“No” still means “no” when it comes to Mining

The buzz word for September is “Consent.” As you frequent local restaurants and bars in downtown Peterborough this fall you are likely to encounter a boldly printed coaster that tells you “Consent is Sexy” and that “No” means “No.” It is a simple concept yet many find it difficult to respect. “No” still means “no” when it comes to mining yet Goldcorp, a Vancouver based company, continually demonstrates their inability to respect the word.

On August 29th, a delegation of Canadian MP’s, including Conservative MP’s Dean Allison (Niagra-West Glanbrook) and Dave Van Kesteren (Chatam Kent-Essex), traveled to Guatemala at the invitation of Goldcorp VP Brent Bergeron and Chairman Ian Telfer.  Liberal and NDP MP’s were also invited to join the delegation but no names have been identified as having participated. The delegation flew to Guatemala on a private Goldcorp jets, toured Goldcorp’s Marlin mine project, and met with Guatemalan Government officials.

Bergeron spoke before the standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development in February of this year, expressing his company’s desire to see changes to Guatemala’s mining code in favour of foreign corporations. “Can I go as Goldcorp and start training the Ministry of Energy and Mines? I can’t do that. The credibility behind that is not right. However, I think it makes a lot of sense to have a government institution come in to take our experience here in Canada—the National Resources Canada in terms of their experience—and bring that experience to Guatemala.”

In June, when President Molina of Guatemala announced potential changes to the country’s mining code, it included an increase in government involvement to almost 40%, meaning higher corporate taxes and less profits for companies. The announcement was the opposite of what Goldcorp was interested in. Guatemala provides 16% of Goldcorp’s overall production.

Goldcorp’s main operation in the country is the Marlin mine near the community of Sipicapa. In January of 2005, the year the mine became operational, Guatemalan military broke up a 40-day protest in that community against the mine, resulting in one death. That same year the community voted against the mine in a popular referendum. Yet the Marlin mine is still in operation, seven years later, and the community is still in active resistance.

At the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) Convention 2012 held in Toronto there was a  Corporate Social Responsibility Series (CSR) seminar titled: “Perspectives on Free, Prior and Informed Consent.” On the panel sat a representative from Goldcorp who explained to the audience the importance of obtaining consent from communities near mine sites. When asked what should be done when a community says ‘no’ the reply was that Goldcorp does not operate in communities that have not given consent, but the rep. could not speak for other corporations.

Mining Watch Canada defines Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) as: the right to participate in decision making and the right to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to development decisions and activities affecting indigenous peoples lands and resources. FPIC is recognized by the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP 2007), which Canada endorsed in 2010. Under FPIC, consent must be given without coercion or manipulation and before plans have been approved by governments. To give “informed” consent indigenous people must receive adequate information in order to fully understand the positive and negative consequences of pending decisions such as proposed mining developments.

PDAC should learn from the sexual assault awareness coaster campaign and organize something for the 2013 PDAC convention, like posters with slogans saying “No still means no” or “FPIC before profits.” In any case, Goldcorp’s actions are another example of the influence the mining sector has on parliament and the ease in which they lobby our politicians, successfully.