Guatemala’s ‘Goldcorp Law’

Jamie Kneen Communications and Outreach Coordinator responsible for: strategic research, social media, and public engagement; our Africa program, environmental assessment, and uranium mining.

When Goldcorp flew four MPs and a Senator on a company jet to Guatemala at the end of August, it was lobbying both Canadian and Guatemalan legislators. MiningWatch broke the story to the Guatemalan press before the junket touched down in Guatemala City leading to strong national media coverage in the Central American country and later hitting national news in Canada once Goldcorp’s lobbyist reported the trip to the lobbyist registry in Ottawa.

During the visit to Guatemala, Goldcorp Chairman Ian Telfer, Vice-President Brent Bergeron, Hill and Knowlton lobbyist (and former Liberal cabinet minister) Don Boudria and the five Canadian parliamentarians visited Goldcorp’s controversial Marlin mine, as well as the Guatemalan Legislative Commission on Energy and Mines. The Chair of the Legislative Commission confirmed as much in an interview with Guatemalan newspaper La Hora.

Guatemala’s mining code is currently in question. This is the result of a constitutional challenge from indigenous organizations and a packet of proposed reforms from the president’s office. The challenge is based on lack of pre-legislative consultation with indigenous organizations prior to passage of the country’s current mining code, under the International Labour Organization’s Convention 169 on the rights of indigenous peoples. A decision on this case is months overdue. Meanwhile, in the weeks following the junket, the Ministry of Mines and Energy has tabled a new mining bill and a subsidiary of Goldcorp has been granted two new exploration licences.

We don’t know precisely what Goldcorp and Canadian parliamentarians discussed with Guatemalan legislators. Worse than this, however, is that neither do Guatemalan indigenous organizations or the Guatemala public at large. The secrecy of this meeting led one Guatemalan national columnist to dub forthcoming reforms ‘The Goldcorp Law’.

Unfortunately, this is history repeating itself. In the same way, a representative of Inco in Guatemala is believed to have influenced Guatemala’s mining code reforms of 1965 prior to starting work on the conflict-ridden Fénix nickel mine in the west of the country. Also, individuals with close ties to the Guatemalan subsidiary that Goldcorp now owns and that operates the Marlin mine are known to have influenced the 1997 mining code. And now, Goldcorp’s stamp will be perceived to be on forthcoming mining reforms, which are taking place without adequate consultation, in violation of indigenous rights – and most likely to aggravate existing conflict.