages that its operations have caused to the health of our communities and to the quality of our drinking water," says Carlos Amador, Secretary of the Environmental Committee of the Siria Valley of Honduras.

Goldcorp's San Martín mine operated in the Siria Valley for ten years and is now in the process of closure. Internationally regarded researchers from the University of Newcastle (UK) have found clear signs of acid mine drainage, and dangerously high acidity and metal concentrations have been found in water flowing into a local stream. In 2010, Honduran authorities filed charges against Goldcorp's Honduran subsidiary for heavy metal contamination in the Siria Valley, where communities have reported health impacts and death of livestock. The case continues in Honduran courts.

"The company should recognize that the impacts we are experiencing are a result of their operations and take necessary action based on the recommendations of Newcastle University and on the demands of our communities," concludes Amador.

Goldcorp in Guatemala: In the northwestern highlands of Guatemala, the impacts that Goldcorp's Marlin mine go beyond serious concern over water contamination and health problems. Human rights lawyer Benito Morales from the Rigoberta Menchú Tum Foundation says the social and human rights impacts are also devastating.

"The presence of the Marlin mine is ripping apart the social fabric in communities of San Miguel Ixtahuacán," says Benito Morales. "Families and neighbours are fighting among themselves and an environment exists in which people cannot safely defend their rights because they fear reprisals and lack effective access to the justice system."

"The justice system is completely co-opted by the interests of national elite and multinational companies like Goldcorp," adds Morales, "As a result, respect of indigenous rights is not guaranteed within the current system."

As an example of this, on May 20, 2010, the Organization of American States' (OAS) Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ordered the Guatemalan government to temporarily suspend the Marlin mine, given the gravity of alleged human rights violations around the company's operations. However, the order has not been implemented, and the mine continues to operate and expand. Now, shareholders are asking Goldcorp to voluntarily comply with the measures issued by the OAS body.

"Goldcorp's Marlin mine is an assault on land and territories of indigenous peoples, which is the basis of their identity and culture. In other words, investors are in effect contributing to the resulting ethnocide," concludes Morales.

First Majestic in Mexico

Based on experiences in other parts of the region, the Wixárika people of Mexico demand that First Majestic Silver not develop a mine on their sacred lands. The high desert plains of Wirikuta, which includes the Catorce mountain range, represents the Wixárika peoples' most sacred altar. For the Wixárika, their ancestors and deities inhabit the sacred springs, hills and valleys of this zone.

They have conducted pilgrimages along ancient routes that pass through this region for more than 2000 years; it is here that they pray for the balance of all life on Earth, and that the candles of life will continue to burn.

"Wirikuta is where we gather our thoughts to take them back to the Wixárika communities," explains Jesús Lara Chivarra of San Sebastián Teponahuaxtlán, Jalisco, Mexico. "There we find the principle ideas that help our culture to stay alive. We have also prayed for all humanity so that we can avoid a catastrophe. We have been watching over the sacred sites and carrying out the required rituals so that harmony and ecological balance will continue to exist, so that the energy moves in an abundant way. So for my people, to take away or damage this place is to do away with the Wixárika people."

On Tuesday morning, delegates from Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico will participate in a press conference at the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs office at 500 - 342 Water Street, Vancouver. They will speak about the environmental, health, human rights and cultural impacts that Canadian owned mines are having on their lives and lands.

For more information, Mining Justice Alliance's website: http://miningjusticealliance.wordpress.com.

Contacts:
Amanda Kistler, Center for International Environmental Law - 604-220-4009
Jason Tockman, Mining Justice Alliance - 604-727-9081


Goldcorp Asks Shareholders to Ignore International Consensus to Suspend Operations at its Marlin Mine in Guatemala

MiningWatch Canada & CIEL press release

19 May 2011

Vancouver-After a year in which every major human rights body has called for the suspension of the Marlin mine in Guatemala, on Wednesday Goldcorp asked its shareholders to trust its judgment instead.

Six percent of shareholders voted in favour of a resolution presented at the company's Annual General Meeting that would bring Goldcorp into compliance with international law, including an order by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued in May 2010.

Goldcorp CEO, Charles Jeannes, defended his company, citing its support for a new measure to regulate consultation of indigenous peoples in Guatemala.

"Indigenous organizations in Guatemala have roundly condemned the proposed administrative decree to regulate consultation," comments Benito Morales, attorney with the Rigoberto Menchú Tum Foundation in Guatemala City, who attended the AGM today. "The government has put forward the decree to ensure that mining is able to continue in the face of over 50 local plebiscites in which roughly a million people have voted against mining in the Guatemalan countryside."

Jeannes also referred to the company's plans to implement recommendations from a human rights assessment it commissioned, and a new human rights policy that the company adopted in October 2010.

"What is your human rights policy worth if you disregard the findings of international human rights bodies?" asks Francois Guindon with the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala.

"Goldcorp said that it will no longer report on its implementation of recommendations from the human rights assessment," remarks Wyanne Sandler of the Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence -Network. "Also, many of the most important recommendations have not been implemented, such as posting a sufficient financial guarantee to ensure adequate funds for mine closure."

Vice President of Corporate Affairs David Deisley argued against voluntary implementation of the IACHR recommendations, saying that affected communities or civil society organizations concerned about Goldcorp's operations should enter into dialogue with the company.

"Dialogue requires trust," says Jen Moore, the Latin America Program Coordinator for MiningWatch Canada, "but when the company is actively lobbying against the implementation of recommendations of human rights bodies, while ignoring the results of independent scientific studies that provide evidence of serious impacts on water supplies and local health, that trust has not been earned."

"It is just as important to comply with international law as it is to comply with tax law," said Kris Genovese, Senior Attorney with the Center for International Environmental Law in Washington D.C. "This case could not be any clearer. The mine must be suspended."

###

Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) is committed to strengthening and using international law and institutions to protect the environment, promote human health, and ensure a just and sustainable society. CIEL is a non-profit organization dedicated to advocacy in the global public interest, including through legal counsel, policy research, analysis, education, training and capacity building.

MiningWatch Canada (MWC) is a pan-Canadian initiative supported by environmental, social justice, Aboriginal and labour organizations from across the country. It addresses the urgent need for a coordinated public interest response to the threats to public health, water and air quality, fish and wildlife habitat and community interests posed by irresponsible mineral policies and practices in Canada and around the world.

CONTACT:
Jennifer Moore, Latin America Program Coordinator, MiningWatch Canada
Tel: 613-569-3439

Kris Genovese, Senior Attorney, Center for International Environmental Law
Tel: 604-220-4009


A message to GoldCorp shareholders: the Guatemalan people need your votes

By Brad Frenette

Vancouver Sun

17 May 2011

By Renu Mandhane, Director, International Human Rights Program, University of Toronto, Faculty of Law

Goldcorp is hosting its annual general meeting in Vancouver this week. Shareholders will be asked to vote on whether the Canadian mining company, listed on both the New York and Toronto stock exchanges, should temporarily suspend operation of the Marlin mine, a particularly notorious open-pit gold mine in Guatemala. Two shareholders put forward the proposal on the basis of mounting evidence to suggest that the Marlin mine is degrading the water and land of the Maya Mam indigenous communities, and is operating on their ancestral lands without their consent.

In May 2010, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights recommended immediate interim suspension of work at the Marlin mine while it investigates potentially grave human rights abuses, including violations of the right to health. The proposed shareholder resolution would do nothing more than force GoldCorp to respect the Commission's sensibly prudent approach. As a responsible corporate citizen, one might hope that GoldCorp would comply willingly, despite Guatemala's failure to require it to do so. But, alas, the Marlin mine is GoldCorp's second largest source of earnings and, one year after the Commission imposed its measures, gold extraction continues unabated and GoldCorp and its shareholders reap the rewards. In the circular sent to shareholders in advance of the May 18th meeting, management urged shareholders to vote against suspension of the Marlin mine on the basis that it was not in the "best interests of the Company or its shareholders" (never mind the wisdom of the Inter-American Commission).

In their commentary on the shareholder proposal, GoldCorp management noted a number of voluntary initiatives undertaken to deal with alleged human rights violations at the mine, including last month passing human rights and corporate social responsibility policies. The policies appear robust at first blush: they reference all sorts of international agreements and bind their employees to respect them.

However, beyond the lofty language, the policies are deficient in key respects. They do not require GoldCorp to assess the human rights impact of projects at the outset, obtain independent assessments of human rights performance, or remedy harm caused. The policies also omit any mention of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and make no clear commitment to the right of indigenous peoples to free, prior and informed consent. Notably, the policies are ambiguous in their application to the corporation itself, as a distinct legal personality beyond its employees.

GoldCorp's policies highlight a larger problem with self-regulation in the area of human rights: corporations pat themselves on the back and expect kudos for simply putting words on paper, while they resist the rigour of independent assessment and continue to flout international human rights and recommendations made by the highest bodies entrusted with safeguarding them.

Corporate social responsibility and human rights policies are only valuable insofar as they change corporate behaviour; GoldCorp's continued failure to suspend operation of the Marlin mine despite guidance from the Inter-American Commission illustrates aptly how words can be rendered virtually meaningless through action.

How has this seemingly untenable situation come to pass? Blame your federal government. Successive governments have remained steadfast in their opposition to regulation that would ensure that Canadian extractive sector companies operating abroad respect basic environmental and human rights standards, despite the fact that these corporations often receive taxpayer-funded subsidies. The Marlin mine is one of the clearest illustrations of why we need to move beyond corporate self-regulation in the area of human rights. At the moment, it is left to GoldCorp's shareholders to force compliance with international law by voting to suspend operation of the Marlin mine.


International Human Rights Program at University of Toronto critiques GoldCorp's Human Rights Policy

IHRP Release

16 May 2010

Toronto - Actions Speak Louder than Words: A Critical Analysis of GoldCorp's Human Rights and Corporate Social Responsibility Policies, is an authoritative report released today by the International Human Rights Program ("IHRP") at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Law. The report provides critical information to GoldCorp's management and shareholders in advance of its AGM scheduled for Wednesday, May 18. 2011 in Vancouver B.C.

At the AGM, shareholders will be asked to vote on an important resolution impacting the human rights of indigenous communities in Guatemala; this report, which provides an unbiased assessment of GoldCorp's stated commitments to human rights, will be essential for shareholders deciding how to vote. Whatever the outcome of the shareholder resolution, the report will be helpful to GoldCorp management as it seeks to operationalize the corporation's stated commitments to human rights.

In Actions Speak Louder than Words, the IHRP finds that, while GoldCorp's Human Rights and Corporate Social Responsibility Policies are a step forward, they are deficient in key respects. The policies do not require GoldCorp to assess the human rights impact of projects at the outset, obtain independent assessments of human rights performance, or remedy harm caused.

The policies also omit any mention of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and make no clear commitment to the right of indigenous peoples to free, prior and informed consent. Notably, the policies are ambiguous in their application to the corporation itself, as a distinct legal personality beyond its employees.

A full text of Actions Speak Louder than Words (PDF) is available online at: http://www.utorontoihrp.com/index.php/home/ihrp-home

For further information, contact:

Renu Mandhane
Director and Clinical Adjunct Faculty
International Human Rights Program
University of Toronto, Faculty of Law
416-946-8730


Canadian Government Abdicates Responsibility to Ensure Respect for Human Rights

MiningWatch Canada & CIEL press release

16 May 2011

Ottawa - Without ruling on allegations of human rights violations, the Canadian government has closed a complaint from indigenous communities affected by Goldcorp's Marlin mine in Guatemala. The decision marks the end of a process that was both procedurally and substantively deficient, and provides yet another example of Canada's failure to ensure that its mining industry respects human rights around the world.

The complaint was submitted in December 2009 to the Canadian National Contact Point (NCP), an inter-ministerial committee responsible for promoting and ensuring compliance with the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, which require companies to respect human rights at their operations, "consistent with the host government's international obligations and commitments."

The complaint alleged that Goldcorp Inc. failed to respect the community's rights to adequate consultation and consent, property, health, water, and right to life in accord with Guatemala's international obligations. The complainants requested that the NCP carry out an investigation into their allegations and issue recommendations on the implementation of the Guidelines, a request that is clearly within its mandate. Nonetheless, the Canadian NCP's final statement on this case is devoid of any analysis of the implementation of the Guidelines.

In the interim, several international human rights bodies and reports have confirmed violations alleged in the complaint. Last year, the OAS's Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the International Labour Organization both issued recommendations to the Government of Guatemala to temporarily suspend operations at the Marlin mine. A human rights assessment commissioned by Goldcorp also found widespread violations.

Instead of using such findings to inform its conclusions, the NCP states, "they did not influence [its] decisions."

"This is a travesty," says Senior Attorney for the Center for International Environmental Law Kris Genovese. "The NCP has fundamentally misunderstood its own mandate and failed the communities, resulting in the abdication of the government's responsibility to ensure respect for human rights."

"Given that Canada's mining companies are involved in more than four times as many human rights violations as those from other countries," remarks Jennifer Moore, Latin America Program Coordinator for MiningWatch Canada, "such intransigence on the part of the Canadian government to equip itself to take complaints seriously amounts to complicity in the abuses."

- 30 -

CONTACT:
• Jennifer Moore, Latin America Program Coordinator, MiningWatch Canada, tel: 613-569-343

• Kris Genovese, Senior Attorney, Center for International Environmental Law, tel: 604-220-4009

...

The Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) is committed to strengthening and using international law and institutions to protect the environment, promote human health, and ensure a just and sustainable society. CIEL is a non-profit organization dedicated to advocacy in the global public interest, including through legal counsel, policy research, analysis, education, training and capacity building.

MiningWatch Canada is a pan-Canadian initiative supported by environmental, social justice, Aboriginal and labour organisations from across the country. It addresses the urgent need for a co-ordinated public interest response to the threats to public health, water and air quality, fish and wildlife habitat and community interests posed by irresponsible mineral policies and practices in Canada and around the world.


Huicholes take the fight for Wirikuta to Canada

Tracy Barnett

The Esperanza Project

14 May 2011

A delegation of representatives of the Wixarika People travel to Vancouver, Canada, this week, home base of the mining company First Majestic Silver Corp., which plans to open a mine on their most sacred site, Wirikuta.

The delegates plan to make their case to the public, to members of Parliament and to the mining company and to participate in the Mining Justice Week events May 14-19, a week dedicated to demanding justice in the mining industry throughout Latin America and the world.

On Sunday, Jesús Lara Chivarra of San Sebastián Teponahuaxtlán, Jalisco, México, will be one of the speakers at a conference on "Mining, Social Justice and Self Determination for Indigenous Peoples." The next day, Lara, together with Huichol artist Cilau Valadez, of Santiago Ixcuintla, Nayarit, will present at the Forum on the Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth and Indigenous Peoples.

Tuesday and Wednesday the delegation will attend meetings with indigenous peoples of Canada and with leaders from Vancouver, and will attend in solidarity a mobilization in front of the headquarters of Goldcorp, one of the biggest and most controversial Canadian mining companies now doing business in Latin America.

We hope that by Tuesday we will be joined by delegates Rodolfo Cosio Candelario, jicarero and guardian of the ceremonial center of Las Latas, Santa Catarina, Jalisco, and Juventino Carrillo de la Cruz, a leader from the community of San Sebastián. Their Canadian visas have been postponed and we hope they will be granted on Monday.

Rodolfo Cosio Candelario and Jesus Lara Chivarra in Cancún, December 2010, in an interview with Maricarmen Wister of TV Cable.

The events will culminate on Thursday with the annual stockholders meeting of First Majestic Silver Corp., when a pair of delegates will try to enter and ask for the preservation of Wirikuta and that First Majestic abandon its plan for the mine in the site, which is extremely sacred for the Wixarika People.

During the week, the delegation will be available for interviews with various media and will be organizing meetings with representatives of the government, of First Majestic and with local and regional indigenous leaders.


Huichols march against Canadian mining company

Guadalajara Reporter

20 May 2011

Members of indigenous communities from the isolated highlands of northern Jalisco marched Friday in Guadalajara in protest at the Mexican government's decision to allow a Canadian mining company to explore and develop mineral deposits in a part of San Luis Potosi State they say is a sacred area for their people.

The 6,327-hectare property lies in the Real de Catorce region, 25 kilometers west of Matehuala, and was purchased by Vancouver-based First Majestic Silver Corporation in November 2009. Almost 70 percent of the land falls inside a sacred area for the Wixárika (the traditional name for the Huichols), who make an annual pilgrimage there to carry out religious observances and gather peyote, the hallucinogenic cactus.

As well as Huichols, Friday morning's march included students and members of NGOs that are calling for the federal government to revoke the mining concession.

Local reporters commented that they couldn't recall a previous occasion when so many members of an indigenous tribe had taken part in a demonstration in Guadalajara.

Similar protests took place simultaneously outside the United Nations headquarters in New York and in Vancouver, Canada, organizers said. According to march spokesman Antonio García Mijares, UNESCO considers the disputed land among the world's 14 most important sacred sites.

First Majestic said in a recent press release that Real de Cartorce will become "an important mine for the region and help the community create new jobs and increase the economic opportunities in the area." First Majestic owns three other producing silver mines in Mexico.


Facing fears, building alliances in Vancouver

http://theesperanzaproject.org/2011/05/facing-fears-building-alliances-in-vancouver/

22 May 2011

VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Dressed in their colorful traditional clothing and bearing a carved talking stick as a sign of their alliance with the tribes of the North, two Wixarika delegates prepared enter the annual stockholders' meeting of First Majestic Silver Corp., the company that has laid a claim for a silver mine in their sacred territory, Wirikuta. A team of stony-faced police officers barred their entry even after they handed over documents explaining that they had been named proxies, giving them authority to enter the meeting, where they hoped to deliver a message to the investors.

Jesus Lara Chivarra and Cilau Valadez had traveled thousands of miles from the remote mountains of Jalisco and Nayarit, Mexico, along with Rodolfo Cosio and Juventino Carrillo to send a message to the mining company and to the world: The Wixarika People will not negotiate for the heart of their mother.

The meeting fell at the end of Mining Justice Week, a series of events designed to draw attention to the increasing presence of Canadian mining companies in Latin America and the countless cases of contamination, corruption, illness and violence that tend to follow them. The delegation was optimistic because the day before, at the annual meeting of Goldcorp, a group of ten mining opponents had been allowed to enter and seven of them to speak, despite only having three proxies. At First Majestic, it was another story. The two had hoped to enter with Jennifer Moore of MiningWatch Canada and Ana Paula Hernandez of the Global Fund for Human Rights, but they were told to wait as dozens of others streamed past.

For half an hour they stood facing the great doors of gold and glass of the Terminal Building as a noisy protest arrived to support them. More than a hundred people, including local religious and tribal leaders and elders, marched from Waterfront Station to the Terminal Building, waving placards and chanting. Finally Lara was granted entry but was told none of the others could enter. After much insistence he was allowed to enter with Valadez as a witness to the company-provided interpreter, but neither of them were allowed to speak. At the end of the meeting, Lara was allowed to deliver a letter the Wixarika Regional Council in Defence of Wirikuta had recently given to Mexican President Felipe Calderon, but he was not allowed to speak.

The delegates were disheartened, but still considered the mission a success. The First Majestic meeting came at the end of a week with mining activists from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and with tribal leaders from Kawkawka, Bear Clan and Coast Salish peoples, an opportunity to learn, build alliances and strategize.

"We have realized that we are not alone. The past week a lot of activity has been dedicated all over the world at different points against the mining industry," said Lara. "We have found here the support of the tribes of the U.S. and Canada and this gives us the confidence that we are many. We will see how the mining company reacts but we will not be silent. On the contrary, we will keep intensifying what we have already defined: No to the mine, no more genocide, no more ecocide in Wirikuta."

Valadez was positive, too, about the meeting's outcome.

"They tried to intimidate us, but we are present here to demonstrate that we can come to their land and they won't intimidate us even though they confront us with police and other obstacles. We already know what they are trying to do, and we are not going to negotiate."

The mining company has presented a proposal to donate the Cerro Quemado, the mountain at the heart of Wirikuta, to the Wixarika people as a part of its plan to mine the area, but the delegates say the proposal misses the point of Wirikuta.

"How would you like it if they left your body alone but drilled out your heart? Valadez asked. "This is practically what they want to do with our land, and they don't explain that in their report."

Juventino Carrillo, a member of the Wixarika Regional Council in Defense of Wirikuta, pointed to the Canadian mining industry's record in other countries.

"They dress the project up to look so beneficial, but don't believe the manipulations that Canadian companies have carried out in other countries," said Carrillo. "Who's going to believe them, with all the dirt they've thrown throughout Latin America?"

Cosio, who serves as a jicarero, one of those chosen by his community to care for the ceremonial center and make pilgrimages to the sacred sites, was indignant that the mining company proposes to give only the surface rights of the Cerro Quemado when Wirikuta goes much beyond the Cerro and in fact beyond the region delineated as a protected nature reserve. Wirikuta also includes all its subsoil, he said - "That's where the essence of Wirikuta lies."

He added, "I would say that's deceptive. How can they give us something that has always belonged to us since time immemorial?"

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