Goldcorp was drilled with questions inside their annual shareholder meeting about the poor environmental, human rights and health record throughout Latin America. Health researcher Susana Caxaj, who works with affected villages near Goldcorp’s Marlin Mine, was one of several concerned citizens asking hard questions of the company. “Communities are very concerned about their health, they are frustrated that their concerns are not being taken seriously,” she said. Caxaj is one of many asking Goldcorp to take responsibility for the health harms seen in communities in close proximity to the company’s operations.
These demands come two months shy of the 1 year anniversary of the Peoples International Health Tribunal, a public forum in where communities in close proximity to mining operations from Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras condemned Goldcorp’s activities throughout Mesoamerica, accusing the company of causing environmental contamination and a variety of health problems. An international panel of judges made up of high-profile academics, health professionals, lawyers and economists – among them, Robert Goodland, former advisor to the World Bank – found Goldcorp guilty stating that the company’s activities in these communities are “seriously damaging to the health and the quality of life, the quality of the environment, and the right to self determination of the affected Indigenous and campesino communities.” According to reports by physician Juan Almendarez, based in Valle de Siria, where Goldcorp operated San Martin Mine until 2010, a variety of health problems have been linked to Goldcorp’s activities. He reported: “Our own clinical studies, carried out over the last 10 years in communities affected by Goldcorp’s gold mining operation, have revealed serious skin and hair loss problems, respiratory track, nervous system and eye problems – all of which can be attributed to contamination by heavy metals that are dangerous to the health of the present and future generations.”
In 2010, a human rights assessment commissioned by Goldcorp recommended several changes to corporate practices. Among them, improved water monitoring, increased transparency, information-sharing, and respect for the international labour organization 169. This law emphasizes the rights of Indigenous communities to free prior and informed consent. Goldcorp has publicly committed to meet these recommendations. Yet the region of Santa Rosa Guatemala where Tahoe resources, a company 40% owned by Goldcorp, operates the San Rafael mine has been steeped with controversy. Local referendums carried out throughout the region have overwhelmingly voted “no” to Goldcorp’s project yet the company has gone ahead despite its unpopularity. Local residents have organized a peaceful protest outside of the entrance of the mine and have faced shootings and kidnappings, ending in one casualty thus far and several severely injured. Further, lawyers supporting this case have experienced break-ins and intimidation. Residents blame local mining security. Indicative of the level of conflict in this region, the government of Guatemala has declared a state of siege in neighbouring regions.
Holding up placards with phrases such as “gold corp toxic zone” approximately 40 activists stood outside of the Trump Towers hotel, the venue of the company’s annual AGM. Maggie Flynn, local artist and activist remarked “These human rights abuses, these health and environmental harms, they cannot be swept under the rug. We are here to make shareholders and the general public aware, that as long as Goldcorp continues to operate with impunity, they will leave a toxic legacy of violence and pain.” Maudilia Lopez, a local resident of San Miguel Ixtahuacán where Goldcorp’s Marlin Mine operates, added: “We are not in agreement with the way the company is using our communities for their interests, the contamination, not only because of the water, but also, in the end, with violence within homes, in our communities. We want the shareholders to know that the money does damage to people. It degrades our culture, our life, the values of the people.”
About MISN (Mining Injustice Solidarity Network)
The Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN) is a grassroots, volunteer-run group that works to bring the voices and experiences of communities impacted by extractive industries to Toronto, Canada, a country where over 75% of global mining businesses are based. As Canada is a leader within the international mining industry, we recognize the necessity for a movement within Canada to demand accountability in this sector
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