Time to monitor Guatemala’s mining sector? – Al Jazeera English (November 24, 2012)



Canadian company Goldcorp is accused of violating human rights and damaging the local environment around Marlin mine.  A Canadian mining company stands accused of violating human rights and damaging the environment in Guatemala.

As the price of gold has rocketed amidst global economic uncertainty, Goldcorp argues it is sharing its record revenues with an impoverished community by providing jobs and economic development.

The company owns the Marlin mine in Guatemala, which was opened in 2005 despite the objections of indigenous communities.

Guatemala has ratified an international convention requiring local consent for such projects; but this did not stop it from proceeding. Nor did it stop the World Bank from giving GoldCorp a $45m loan for the mine in contravention of its own guidelines on local consulatation.

The mine employs more than 2,000 people, the majority of whom are Guatemalan.

Last year it produced 382,400 ounces of gold, earning the company $607m – of that local communities receive about five per cent of total revenues.

Critics point to evidence of significant environmental damage and the potential for further problems as the mine reaches the end of its productive life.

There have also been reports that local inhabitants have suffered skin diseases, birth defects and miscarriages. In addition, a 2010 study found high concentrations of heavy metals in the blood of workers and local inhabitants.

Those who resist the expansion of the mine have also been targeted.

Long-term environmental risks significantly outweigh the short-term economic benefits of the Marlin mine, according to a report released by the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University last year.

According to the findings, the Guatemalan government receives only a small share of Marlin’s profits due to weak royalty and tax systems. Royalties make up six per cent of revenues, while taxes are about 15 per cent of earnings.

In comparison, South Africa – the world’s second largest gold producer – charged mining companies a tax of 28 per cent in 2010, in addition to other taxes and royalties.

The report also says that the environmental risk to local communities is exceptionally high and likely to increase.

For the rest of this report, please go to the Al Jazeera website: http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidestoryamericas/2012/11/201211247373432351.html