Canadian National Contact Point to the OECD Admits Case Against Goldcorp Inc. Affected Communities Applaud Admission and Urge Investigation

The Canadian National Contact Point (NCP) to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) recently admitted a case filed on behalf affected community groups in Guatemala against Canadian gold company Goldcorp Inc. The case, involving Goldcorp’s Marlin mine, was presented in person by two Guatemalan community representatives in Ottawa on December 12, 2009.

The Front in Defense of San Miguel Ixtahuacán (FREDEMI), a coalition comprised of local development organizations, teachers, and the Catholic Church, filed the complaint to the NCP over Goldcorp’s alleged violations of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The principal grievances of the indigenous communities include water contamination, health harms, damage done to homes, and the violation of their right to free, prior, and informed consent. Communities cite International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 169, which Guatemala ratified in 1996, as protecting their right to consultation prior to the initiation of development projects on their lands.

The admittance of the case comes immediately after the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions released a report in which it confirmed the Guatemalan state’s violation of Convention 169 and called for the immediate suspension of mining operations at Marlin until adequate environmental studies and consultation could take place. The United Nations Committee for the Eradication of Racial Discrimination (CERD) also released a country report in March of this year expressing serious concern for the right to free, prior, and informed consent of indigenous communities over mining projects in Guatemala. Communities claim to have never been properly informed or consulted about mining development on their lands and are calling for compliance with the ILO’s requests.

Meanwhile, leaders in San Miguel are preparing their response to the proposals of the NCP. “At least they have taken us into account,” explains Maudilia Carmen, coordinator of FREDEMI, and sister with the local Parish. “It should be the obligation of both the company and the state of Canada to ensure our well-being and our rights as people affected by their mining activities, because it is our lives that are put at stake. We hope for a resolution in favor of the communities of San Miguel… because the abuse they have committed against us is already very great.”

The Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), who helped FREDEMI file the complaint, is pleased to see the NCP taking the case seriously and moving forward. “We are concerned that the NCP will not take seriously communities’ disillusionment with previous attempts to dialogue with the company,” states CIEL attorney Kris Genovese, “but we hope the NCP will follow through on the request of the communities and conduct an investigation into the allegations of human rights violations. Essential to that would be a site visit to Guatemala.”

Goldcorp responded publicly to the submission to the complaint in December denying all allegations.

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