Canadian Parliamentarians meet with Guatemalan Legislators on Goldcorp's Ticket
For an earlier article on this issue, see: Goldcorp organizes junket for Canadian parliamentarians to Guatemala
Canadian Parliamentarians meet with Guatemalan Legislators on Goldcorp's Ticket
MiningWatch Canada press release
11 September 2012
Ottawa - Records filed Monday confirm that four Canadian Members of Parliament and one Senator flew on Goldcorp's tab to visit company operations in Guatemala and meet with legislators in charge of mines at the end of August.
Don Boudria, a lobbyist hired by Goldcorp VP Brent Bergeron, reported to the Lobby Registry of Canada that Conservative MPs Dave Van Kesteren and Dean Allison, both members of the Foreign Affairs and International Development Committee, along with Liberal MP Massimo Pacetti, Independent MP Bruce Hyer and Senator Mac Harb participated in the three-day junket that took place from August 29th to 31st.
Two weeks ago, an email leaked to MiningWatch Canada flagged that the trip was taking place. The tip off became news in Guatemala even before Goldcorp's jet, in which the delegation traveled, touched down in the capital city. Guatemalan press confirmed that the delegation would meet with the Legislative Commission on Mines and Energy.
President of the Legislative Commission, Edgar Cristiani, told the press they would discuss "different positions on mining, the experience of their country with mining, royalty payments, as well as the issue of conflicts." Confronted with publicized comments from Goldcorp's Brent Bergeron about his interest in seeing Guatemala's mining law modernized with the help of the Canadian government, Cristiani denied that the Parliamentarians sought changes to favour Canadian interests.
Goldcorp's Guatemalan Executive Director, Mario Marroquín Rivera, insisted to the press that the group had "no hidden agenda". In a communiqué, Goldcorp's Guatemalan subsidiary described it as "a good will visit" and "part of a routine agenda of supervision of Canadian investments that Parliamentarians carry out in different parts of the world."
"In the case of the Marlin mine, given that it belongs to Goldcorp, this is a very important reference point for the parent company and for Canada," Marío Marroquín Rivera further explained in the press release.
Nonetheless, the timing of the trip and meetings with Guatemalan ministers coincides with uncertainty over the country's mining code. In July, Guatemalan indigenous organizations presented arguments in a constitutional challenge to the current mining law for failure to consult with them over legislative changes that affect their rights. That same month, President Otto Pérez Molina hit the mining news in Canada when he proposed mining code reforms, which originally included ramping up state participation in mining projects to a potential 40%. Shares of Tahoe Resources, in which Goldcorp holds a large stake, fell 24% the same week.
The Western People's Council (CPO by its initials in Spanish) whose legislative commission filed the constitutional challenge against the current mining law held a press conference on August 30th to express disappointment at the government not having informed them of the delegation's visit. The closed door meeting between the Parliamentarians and Guatemalan legislators led CPO representative Josué Navarro to remark, "It leaves a lot to be desired when authorities fail to hold these sorts of meetings in the public realm. We have a pending constitutional challenge against the mining law; so this affects us."
"Since when do Parliamentarians provide routine oversight at Canadian mine sites abroad?" asks Jen Moore, Latin America Program Coordinator for MiningWatch Canada. "I doubt that the average Guatemalan took the company's statements seriously. This trip reinforces what they've seen for decades: a cozy relationship between big business and legislators that undermines their rights, this time with a Canadian face."
CONTACT: Jen Moore, Latin America Program Coordinator MiningWatch Canada, 613-569-3439, firstname.lastname@example.org
Goldcorp sponsored MP, senator trip to Guatemala mine
11 September 2012
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.