Members of U.S. Congress Urge Guatemalan President to Halt Operations at Controversial Goldcorp Mine

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 6, 2011

Members of U.S. Congress Urge Guatemalan President to Halt Operations at Controversial Goldcorp Mine


Washington, D.C. – Fifteen members of the United States Congress have expressed their concern in a letter to Guatemalan President Álvaro Colom regarding the human rights impacts of the Marlin mine on the indigenous community of San Miguel Ixtahuacán. Vancouver-based Goldcorp, Inc. owns the gold mine, which has generated local and international controversy for alleged abuses since it began development in 2005.

“From the start, this project has violated people’s rights,” says Caitlin Dunklee, the US Mining Organizer with the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala. “Under international law, indigenous communities have the right to free, prior and informed consent about what happens on their lands. Communities have never consented to this mine, and continuing operations have led to further harm.”

The letter asks the Government of Guatemala to comply with precautionary measures that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued in May 2010.  The Commission, part of the Organization of American States, recommended that operations at the mine be suspended until it has decided on the merits of the complaint, in order to protect the life and physical integrity of eighteen communities. To date, the measures have yet to be implemented.

Congressional representatives sent their letter to President Colom on March 30th, citing complaints from Mayan indigenous communities that the Marlin mine has contaminated local water sources and caused serious health problems. Independent studies from the University of Michigan and Physician for Human Rights, E-Tech International and the University of Ghent published in 2010 support these claims.

“Widespread impunity in Guatemala and lack of capacity to regulate mining companies leave mining-affected communities vulnerable to abuses and violations,” says Kris Genovese, Senior Attorney with the Center for International Environmental Law, in Washington D.C. “The international community is urging Guatemala to comply with the recommendations of human rights bodies in order to protect its citizens.”

Carmen Mejia is a local community leader who has been a target of death threats as a result of her outspoken activism against the mine. She says, “Considering the economic clout of a mining company like Goldcorp, international pressure is necessary to ensure respect for our rights.”

The letter echoes the message that twenty-six representatives of the European Parliament sent in October 2010, also asking the Guatemalan government to comply with the IACHR’s precautionary measures and to suspend mining operations at the Marlin mine.

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Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) is committed to strengthening and using international law and institutions to protect the environment, promote human health, and ensure a just and sustainable society. CIEL is a non-profit organization dedicated to advocacy in the global public interest, including through legal counsel, policy research, analysis, education, training and capacity building.

The Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA) works for real democracy in Guatemala and the U.S. and strengthens the global movement for justice. NISGUA builds mutually beneficial grassroots ties between the people of the U.S. and Guatemala and advocates for grassroots alternatives to challenge elite power structures and oppressive U.S. economic and foreign policy.

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