Within the last two weeks, a new campaign has emerged against Goldcorp on the topic of mine closure in Guatemala. Activists use statements such as “Guatemalans should not have to pay for Goldcorp’s Mess” and “Canadian mining company could leave impoverished Indigenous community with multi-million dollar bill to pay.”
Anyone who works with Goldcorp as an employee, vendor, partner or stakeholder would know, that’s just not the way we do business.
In order to understand more on this hotly debated issue, it is important to know how closure is embedded into overall mine planning. From the earliest stage of a mine’s lifecycle, companies must design how to open and close the mine in a feasible and responsible way. As a legal prerequisite for mining, companies must demonstrate that they have sound technical, environmental and social plans for mine closure as well as the funds set aside to complete the full closure project.
All of Goldcorp’s operations have closure plans in place which are reviewed annually to ensure that they are current and reflect any changes that may have occurred during the prior year. Goldcorp is committed to implementing closure plans that are designed to prevent long term adverse impacts on the environment (e.g., water, air and soil) and the surrounding communities (e.g., food, housing, education, and health).
The goal for all of our sites is to establish healthy ecosystems, a productive land use, and sustainable socio-economic conditions following mine closure. To this end, we work with communities and collaborators during the life of the mine to identify and support community development projects that are sustainable, have community ownership, and can be run independently of the mine in the long term.
Not only is Goldcorp committed to responsibly closing its own mines, it also works to remediate damaged lands from historic companies and operations. In Timmins, Ontario, Goldcorp’s environmental team from Porcupine Mine has invested substantial funds into transforming an abandoned historic mine site into flourishing habitat for bears and honey bees, wild grasses, trees and shrubs. This project is a collaboration with local Aboriginal community elders to integrate traditional knowledge and modern rehabilitation techniques. The Canadian Land Reclamation Association awarded the project the national 2011 Tom Peters Memorial Mine Reclamation Award.
In the case of Guatemala’s Marlin Mine, concurrent reclamation is taking place, meaning we’re reclaiming and reforesting areas in which mining is complete at the same time as we’re conducting mine operations. A current proposal to refill the Marlin pit with thickened tailings is being reviewed by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources. This will avoid the construction of an additional tailings impoundment and create a more useful landform in the reclaimed pit. In addition to the ongoing reclamation work, estimated closure costs as of December 2011 of $27.6 million have been set aside and will continually be re-evaluated throughout the mine life. Surrounding community groups are actively participating in ongoing dialogue to plan for and pilot end-of-life projects for desired land-uses.
In Honduras, we have closed San Martin Mine in a responsible and sustainable way. Just over an hour from the capital city of Tegucigalpa, what was once a mining camp is now the San Martin Ecology Centre, with a 31-room, eco-tourism themed hotel, a restaurant, swimming pool, sports courts, playing fields and other amenities. The hotel, run by local community members, is surrounded by forest, interpretive trails, bird-watching gazebos and wildlife habitat for deer, puma, roadrunners, lizards, and iguanas. As a hub of economic activity in the area, there is now also a thriving agri-business on the former mine site, including chicken, tilapia and lemons.
Is closure simple and without challenges? No. Each site is different and so each closure plan is unique; there is no magic formula to perfect mine closure. That’s why Goldcorp is constantly working towards improvement. Similar to the development struggles faced by global NGOs and other civil society organizations, bringing projects and funding flows to a halt is difficult on many levels, for many reasons. And trying to support communities to build their own capacity so that their success is independent of external support is a topic that the global community – private, public, non-profit – should approach together.
As someone who is part of CSR strategy development, leadership, and implementation within Goldcorp, I am proud of Goldcorp’s approach to closure planning and to responsible mining. Our programs keep community development at the core of everything we do.
Any individual or organization who wants to provide Goldcorp with constructive criticism or is looking to have a transparent and meaningful dialogue, can contact us at any time. Our doors are always open.
Valerie Pascale, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager, Goldcorp