COMMUNITY RESPONSE TO THE "HUMAN RIGHTS IMPACT ASSESSMENT" OF GOLDCORP Inc's MARLIN MINE PROJECT IN SAN MIGUEL IXTAHUACAN, GUATEMALA
TO THE FOLLOWING INVESTORS AND RESEARCH AGENCIES:
Ethical Funds Company; Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) Staff Pension Fund; National Pension System's Ethical Council (Sweden) Shareholder Association for Research and Education (SHARE); Jantzi Research GES Investment Services (Sweden);
To Whom It May Concern:
With regard to your letter concerning an independent Human Rights Impact Assessment (HRIA), here is our response:
First, we wish to thank the investors and research agencies for taking our interests into account with respect to damages caused by the Marlin project operated by Montana Exploradora, a subsidiary of the transnational company, Goldcorp.
These damages have harmed our homes, our water supply and our crops and have affected animal species in the area. The presence of the mine has also led to security problems and created a climate of confrontation in our communities.
When it was suggested that a HRIA be carried out in our communities, we thought it would be a serious study that would demonstrate violations of human rights. These violations had already been described by the 2005 Report of the Procurer of Human Rights.
However, we are very sorry to say that the HRIA proposal does not reflect the reality of life in our communities.
The investors' concern for protection of our human rights remains solely at the level of concern. In the end, the HRIA proposal allows for the sacking and destruction of our resources to continue without any regard for our health, life and territory or for any other aspects of the human rights of these ancient indigenous peoples.
We confirm the above by quoting this paragraph from the HRIA proposal:
"Optimize opportunities for the company to continue operating profitably in Guatemala by insuring that policies and procedures are in place for reducing risk of potential conflict, ensuring that national and international human laws are followed, and that Guatemalan human rights laws are followed and implemented effectively."
However, human rights have nothing to do with optimizing the profits of a transnational company that is sacking and destroying the resources of an ancient people. In the civilized world, it is understood that human rights override other rights, especially those of particular groups.
We believe that the most humble of Guatemalans, the most exploited and marginalized, the sick and the ignorant, are worth more than all the riches of the country and that the lives of these people are sacred and untouchable. Human rights are inherent and cannot be taken away.
The HRIA proposal makes reference to "transparency", which would suggest an atmosphere of trust, security and honesty with citizens who are sensitive, vulnerable, responsible and participatory, who know their rights and responsibilities. Thus, procedures that are put in place for the HRIA
should involve consultation and informed consent and be open to public scrutiny.
But this proposal does none of the above. From the beginning of the process, communities were not consulted and they did not participate in any way in planning the HRIA. So what transparency are we taking about?
With regard to the idea that this is an independent HRIA, there can be no independence when one of the members of the Steering Committee is Vice-President of the company and a lawyer for Goldcorp. This gives a very strange meaning to the word "independent". Meanwhile, the affected communities have absolutely no presence on the committee, despite the fact that it is our territory, our resources that they have robbed and our rights that are at stake.
The proposal states that the HRIA will be inclusive. However, there are no community members on the Steering Committee. Most of the committee members are foreigners. In our opinion, this is an act of racism and discrimination.
We could continue listing our objections to this process, but to save you time and effort, we will simply go ahead and state our position: as it stands now, this proposal for a Human Rights Impact Assessment is neither viable nor acceptable.
1. The proposal is exclusive, racist and discriminatory.
2. The process in place for participation in the HRIA goes against all principles of inclusion and is an insult to this ancient people.
3. Clearly, there is no interest in respecting the true right of the people to consultation and informed consent. This right is protected by national and international laws such as ILO 169 and the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
4. It is patently obvious that from the very beginning of the process in February, our communities were not included in the development of the HRIA proposal (methodology, general themes). They were also excluded from the Steering Committee and the selection of individuals who will carry out the HRIA.
5. The climate of violence and social confrontation in the area near the mining operation has increased.
6. We hereby state that our communities intend to hold a community-led consultation, with no intervention from the company.
7. Our communities intend to stand up and resist. We will demand that the company be closed down and not be given the opportunity to continue polluting and destroying the lands of this ancient people.
8. A Human Rights Impact Assessment in our communities must include the active participation and input of the communities themselves. Otherwise, the assessment will not demonstrate the negative impacts on human rights, particularly the rights of indigenous peoples, which are sacred rights protected by national and international treaties because they are ancient peoples.
Translation from Spanish by Rosalind Gill for Rights Action