Friday, November 16, 2007

Canadian, Goldcorp's open pit, cyanide-leeching mine runs up against local opposition in Guatemala

Guatemala: Trial of "GoldCorp 7" Begins

[Wednesday, 14 November 2007 ] On November 12, 2007 the oral presentations in the trial against the "Goldcorp 7" began. This is a politically laden case against seven Mam-Mayan community members from the very villages in the municipality of San Miguel Ixtahuacan (department of San Marcos) that are being gravely harmed by Goldcorp's open pit, cyanide-leeching mine.


On January 9, 2007, representatives from the Mam-Mayan villages that neighbor the "Marlin" mine in San Miguel Ixtahuacan, San Marcos, Guatemala, operated by Goldcorp Inc's wholly owned subsidiary Montana Exploradora, visited the mining company office. They presented a petition to Goldorp Inc. requesting a resolution to a number of problems suffered due to mining operations.


* Extremely low payments made to local families for lands acquired, according to testimonies, under false pretenses and in some cases through coercion.

(This is typical, see: In Chile, Precious Lands Often Go for a Pittance - Barrick Gold Corporation Pays $19 Dollars for 20,000 Acres )

* Destruction of dozens of homes due to the use of explosives.

* Water contamination (due to use of cyanide and release of heavy metals due to the open pit mining process) resulting in health problems of people and livestock.

* Water depletion due to an apparent lowering of the regional water table resulting in the drying out of wells and natural springs, and some crop failure (ex: fruit trees).

On January 10, community representatives returned to the Goldcorp offices for the response to their petition. According to testimonies, company representatives not only denied all responsibility for the problems, but also insulted them. The community representatives left the company's installations and began walking to their homes. About two kilometers from the mine entrance, members of Goldcorp's private security company attacked the campesinos throwing rocks at them and firing guns, and attempted to force one man into a company car.

The men defended themselves as best they could. Though they suffered some injuries, they escaped and called the police. The police came but did not take testimonies or initiate the necessary investigation into the actions of Goldcorp's security company.

That afternoon, upon hearing the response of the company to their petition, approximately 600 members of communities that neighbor the mine (Agel, San José Nueva Esperanza, Salitre and San José Ixcaniche, of the municipality of San Miguel Ixtahuacán, and Tzalem of the municipality of Sipacapa) peacefully blocked roads to the company installations.

According to testimonies, on January 11, in the midst of the growing protest, community representatives, accompanied this time by the Human Rights Procurators Office (PDH), visited the company offices again to solicit dialog with the company in relation to the damages suffered. The Canadian security manager insulted them (calling them trash, murderers, etc.), and threw them out of the offices.

That day anti-riot forces of the National Civil Police and between 300 and 500 Guatemalan Army soldiers arrived.

Here is the full article.