Canadian Government Accepts Complaint Against Goldcorp; Affected Communities Urge Investigation

The Canadian National Contact Point (NCP) decided last week to admit a complaint filed on behalf of affected community groups in Guatemala against Canadian gold company Goldcorp. The complaint, involving Goldcorp’s Marlin mine, was filed in Ottawa in December 2009 by two Guatemalan representatives on behalf of their community organization.

The Front in Defense of San Miguel Ixtahuacán (FREDEMI), a coalition comprised of local development organizations, teachers, and the local Catholic parish, filed the complaint to the NCP over Goldcorp’s alleged violations of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The principal grievance of the indigenous communities is the failure to obtain their free, prior, and informed consent before developing the Marlin mine. The right to free, prior, and informed consent is protected under international law, including the American Convention on Human Rights.   Other concerns include water contamination, threats to health, and structural damage to homes.

The NCP’s decision that the complaint “merit[s] further examination” comes immediately after a Committee of Experts of the International Labor Organization released a report in which it called for the immediate suspension of mining operations at Marlin until adequate impact studies and consultation could take place. The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), in its review of Guatemala’s implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, expressed its serious concern for the right to free, prior, and informed consent of indigenous communities in the context of mining projects in Guatemala. Communities assert that they were never 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 offer of the NCP to facilitate a dialog with Goldcorp. “At least they have heard us,” explains Maudilia Lopez, 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 respect 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. “The company’s actions over the last 5 years have created an environment of distrust and fear.  It is difficult to imagine how a dialog can take place under those conditions,” states CIEL attorney Kris Genovese. “The communities asked the NCP to come to Guatemala to see for themselves the impacts of the Marlin mine, and to conduct an investigation, but the NCP has not yet indicated if they will.”

“Amnesty welcomes the decision made by Canada’s National Contact Point to admit the complaint made by FREDEMI. However, we urge the NCP to ensure proceedings are conducted in a transparent and open manner,” says Amnesty International Canada’s Business and Human Rights campaigner, Tara Scurr. “Public faith in Canada’s regulation of corporate activities overseas has been seriously eroded by allegations of human rights abuses. The Goldcorp case is a test of the government’s commitment to human rights in the extractives sector”.

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


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