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A Victory for Human Rights: Marlin Mine in Guatemala Ordered to Shut

June 2010

After tireless campaigning by the indigenous people of Guatemala and international solidarity organizations, including Grassroots International, the Goldcorp Marlin Mine has been ordered to shut by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. This is a huge victory for local Mayan residents who have fought for the past six years to hold Goldcorp accountable for appalling social and environmental problems caused by the mine. Grassroots International supported their struggle for justice by funding indigenous representatives to attend meetings with allies in Canada and the United States as well as hearings at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

The Marlin mine, owned and operated by Goldcorp, Inc of Canada, is a combined underground and open pit operation currently worth $416-million for its gold and silver production. The mine has caused numerous violations to local communities’ right to life and health and was established without their free, prior, and informed consent — a right enshrined in the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Other violations have included heavy metals and arsenic contamination of waterways, structural damage (caused by detonations at the mine site) to hundreds of nearby homes resulting in long-term human displacement, and the murder of at least two protesters in 2005 by mine guards.

The Commission’s ruling marks an important step forward both for the people of San Miguel Ixtahuacan and Sipakapa and for the protection of indigenous rights more broadly. However, the struggle is not over. Goldcorp has not issued any formal statement regarding how it will respond to the ruling, which was handed down on May 20th and reportedly required compliance within 20 days, a period that has now lapsed. “I am not aware of any official statements from the government concerning the matter,” Jeff Wilhoit, Goldcorp vice-president of investor relations, said of the ruling in a press release. Moreover, Guatemalan president Alvaro Colom has openly opposed closing the mine. Nonethess, the Commission’s ruling represents an important triumph for human rights over corporate profits , and we will post updates as practical implications of the ruling become evident.

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