Violence near Goldcorp mine underscores need for mine suspension

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Mar 09 2011

In the following letter to Guatemalan authorities and Goldcorp Inc., the International Coalition Against Unjust Mining in Guatemala (CAMIGUA) expresses its profound concern following reports of violence in the municipality of San Miguel Ixtahuacán. CAMIGUA believes that the recent incident underscores an urgent need for the Guatemalan government to fully implement precautionary measures issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) last spring, including temporary closure of Goldcorp’s Marlin mine. In lieu of immediate government action, the coalition requests that Goldcorp voluntarily take this step and fulfill its stated commitment to respect human rights.

March 9, 2011

Ruth del Valle Cóbar, Msc., President
Presidential Commission for Coordinating Executive Policy in the Field of Human Rights (COPREDEH)
2 Ave. 10-50, Zona 9
Guatemala

Charles Jeannes, President and Chief Executive Officer
Goldcorp Inc.
Park Place, Ste. 3400-666 Burrard St.
Vancouver, B.C. V6C 2X8

Dear Ms. del Valle and Mr. Jeannes:

The Coalition Against Unjust Mining in Guatemala (CAMIGUA) and allies would like to express our profound concern following reports of violence in the municipality of San Miguel Ixtahuacán on February 28th 2011. The alleged incidents took place after a day of action organized by community members to urge Guatemalan authorities to implement precautionary measures, MC-260-07, issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on May 20th 2010. These measures, including the temporary suspension of the Marlin mine, are intended to provide immediate security and protection for the health and personal integrity of indigenous communities in the municipalities of Sipacapa and San Miguel Ixtahuacán. They are also intended to protect the communities’ rights while the IACHR examines alleged human rights violations stemming from the mine. Although President Álvaro Colóm publicly indicated his government would comply with the IACHR’s recommendation, [1] the mine continues to operate.

We believe that events such as those on February 28th underline the necessity for the Guatemalan government to fully implement the IACHR precautionary measures. Failure to address the underlying grievances about the Marlin mine generates conflict and fosters conditions within which violence can take place, as pointed out in Goldcorp’s own Human Rights Assessment. [2] We therefore urge the Government of Guatemala to comply with the precautionary measures and suspend operations at the Marlin mine. In lieu of immediate government action, we request that Goldcorp voluntarily take this step and fulfill its commitment to respecting human rights. We also ask Guatemalan authorities to ensure protection for the physical integrity of human rights defenders in San Miguel Ixtahuacán and to fully investigate all reported abuses against these defenders in accordance with its obligations under human rights law.

Goldcorp argues in its recently disclosed financial statements and accompanying analysis that “there is no basis under Guatemalan law to suspend operations at Marlin” and that to do so would have an “adverse effect… on its employees, suppliers, and the communities.” [3] Guatemala is party to the American Convention on Human Rights and, as a result, it is incumbent on the Guatemalan state to implement the recommendations of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Furthermore, to the extent that a temporary suspension of the Marlin mine would have an adverse affect on employees, suppliers and communities, the company is fully capable of sustaining the costs of such a suspension and to ensure that others who might be affected do not suffer undue hardship as a result. According to Goldcorp’s financial statements for 2010, [4] the Marlin mine was the company’s second largest source of earnings in 2010. [5] Indeed, the company’s total assets in 2010 [6] now exceed the GDP of Guatemala. [7]

We are deeply concerned by what took place on February 28th 2011, by persistent tensions in the communities of San Miguel Ixtahuacán, and by the ongoing situation of threats against human rights defenders opposed to the Marlin mine. Despite the efforts of the Government of Guatemala to convene a dialogue with selected participants, this recent conflict is an indication that neither the Guatemalan government nor Goldcorp have adequately addressed grievances of affected communities. We believe that a transparent process to address community grievances will not be able to take place until the precautionary measures issued by the IACHR are fully implemented, including the temporary suspension of the Marlin mine.

We believe the suspension of the Marlin mine, whether immediately enforced by the Guatemalan government or voluntarily by the company, would be a significant step to address existing tensions in San Miguel Ixtahuacán, and to ensure that economic interests do not once again come before the safety and wellbeing of indigenous communities in Guatemala. CAMIGUA and its allies also ask the Government of Guatemala to fully investigate the events of February 28th, to take action to protect human rights defenders, and to immediately implement the precautionary measures.

Sincerely,

Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network (Canada)
BC CASA/Café Justicia BC
Casa Maiz-Toronto
Center for International Environmental Law (US)
Collectif Guatemala (France)
FoodFirst Information and Action Network
Guatemala Community Network-Toronto
Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA
Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA)
LACASA, Latino American Canadian Solidarity Association. London Ontario, Canada
Latin America Working Group/USA
London Guatemalan Solidarity Committee. London Ontario, Canada
Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Solidarity Network
MiningWatch Canada
NISGUA/Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (US)
Plataforma Holandesa Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala
Public Service Alliance of Canada
Mining Injustice Solidarity Network, Toronto
Rights Action (Canada & USA)
The Social Justice Committee of Montreal
Solidarity of Austria with Guatemala

Background to events taking place February 28th 2011

According to eyewitness accounts, two hundred people protested peacefully during the day on February 28th 2011 to demand the full implementation of the precautionary measures issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on May 20, 2010. As the protest was disbanding, pro-mining community members from San Jose Ixcaniche, Siete Platos and Salitre assaulted the protesters, detaining some against their will until they agreed to sign confessions and pay those who were holding them.

On March 1, 2011, Goldcorp released its own statement regarding events occurring on February 28th. Further investigation of these events, including research by Amnesty International, indicates that this version of events is incomplete, inaccurate, and could possibly put in jeopardy the personal security of a recognized human rights defender, Aniseto López.

One of those injured was known human rights defender, Miguel Bámaca, who was beaten and left severely injured near his home. The Presidential Commission on Human Rights (COPREDEH) had already authorized precautionary measures for Miguel Bámaca as a result of previous attempts on his life. When Aniseto López tried to return to assist Miguel, he was detained and beaten. Reports from those present indicate that he was struck in the face and threatened.

Goldcorp’s statement repeatedly singles out Aniseto López as leader of the protest. This is not the first time Mr. López has been targeted. As he testified to the IACHR during a hearing on environmental defenders in October 2010, Aniseto was formally accused of assaulting a man in San Marcos during an Earth Day demonstration, despite being seven hours away in Guatemala City to attend a meeting. As the IACHR has repeatedly noted on this and similar situations in Guatemala, such accusations can put the security of human rights defenders in serious jeopardy.

Furthermore, reports by those present indicate that one bus, which was hired to transport approximately 45 protesters to their homes, was detained when it reached San Jose Ixcaniche. Community members there forced the protesters off the bus and assaulted them. [8] Some protesters tried to flee. In total, thirteen people have been reported injured, including a dozen protesters, one of whom was hospitalized, as well as a woman who was treated at the Marlin mine’s medical clinic. Telephones, cameras, videos cameras, cassettes and tapes were also reportedly taken from the protesters.

Although police in both San Marcos and San Miguel Ixtahuacán were informed of events, they indicated by phone that they would not send units to the area in part because they feared those who were holding the protesters. To secure their own release, the protesters were reportedly forced by their captors to sign documents confessing to certain events. We lament that Goldcorp is relying on these forced confessions instead of undertaking a careful investigation of the situation as required by standards of due diligence.

cc:

Santiago Canton, Executive Secretary
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

Lic. Claudia Paz y paz Bailey
Attorney General and Chief of the Public Ministry

Dr. Sergio Fernando Morales Alvarado
Guatemalan Human Rights Ombudsman (PDH)

Claudia Samayoa, Director
Guatemalan Human Rights Defenders Protection Unit (UDEFEGUA)

David Diesley, Executive Vice President, Corporate Affairs and General Counsel
Goldcorp Inc.

Mrs. Evelyne Coulombe Chargé d’affaires
Canadian Embassy in Guatemala

Licenciado Georges de La Roche Embajador
Guatemalan Embassy in Canada

Board of Directors
Goldcorp Inc.

[1] Presidencia de la República, Comisión Presidencial Coordinadora de la Política del Ejecutivo en Materia de Derechos Humanos, Informe P-1018-2010/RDVC/HEMJ/ad, 23 June 2010.
[2] On Common Ground Consultants Inc., “Human Rights Assessment of Goldcorp’s Marlin Mine: Executive Summary,” 34 (2010) (“The number one stakeholder concern relates to the environment of conflict, tension, and fragmentation in the project-affected communities… A vicious circle is created when conflict leads to human rights violations and infringements, which in turn lead to further conflict.”).
[3] Goldcorp’s Management’s Discussion & Analysis of Financial Condition and results of Operations for the year ended December 31st 2010. Accessed on sedar.com on February 27th 2011.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Goldcorp reports earnings of $268.6 million CDN from the Marlin mine in 2010, or roughly 18% of total earnings from operations during the last year. See Goldcorp’s Management’s Discussion & Analysis of Financial Condition and results of Operations for the year ended December 31st 2010. Accessed on sedar.com on February 27th 2011.
[6] Goldcorp’s total assets in 2010 were $28.8 billion CDN. See Goldcorp’s Management’s Discussion & Analysis of Financial Condition and results of Operations for the year ended December 31st 2010. Accessed on sedar.com on February 27th 2011.
[7] The GDP of Guatemala was $23.7 billion USD in 2009 according to the US State Department. Accessed March 1st 2011.
[8] Amnesty International, Urgent Action 57/11, “Guatemala: Mine Activists Beaten and Threatened

 

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