Affected Communities from the Americas Demand that Canadian Mining Industry Respect Their Rights

For Immediate Release - May 17, 2011

Contacts:
Amanda Kistler, Center for International Environmental Law – 604-220-4009
Jason Tockman, Mining Justice Alliance – 604-727-9081


Vancouver, BC – Latin American human rights advocates are in Vancouver to testify about the devastating impacts that Canadian-owned mines are having on their lives, homes and territories.

“World-wide, the mining industry must change the way they do business with Indigenous Peoples in their territories. The mining industry must embrace the spirit and intent of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” said Chief Marilyn Baptiste, Secretary-Treasurer of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. “Poorly regulated Canadian-owned operations, such as those belonging to Goldcorp and First Majestic Silver, are putting in jeopardy the health, security, and rights of Indigenous communities.”

Goldcorp in Honduras: “The company has a responsibility for the damages that its operations have caused to the health of our communities and to the quality of our drinking water,” says Carlos Amador, Secretary of the Environmental Committee of the Siria Valley of Honduras.

Goldcorp’s San Martín mine operated in the Siria Valley for ten years and is now in the process of closure. Internationally regarded researchers from the University of Newcastle (UK) have found clear signs of acid mine drainage, and dangerously high acidity and metal concentrations have been found in water flowing into a local stream. In 2010, Honduran authorities filed charges against Goldcorp’s Honduran subsidiary for heavy metal contamination in the Siria Valley, where communities have reported health impacts and death of livestock. The case continues in Honduran courts.

“The company should recognize that the impacts we are experiencing are a result of their operations and take necessary action based on the recommendations of Newcastle University and on the demands of our communities,” concludes Amador.

Goldcorp in Guatemala: In the northwestern highlands of Guatemala, the impacts that Goldcorp’s Marlin mine go beyond serious concern over water contamination and health problems. Human rights lawyer Benito Morales from the Rigoberta Menchú Tum Foundation says the social and human rights impacts are also devastating.

“The presence of the Marlin mine is ripping apart the social fabric in communities of San Miguel Ixtahuacán,” says Benito Morales. “Families and neighbours are fighting among themselves and an environment exists in which people cannot safely defend their rights because they fear reprisals and lack effective access to the justice system.”

“The justice system is completely co-opted by the interests of national elite and multinational companies like Goldcorp,” adds Morales, “As a result, respect of indigenous rights is not guaranteed within the current system.”

As an example of this, on May 20, 2010, the Organization of American States’ (OAS) Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ordered the Guatemalan government to temporarily suspend the Marlin mine, given the gravity of alleged human rights violations around the company’s operations. However, the order has not been implemented, and the mine continues to operate and expand. Now, shareholders are asking Goldcorp to voluntarily comply with the measures issued by the OAS body.

“Goldcorp’s Marlin mine is an assault on land and territories of indigenous peoples, which is the basis of their identity and culture. In other words, investors are in effect contributing to the resulting ethnocide,” concludes Morales.

First Majestic in Mexico: Based on experiences in other parts of the region, the Wixárika people of Mexico demand that First Majestic Silver not develop a mine on their sacred lands. The high desert plains of Wirikuta, which includes the Catorce mountain range, represents the Wixárika peoples’ most sacred altar. For the Wixárika, their ancestors and deities inhabit the sacred springs, hills and valleys of this zone. They have conducted pilgrimages along ancient routes that pass through this region for more than 2000 years; it is here that they pray for the balance of all life on Earth, and that the candles of life will continue to burn.

“Wirikuta is where we gather our thoughts to take them back to the Wixárika communities,” explains Jesús Lara Chivarra of San Sebastián Teponahuaxtlán, Jalisco, Mexico. “There we find the principle ideas that help our culture to stay alive. We have also prayed for all humanity so that we can avoid a catastrophe. We have been watching over the sacred sites and carrying out the required rituals so that harmony and ecological balance will continue to exist, so that the energy moves in an abundant way. So for my people, to take away or damage this place is to do away with the Wixárika people.”


For more information, Mining Justice Alliance’s website: http://miningjusticealliance.wordpress.com.  

UBCIC is a NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.