MAC: Mines and Communities

Guatemalan groups file OECD complaint on Goldcorp mine

Published by MAC on 2010-01-25
Source: Reuters, MWC (2009-12-09)

Full text of the Complaint (Size 614k, PDF)


Guatemalan Community Leaders ask Canadian Government to Investigate Human Rights Violations Allegedly Committed by Goldcorp Inc. at Marlin Mine


9 December 2009

Ottawa - A coalition of community groups from San Miguel Ixtahuacán, Guatemala, filed an OECD complaint with the Canadian government today, requesting an investigation into human rights violations allegedly committed by Goldcorp Inc. at the company's Marlin gold mine.

"The Marlin mine has divided our town, harassed protesters, and made us afraid for the health of our families," said Sister Maudilia López Cardona with the San Miguel Ixtahuacán Catholic parish and the FREDEMI coalition coordinator (the Front in Defence of San Miguel Ixtahuacán). "Is this economic development? Could Goldcorp do this in Canada?"

The complaint was filed under the Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The National Contact Point (NCP), an interdepartmental committee chaired by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, accepts complaints from communities harmed by Canadian industries operating abroad.

The NCP's limited mandate permits it to issue non-binding recommendations to the company on implementation of the Guidelines and/or offer to facilitate an agreement between the parties.

In its thirteen-page complaint, the coalition details concerns over toxic contamination and depletion of fresh drinking water, health impacts on local citizens which include skin rashes and ailments similar to those found at Goldcorp's San Martin mine in Honduras and structural damage to houses near the mine from blasting and the use of heavy transport trucks. A recent investigation conducted by mining specialists and geologists found that shock waves are the most likely cause of the structural damage to many houses in San Miguel Ixtahuacán.

"Sadly, this is not a unique story. Communities from Guatemala to Papua New Guinea are having their rights violated by Canadian mining companies," said Jamie Kneen of MiningWatch Canada. "These communities desperately need Parliament to act to ensure that our companies respect their human rights."

A broad-based movement of human rights organizations in Canada has been advocating for the passage of Bill C-300 as a long-overdue step towards corporate accountability for Canadian companies operating abroad, especially in the extractive industries. Canadian law currently has no binding mechanism under which to bring such complaints. Parliament is expected to vote on Bill C-300 in February 2010.

The FREDEMI coalition includes the Catholic parish, community-based development organizations, and a teachers' association. The coalition decries the company's failure to ensure that the community had given its free, prior, and informed consent to the mine, a right protected under national and international law. Vancouver-based Goldcorp has operated the controversial Marlin gold mine in Guatemala since 2006, when it acquired Glamis Gold. Glamis received a loan from the International Finance Corporation to develop the mine.

Guatemalan groups file complaint on Goldcorp mine

By Cameron French, Reuters

9 December 2009

TORONTO - A coalition of Guatemalan community groups has filed a complaint with the Canadian government requesting an investigation into alleged human rights violations at Goldcorp's Marlin mine, located in the Central American country.

The complaint was filed under the guidelines of the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development, of which Canada is a member, and to a Department of Foreign Affairs committee that accepts complaints from communities harmed by Canadian industries operating abroad.

The complaint details concerns over alleged contamination and depletion of fresh drinking water, as well as skin rashes and other aliments suffered by people living close to the mine, and structural damage to houses near the project due to blasting and heavy trucks.

"The Marlin mine has divided our town, harassed protesters, and made us afraid for the health of our families," Sister Maudilia Lopez Cardona of the Guatemalan FREDEMI coalition, said in a statement.

The Marlin mine, which Goldcorp acquired when it bought Glamis Gold in 2006, has been the source of several protests and disruptions over the years. It produces about 250,000 ounces of gold and 4 million ounces of silver a year.

"These are allegations that people have been making for as long as the mine has been there ... it's simply unfounded," said Jeff Wilhoit, a spokesman for Goldcorp.

In June, protesters set fire to a pickup truck and exploration drill rig at a drilling project outside the main operation, claiming Goldcorp did not have the rights to the property.

Last year, the Marlin mill was idled after a local land owner damaged a power line running from the mine and through her property. She claimed the company placed the line on the land without permission.

The compliant comes as Canada's Parliament considers a private member's bill that would withhold federal investment dollars form companies found in violation of social responsibility standards in foreign countries.


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