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Shareholders say Guatemalans should not have to pay for Goldcorp's mess

    April 16, 2012

    Several shareholders have filed a resolution with Goldcorp Inc asking the company to commit to the full costs of closure of the Marlin mine in Guatemala, and to fully disclose current closure plans. They indicate that to do otherwise puts the health of local communities at long-term risk and could expose the company to liability through potential litigation for damages.

    Studies show the company’s currently estimated costs of closure are grossly underestimated. An independent team of US-based engineers calculate a US$49 million price tag for closure and post-closure costs for the Marlin mine in Guatemala while the company’s current posted surety bond for the mine is a mere $1 million. Indigenous peoples whose futures are at stake have not been meaningfully involved in the process to develop a closure and post-closure plan.

    The mine is expected to close in 2018 when mineral reserves are exhausted. It is likely that pollution from toxic heavy metals, erosion of infrastructure, sedimentation and disturbances to the landscape will prevent the land from returning to its pre-mine condition and uses.

    “The contamination of the land and water surrounding the Marlin mine will have lasting effects whose extent we cannot yet determine,” says Sister Natalie Wing, of the Loretto Literary and Benevolent Institution, a co-filer of the shareholder resolution.

    Patricia Jones of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, another co-filer, is concerned about access to safe drinking water: “Failure to adequately address reclamation exposes affected communities to an uncertain future  regarding whether or not water will be safe to drink or if anyone will buy crops grown near the abandoned mine site. The company and the government have a responsibility to respect and protect the communities' human right to water. The long-term health of surrounding communities - which have seen their land used for mining without their consent - is truly at stake. ”

    Failure by Goldcorp to develop, disclose, and fund robust closure plans exposes the company to litigation for damages. Recent court decisions have awarded significant damages against extractive companies for inadequate environmental clean-up. Most notably, on 3 January 2012, an Appellate Panel in Ecuador confirmed the $8.6 billion USD damages award of the lower courts against Chevron. Goldcorp’s own 2010 Human Rights Assessment highlighted the long-term human rights risks that poor closure planning and funding pose for affected communities and called on Goldcorp to review and improve its closure and post-closure plans in consultation with communities, and to secure sufficient financial assurances for the closure costs.

    “The company has said that it is implementing recommendations from the Human Rights Assessment for the Marlin mine,” notes Senior Attorney Kris Genovese for the Center for International Environmental Law in Washington. “Shareholders are merely asking the company to follow through.”

    In the context of allegations of environmental contamination and human rights abuses, Goldcorp was deleted from the Dow Jones Sustainability Index in September 2011.

    "Goldcorp's CEO is among Canada's O.O1% of top tax-filers and the company’s assets now supersede the real GDP of Guatemala," says Jen Moore, Latin Program Coordinator for MiningWatch Canada. "This company can afford to adequately close its mines without further burdening affected communities."

    The shareholder resolution calls on the company to fully fund the closure and post closure of the mine, consult with local communities regarding closure and post closure plans, and to publicly disclose a comprehensive account of its planning and remediation processes. The company has recommended a vote against the shareholder resolution. The company AGM will be held in South Porcupine, Ontario on April 26, 2012.

    Beth Berton-Hunter,
    Media Relations,
    Amnesty International Canada
    416-363-9933, ext. 332

    Jen Moore
    MiningWatch Canada
    (613) 569-3439


    Kristen Genovese
    Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)               
    (202) 742-5831