Goldcorp’s Marlin Mine has been the source of much discussion amongst activist groups and others. Misinformation has surfaced on a number of internet sites recently, so we thought we’d take this opportunity to once again set the record straight. This is a long post, so grab a cup of coffee and get comfortable – we’ll be together for a while!
MYTH: Marlin discharges contamination into the local water supply.
Routine water discharges have been approved by the Guatemalan Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN), and the Guatemalan Ministry of Energy and Mining (MEM). Unlike most discharge situations, at Marlin the water is drawn from the tailings impoundment, treated in the treatment plant, then discharged back to the tailings impoundment. This means that all the water in the tailings impoundment must meet the discharge standards before water is ever released from the tailings impoundment. It also means that Marlin can and does sample the water prior to discharge to ensure compliance before discharge even begins.
Water samples taken by MARN and analyzed in their own lab in Guatemala City concluded no negative results from any discharges to date.
Results for all the water samples are in compliance with Guatemalan legal environmental limits, World Bank standards, United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines and the Canadian Irrigation and Livestock guidelines.
Reference: MP 0003-2010-5
MEM and MARN take different samples in the treatment plant and from different points in the Cuilco and Quivichil rivers at various time intervals in order to have a good representative sample and to guarantee that the water complies with national regulations according to Government Accord 236-2006, which establishes the limits on residual water discharge.
Additionally, the Association of Community Environmental Monitoring (AMAC) also takes samples from water contained in the dam reservoir as a sign of commitment to informing the communities on the activities carried out in the Marlin mine.
To date, over a million data points have been analyzed; all of them comply with internationally-accepted standards.
MYTH: The Marlin (and former San Martin mine) operations cause skin rashes and other diseases that were not prevalent previous to the start-up of operations.
Asociacion de Monitoreo Ambiental Comunitario (AMAC) was established in 2005 to conduct independent community-based environmental monitoring in the area around the Marlin mine. None of the quarterly water test results show any significant adverse impacts related to mining activity from the Marlin mine, including skin problems in the surrounding communities. A University of Michigan report found no evidence of skin diseases associated with our operations.
Goldcorp has a track record of engaging and consulting with the residents of local communities surrounding the Marlin Mine. The company has invested significant resources to assist in the development of community services in the areas of healthcare, child care and education. We have a community health monitoring and testing program to better understand the potential cause of skin problems experienced by members of the community, which AMAC has verified are not the result of mining operations.
The report prepared by the Guatemalan Ministry of Health in response to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) precautionary measures determined that there were no skin diseases in the vicinity of the Marlin mine that differed from the types of skin diseases found commonly throughout Guatemala.
Skin infections are commonly found in Guatemala and elsewhere throughout the developing world. They include parasitic, fungal and bacterial infections due to inadequate prevention and sanitary conditions. There is a similar prevalence of skin infections among different areas and communities in Guatemala not located near the Marlin mine and to that observed in the communities of the Siria Valley of Honduras, where the former San Martin mine is located.
At the former San Martin mine in Honduras, blood tests done on our own employees who lived and worked at the site for years showed no evidence of elevated levels of harmful elements. The Government of Honduras conducted its own investigation following the filing of a complaint. The Ministry of Health and Directorate of Forensic Medicine carried out a Toxicology Study to assess exposure to arsenic, lead, mercury, lead and cyanide in the population of Valle del Siria. The study used as parameters the levels considered allowable according to the World Health Organization.
Biological samples (blood and urine) were taken from claimants and from a control group selected by Social Services of the Public Prosecutor’s Office and Forensic Medicine. The complaint filed by the Siria Valley Environmental Committee was terminated by the Public Prosecutors office because there is no evidence establishing the San Martin mine is responsible for the elevated lead levels observed in the samples. Lead was the only element for which results above the applicable standard were observed.
According to a report by the Public Prosecutor’s office, the dermatological lesions that were observed in the complainant patients were evaluated in the Directorate of Forensic Medicine and by Dermatological Specialists do not belong to inorganic elements but are caused by chronic sun damage and mycotic disease. These are common causes that arise at the dermatology services of the Hospital Escuela, where patients from all around Honduras are treated.
MYTH: Marlin uses water from community wells.
Goldcorp recycles over 90% of the water used at Marlin. An independent hydrogeological study was commissioned to establish whether water used by the mine comes from independent sources or those supplying municipal water systems. The Hydrogeological Study of the Marlin mine determined that the water used by the mine is not sourced from the aquifer that supplies the wells of the bordering communities and that there was no connection between the sources used by the mine and those used by the communities.
Indeed, in response to community concerns about water supply, the design of the Marlin mine water supply was changed from a plan to pump water from the Tzalá River to the current situation in which deep wells have been drilled into an aquifer that is not of suitable quality for potable water. The Water Resources and Watersheds Unit in the Directorate of Environmental Management and Natural Resources in the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN) reviewed the Marlin hydrologic report and accepted its methodology and conclusions.
Official Document MARN-DIGARN/541-2011/ECM/vem.
Ministry of Natural Resources.
· The Hydrogeological Study was presented to the Guatemalan Congressional Transparency Commission on August 9, 2011.
· The study shows that the historical records of the subterranean water levels of Marlin production wells do not have any relationship with the springs and artesian wells of the communities because they are located in two different aquifers.
· The water sources of the communities closest to the Marlin mine are found at 3,000 meters from well PSA 3*, and this well has a radius of influence of 2,178 meters. The study affirms that well PSA 3 does not have influence on the sources closest to the Marlin mine.
*PSA-3: A new well that substituted PSA-1 in 2010. It is located in the watershed of the Tzalá River. The water is pumped for use in the mine.
Official Document MARN-DIGARN/541-2011/ECM/vem.
Ministry of Natural Resources.
MYTH: Goldcorp has not established an appropriate closure plan and secured a high enough bond to cover the cost of closure and reclamation at Marlin.
At its 2012 Annual General Meeting of Shareholders, Goldcorp announced that it will:
- Continue to concurrently reclaim all of its sites throughout the mine’s operation.
- Work with government to provide financial assurance for the full estimated cost of implementing mine closure plans at all of its sites, even if not required by law.
- Consult with local stakeholder groups in developing closure plans.
- Design closure plans 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).
- Make closure plans available to the public.
We believe that these commitments fully address the concerns expressed about closure in a recent shareholder proposal and demonstrate our leadership in advancing responsible mining.
MYTH: Goldcorp does not consult with local community members and continues to operate in spite of requests by the community to cease operations.
Goldcorp and its Guatemalan subsidiary Montana Exploradora place a high priority on open, participative dialogue.
· The Vice President of the Republic of Guatemala instituted a Discussion Round-Table (Mesa de Diálogo) in December of 2010, made up of legitimate and legal representatives from the communities of San Miguel Ixtahuacán and Sipacapa, Montana Exploradora as well as government institutions (Vice Presidency, Copredeh, MEM, MARN, MSPAS, Mineduc) in which dialogue and participation in environmental and social issues, among others, have been given high priority.
· In the Discussion Round-Table, follow-up issues have been discussed and reviewed, such as the IACHR precautionary measures. The Ministry of Energy on June 8, 2011 issued Resolution No. 0104, which established clearly that there is no cause to suspend Marlin Mine’s operations.
· The communities in turn presented individual requests, which are the results of specific studies that certify that there have not been any negative impacts on the population because of the mine’s operations.
· Other issues addressed in the Discussion Round-Table included: general information about the company; complaints about cracked houses; hydrogeological study results; community development plans; mine inspection reports; reforms to Mining Laws; and a community outreach proposal, among others.
Reference: Institutions involved in the roundtables:
MYTH: Goldcorp does not respect human rights.
After Goldcorp undertook a Human Right Assessment of the Marlin mine, the company has adopted and complies with a Human Rights Policy in which constructive dialogue is given priority. The Policy stipulates respect for employees and communities, includes detailed commitments and corporate policies and references international laws to ensure respect for local communities.
Human Rights Policy: http://www.goldcorp.com/files/docs_governance/CSR%20Human%20Rights%20Policy.pdf
Human Rights Assessment: http://www.goldcorp.com/English/Responsible-Mining/Human-Rights/default.aspx.
MYTH: Repeated requests by the Government of Guatemala and the International Commission on Human Rights to shut down operations at Marlin have been ignored.
On June 23, 2010, the Government of Guatemala advised the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) that the Government would initiate the applicable administrative process under the laws of Guatemala to determine if suspension of Marlin operations was warranted. After extensive review of the available data and reports from the responsible governmental ministries, the Government of Guatemala issued a resolution on July 8, 2011 declaring that Marlin mine is operating in compliance with the law and there is no basis for suspending operation of the mine. The Government’s investigations demonstrate that the Marlin mine has not damaged the environment or health of the communities in the vicinity of the mine.
Subsequently, on July 11, 2011, the Government of Guatemala petitioned the IACHR to declare the precautionary measures to be without further effect.
In December 2011 the IACHR issued revised precautionary measures that removed the request to suspend Marlin operations. The current precautionary measures seek to have the Guatemalan Government provide adequate potable water supplies to the 16 communities near the mine. Montana Exploradora is working with the government to establish secure potable community water supplies in these communities.
The Government of Guatemala’s latest response to the IACHR demonstrates there is no evidence of negative impacts to public health or the environment as a result of operations at Marlin Mine. These findings are supported by independent, analyses of quarterly water samples collected by Goldcorp and the Asociacion de Monitoreo Ambiental Comunitario, the local community monitoring committee.
Reference: Reports transferred to the CIDH by Copredeh:
MYTH: The communities surrounding Marlin mine are negatively impacted by its operation.
Rosa María de Frade, former President of the Guatemalan Congressional Transparency Commission commissioned a number of studies and investigations on various issues pertaining to Marlin mine. Each of these independent evaluations ultimately concluded that Marlin’s operations do not negatively impact neighbouring communities. These issues were:
Cracked houses: An inter-institutional commission was formed. An internationally published study conducted by the commission concluded that there is no causal relationship between cracked houses and the mine’s operations. It was determined that the current problems with identified dwellings were due to ambient conditions and/or construction methods. However, during the process of performing the study, a plan was also developed for the complimentary repair of dwellings and the relocation of certain dwellings that were constructed in areas with a high risk of natural ground movement, such as those situated on high slopes.
Ministry of Communications.
Ministry of Energy. Report on Local Geology.
Tailings Dam: The communities have expressed concern over the technical specifications of the tailings dam. On this issue, MARN carried out inspections and reported that the dam does indeed comply with strict, internationally-accepted technical specifications and environmental standards.
Reference: Study, Dorey & Associates, LLC. May 21, 2010.
Environmental Protocols: Marlin and all of Goldcorp’s mines operate to internationally-accepted standards.
Water Sources and Discharges (see above)
MYTH: Goldcorp does not contribute to the overall wealth of Guatemala, and takes all profits out of the country.
Goldcorp, through its Guatemalan subsidiary Montana Exploradora, is one of the largest tax payers in Guatemala and over the last five years has contributed over 889.5 million quetzals (US $113.6M) both in taxes and royalties from the Marlin mine.
In January 2012, Goldcorp announced a voluntary royalty increase from 1% to 4% of gross revenue.
50% of the total royalty will be paid directly to the municipality in which the extraction of the mineral occurs. In addition, Marlin has agreed to pay an additional 1% voluntary royalty, with 80% of this additional royalty to be used to implement the economic development plans of the municipalities of San Miguel Ixtahuacán and Sipacapa. The remaining 20% will be paid to the Ministry of Energy and Mines and Ministry of Environment Natural Resources (MEM and MARN), to be used to develop the institutional capacity of those ministries.
These royalties were adopted as an interim measure pending action on mining law reform, which Goldcorp supports.
In addition to providing jobs and technical training, improving community water and sewage systems and helping build schools, sports fields and roads, Goldcorp’s latest contribution to families and communities near the Marlin mine is a brand new and much-needed medical centre. Goldcorp conducted a baseline study and found that this region has a great need for basic and preventative health services, especially in the areas of pre- and post-natal care, infant development and immunization. Goldcorp contributed US $2.8 million toward the construction of the new health clinic, which opened in March 2012.
The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) is a global standard that promotes revenue transparency. It has a robust yet flexible methodology for monitoring and reconciling company payments and government revenues at the country level. The process is overseen by participants from the government, companies and national civil society.
As a member of the International Council on Mining and Metals, Goldcorp is committed to the EITI. Of the principal countries in which Goldcorp operates, Canada and the US are the supporting countries of the EITI. Supporting governments provide political, technical and financial support to the initiative.
On March 10, 2011, Guatemala became the 35th country to become a formal participant in the EITI. Goldcorp supported, and continues to support, Guatemala’s initiative to implement EITI. The Vice-President’s office has issued the first EITI bulletin and the EITI secretary has confirmed Guatemala as a candidate country. Guatemala has begun the two-year process to develop an EITI action plan. Goldcorp is an active member of the Guatemala EITI Commission. A national EITI coordinator has been appointed and the World Bank has contributed $350,000 to Guatemala to implement the EITI. Goldcorp, through its Guatemalan operating subsidiary, is participating in the EITI Implementation Steering Committee established by the Guatemalan government.
MYTH: Goldcorp has questionable land acquisition practices and is expanding its operations.
The operating footprint of the mine decreased significantly in 2012 with the conclusion of most open pit mining. We are working within the existing permitted area and are focusing our efforts almost exclusively on underground development. We have offered land owners within our existing permitted area the option of selling their land as a courtesy, so they might be able to capture equivalent value for their lands as some of their neighbors have, even though their properties will not be affected by our underground workings. At various points we have done vent raises and/or built paths for exploration drilling, with authorization given by the land owner. We are working within the defined area of our permit and not entering areas where we don’t own the land or have the legitimate authorization of the land owner.
The former and the present-day mayors of Sipacapa, who had in the past expressed vehement opposition to mining with a campaign called “Guatemala is not for sale” have both come full circle in their conviction that our responsible mining practices and approach to social responsibility can bring about sustainable prosperity to their communities. They have overturned their anti-mining stance, and now support exploration activities in Chocoyos. With the consent of these community leaders, we are now seeking to explore a new area called Los Chocoyos in Sipacapa.
MYTH: Goldcorp uses intimidation tactics to silence vocal opposition to its mine.
Goldcorp has been and continues to be committed to open and transparent discussions with all members of the community. We respect the right of all interested parties to voice their opinions respectfully. Goldcorp and Montana Exploradora have adopted the internationally-recognized standards of ‘Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights’. These standards provide the guidelines for security policies which include and demonstrate respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. All of our security personnel are trained in the ‘Voluntary Principles’, as are the local members of the Guatemalan police and army.
As we’ve attempted to illustrate, we are aware of and attentive to local concerns. The fundamental difference between organizers of events such as the people’s health tribunal taking place this weekend and Goldcorp, is that we believe and are committed to our vision: “Together, creating sustainable value” while some resistance groups are fundamentally opposed to mining as a means of economic development.
We recognize that Goldcorp alone cannot ensure sustainable value creation, which is why we emphasize “together” – we are continually looking for partnerships with governments and NGOs who have the expertise in community development to work with local communities to achieve the most enduring social development from the opportunity associated with mineral development. Helping local communities to realize their vision of community development through our investment transforms the natural resources that only have potential value in the ground, to actual value through extraction.