MAC: Mines and Communities

Shareholders Say Guatemalans Should Not Have to Pay for Goldcorp's Mess

Published by MAC on 2012-04-24
Source: Statements, Timmins Daily Press (2012-04-28)

Shareholders Say Guatemalans Should Not Have to Pay for Goldcorp's Mess

Joint statement

17 April 2012

OTTAWA, ON/WASHINGTON, DC - Several shareholders have filed a resolution with Goldcorp Inc asking the company to commit to the full costs of closure of the Marlin mine in Guatemala, and to fully disclose its closure plans.

They indicate that to do otherwise puts the health of local communities at long-term risk and could expose the company to liability through potential litigation for damages.

Studies show the company's current financial surety for the mine is seriously inadequate. An independent team of US-based engineers calculate a US$49 million price tag for closure and post-closure costs for the Marlin mine in Guatemala while the company's current surety bond for the mine is a mere $1 million.

Indigenous peoples whose futures are at stake have not been meaningfully involved in the process to develop a closure and post-closure plan.

The mine is expected to close in 2018 when mineral reserves are exhausted. It is likely that pollution from toxic heavy metals, erosion of infrastructure, sedimentation and disturbances to the landscape will prevent the land from returning to its pre-mine condition and uses.

"The contamination of the land and water surrounding the Marlin mine will have lasting effects whose extent we cannot yet determine," says Sister Natalie Wing, of the Loretto Literary and Benevolent Institution, a co-filer of the shareholder resolution.

Patricia Jones of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, another co-filer, is concerned about access to safe drinking water:

"Failure to adequately address reclamation exposes affected communities to an uncertain future regarding whether or not water will be safe to drink or if anyone will buy crops grown near the abandoned mine site. The company and the government have a responsibility to respect and protect the communities' human right to water. The long-term health of surrounding communities - which have seen their land used for mining without their consent - is truly at stake."

Failure by Goldcorp to develop, disclose, and fund robust closure plans exposes the company to litigation for damages.

Recent court decisions have awarded significant damages against extractive companies for inadequate environmental clean-up. Most notably, on 3 January 2012, an Appellate Panel in Ecuador confirmed the $8.6 billion USD damages award of the lower courts against Chevron.

Goldcorp's own 2010 Human Rights Assessment highlighted the long-term human rights risks that poor closure planning and funding pose for affected communities and called on Goldcorp to review and improve its closure and post-closure plans in consultation with communities, and to secure sufficient financial assurances for the closure costs.

"The company has said that it is implementing recommendations from the Human Rights Assessment for the Marlin mine," notes Senior Attorney Kris Genovese for the Center for International Environmental Law in Washington. "Shareholders are merely asking the company to follow through."

In the context of allegations of environmental contamination and human rights abuses, Goldcorp was deleted from the Dow Jones Sustainability Index in September 2011.

"Goldcorp's CEO is among Canada's 0.01% of top tax-filers and the company's assets now supersede the real GDP of Guatemala," says Jen Moore, Latin Program Coordinator for MiningWatch Canada. "This company can afford to adequately close its mines without further burdening affected communities."

The shareholder resolution calls on the company to fully fund the closure and post closure of the mine, consult with local communities regarding closure and post closure plans, and to publicly disclose a comprehensive account of its planning and remediation processes.

The company has recommended a vote against the shareholder resolution. The company AGM will be held in South Porcupine, Ontario on April 26, 2012

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For further information:

  • Elizabeth Berton-Hunter, Amnesty International Canada, (416) 363-9933 ext 332 or mobile (416) 904-7158
  • Jen Moore, MiningWatch Canada, (613) 569-3439
  • Kristen Genovese, Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), (202) 742-5831

Investors Challenge Goldcorp's Closing Costs for Guatemala Mine

By Robert Kropp

Sustainability Investment News

17 April 2012

Two institutional investors warn that Goldcorp faces litigation risks if its plan for funding the environmental cleanup of its mine in Guatemala is inadequate.

SocialFunds.com -- The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) and the Loretto Literary and Benevolent Institution have filed a shareowner resolution challenging Goldcorp's estimations of the cost of shutting down its Marlin gold mine in Guatemala.

The Canada-based mining company has estimated that its closing of the Marlin mine, planned for 2018, will cost $1 million. But the shareowners charge that an independent group of engineers estimate closure and post-closure costs at $49 million. Furthermore, the shareowners argue, "Indigenous peoples whose futures are at stake have not been meaningfully involved in the process to develop a closure and post-closure plan." Pollution and infrastructure erosion are among the long-term environmental challenges likely to be encountered in the region of the mine.

"Failure to adequately address reclamation exposes affected communities to an uncertain future regarding whether or not water will be safe to drink or if anyone will buy crops grown near the abandoned mine site," said Patricia Jones of the UUSC. "The company and the government have a responsibility to respect and protect the communities' human right to water. The long-term health of surrounding communities-which have seen their land used for mining without their consent-is truly at stake."

The shareowner resolution requests that the company to fully fund the closure and post-closure costs of the mine; consult with local communities in developing closure and post-closure plans; and to publicly report on its planning and remediation processes. The shareowners point to the recent $8.6 billion damages award against Chevron in Ecuador as evidence that inadequate environmental cleanup plans exposes the company to the risk of litigation.

Jen Moore, Latin Program Coordinator for MiningWatch Canada, stated, "Goldcorp's CEO is among Canada's 0.01% of top tax-filers and the company's assets now supersede the real GDP of Guatemala. This company can afford to adequately close its mines without further burdening affected communities."

Goldcorp, which was deleted from the Dow Jones Sustainability Index in 2011 due to environmental and human rights concerns, has recommended that shareowners vote against the proposal. The company's annual general meeting will be held in Ontario on April 26th.


Mine closing sparks concerns

Activists travel from Central America to share concerns at Goldcorp AGM

By Kyle Gennings

Timmins Daily Press

28 April 2012

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."


International delegation sends strong message to Goldcorp at annual shareholders meeting in South Porcupine, Ontario

Press statement

28 April 2012

Ottawa/Toronto - On Thursday, a Colorado-based mine and environmental engineer, two Honduran teachers, and a Maya indigenous community leader made the long trip to Timmins, Ontario to participate in Goldcorp's Annual General Meeting. Accompanied by several US and Canadian member organizations of the Coalition Against Unjust Mining in Guatemala, they called upon the company to take responsibility for the cleanup at current mine sites, and alerted shareholders to outstanding public health issues, environmental degradation and conflict.

"Today Timmins is celebrating 100 years as a mining town. Goldcorp's San Martín mine in the Siria Valley in Honduras didn't even operate for ten years, and now we have problems that could last us for more than one hundred," said Honduran high school teacher Reina Gamero to Timmins press.

Gamero, a member of the Siria Valley Environmental Committee, continued: "We've seen people get sick and riverbeds dry up. A Honduran government health study carried out in 2007 was suppressed until 2011 in which we learned that many people tested have heavy metal poisoning. We want the company to address this."

Carlos Amador, also from the Siria Valley Environmental Committee in Honduras, added that researchers have already found evidence that the mine installations are generating acid mine drainage. "The company has put in place some mitigating measures, but we have no guarantee that they will ever be enough or that there's any money left to make sure that this grave issue is monitored forever," said Amador. "I was here a year ago and asked the same question. I'm still waiting for an answer from the company about its commitment."

Colorado-based mine and environmental engineer Rob Robinson, who has more than forty years of experience and is a volunteer with the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, presented a shareholder proposal at the company's AGM held in the Northern College cafeteria. The proposal called for Goldcorp to take responsibility for adequate closure at its Marlin mine in Guatemala, the company's third most profitable mine in 2011.

"The surety bond of $1 million for this mine is highly inadequate given our findings that closure costs could be at least $49 million. There is also little public information about the company's closure plans, and what's available is highly insufficient," said Robinson. "Communities need this information and must be fully consulted about the company's closure plans before they're finalized, since it will be them who have to live with the long-term impacts from this highly profitable mine for the company and its shareholders. Before the company packs up and walks away from the Marlin mine, it should meet industry best practice for closure."

UUSC, the Loretto Literary Benevolent Society and an individual shareholder co-filed the shareholder resolution that was voted on at the AGM, which was also the focus of an online petition circulated by Amnesty International and the Center for International Environmental Law last week.

"More than 5,000 people have signed a petition in support of the shareholder resolution, which calls upon the company to ensure that Guatemalans aren't left with the long-term costs of clean up at the Marlin mine," said Tara Scurr, Business and Human Rights campaigner for Amnesty International Canada. "Shareholders should take note of the growing public pressure at home and abroad to ensure companies respect human rights at former project sites long after operations cease."

Alfonso Morales Jiménez of Guatemala says that such experiences are why his municipality and many others have voted against metal mining in their communities. Morales, a leader with the Indigenous Assembly for Territorial Defense in the department of Huehuetenango, lives in a neighbouring community to San Marcos, where the Marlin mine operates. Dozens of mining concessions have been granted in his department.

"The risks that industrial mining poses for our communities are simply too great," remarks Morales Jiménez. "We've taken a look at the Marlin mine and decided that this is not the sort of development that we want for our communities. Many others have decided not to support such development in a similar way, with some 60 local referenda having been held to date on this issue in municipalities across Guatemala. Almost everyone votes no."

Goldcorp recommended voting against the shareholder resolution on the Marlin mine closure plan. The company's legal counsel David Deisley did, however, express a verbal commitment to begin discussions with the Guatemalan government about increasing the financial surety for Marlin to an amount commensurate with their own closure costs estimate of $27.6 million. He added that they would disclose their plans and ask the Ministry of the Environmental to consult with affected communities regarding the closure plan.

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For more information contact:

Elizabeth Berton-Hunter
, Amnesty International Canada
, (416) 363-9933 ext 332, 
Mobile (416) 904-7158
Jen Moore, Latin America Program Coordinator, MiningWatch Canada, 613-569-3439

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