Guatemalan community leaders ask Canadian government to investigate human rights violations committed by Goldcorp Inc. at Marlin Mine

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 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.

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