(Ottawa/Toronto) On Thursday, a Colorado-based mine and environmental engineer, two Honduran teachers, and a Maya indigenous community leader made the long trip to Timmins, Ontario to participate in Goldcorp’s Annual General Meeting. Accompanied by several US and Canadian member organizations of the Coalition Against Unjust Mining in Guatemala, they called upon the company to take responsibility for the cleanup at current mine sites, and alerted shareholders to outstanding public health issues, environmental degradation and conflict.
“Today Timmins is celebrating 100 years as a mining town. Goldcorp’s San Martín mine in the Siria Valley in Honduras didn't even operate for ten years, and now we have problems that could last us for more than one hundred,” said Honduran high school teacher Reina Gamero to Timmins press.
Gamero, a member of the Siria Valley Environmental Committee, continued: “We’ve seen people get sick and riverbeds dry up. A Honduran government health study carried out in 2007 was suppressed until 2011 in which we learned that many people tested have heavy metal poisoning. We want the company to address this.”
Carlos Amador, also from the Siria Valley Environmental Committee in Honduras, added that researchers have already found evidence that the mine installations are generating acid mine drainage. “The company has put in place some mitigating measures, but we have no guarantee that they will ever be enough or that there’s any money left to make sure that this grave issue is monitored forever,” said Amador. “I was here a year ago and asked the same question. I’m still waiting for an answer from the company about its commitment.”
Colorado-based mine and environmental engineer Rob Robinson, who has more than forty years of experience and is a volunteer with the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, presented a shareholder proposal at the company’s AGM held in the Northern College cafeteria. The proposal called for Goldcorp to take responsibility for adequate closure at its Marlin mine in Guatemala, the company’s third most profitable mine in 2011.
“The surety bond of $1 million for this mine is highly inadequate given our findings that closure costs could be at least $49 million. There is also little public information about the company’s closure plans, and what’s available is highly insufficient,” said Robinson. “Communities need this information and must be fully consulted about the company’s closure plans before they’re finalized, since it will be them who have to live with the long-term impacts from this highly profitable mine for the company and its shareholders. Before the company packs up and walks away from the Marlin mine, it should meet industry best practice for closure.”
UUSC, the Loretto Literary Benevolent Society and an individual shareholder co-filed the shareholder resolution that was voted on at the AGM, which was also the focus of an online petition circulated by Amnesty International and the Center for International Environmental Law last week.
“More than 5,000 people have signed a petition in support of the shareholder resolution, which calls upon the company to ensure that Guatemalans aren’t left with the long-term costs of clean up at the Marlin mine,” said Tara Scurr, Business and Human Rights campaigner for Amnesty International Canada. “Shareholders should take note of the growing public pressure at home and abroad to ensure companies respect human rights at former project sites long after operations cease.”
Alfonso Morales Jiménez of Guatemala says that such experiences are why his municipality and many others have voted against metal mining in their communities. Morales, a leader with the Indigenous Assembly for Territorial Defence in the department of Huehuetenango, lives in a neighbouring community to San Marcos, where the Marlin mine operates. Dozens of mining concessions have been granted in his department.
“The risks that industrial mining poses for our communities are simply too great,” remarks Morales Jiménez. “We’ve taken a look at the Marlin mine and decided that this is not the sort of development that we want for our communities. Many others have decided not to support such development in a similar way, with some 60 local referenda having been held to date on this issue in municipalities across Guatemala. Almost everyone votes no.”
Goldcorp recommended voting against the shareholder resolution on the Marlin mine closure plan. The company’s legal counsel David Deisley did, however, express a verbal commitment to begin discussions with the Guatemalan government about increasing the financial surety for Marlin to an amount commensurate with their own closure costs estimate of $27.6 million. He added that they would disclose their plans and ask the Ministry of the Environmental to consult with affected communities regarding the closure plan.
For more information contact:
- Elizabeth Berton-Hunter , Amnesty International Canada , (416) 363-9933 ext 332, Mobile (416) 904-7158
- Jen Moore, Latin America Program Coordinator, MiningWatch Canada, (613) 569-3439