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The Jury of the People’s International Health Tribunal held in San Miguel Ixtahuacán, Guatemala, demanded Canadian mining corporation Goldcorp to call off its operations in Central America and guarantee that its abuses will not happen again in Guatemala, Mexico or Honduras.
The judges also demanded the corporation to pay a compensation for the damages it caused in the communities and the environment.
The Health Tribunal, which is not legally binding, was an initiative of several Central American social networks aimed at exposing the serious impacts of Goldcorp on people’s health and the environment in San Miguel Ixtahuacán, Valle de Siria (Honduras) and Carrizalillo, in Guerrero state (Mexico). Marlin, San Martin and Los Filos mines operate respectively in those areas, all owned by Goldcorp.
Under the section “statement of facts” of the final verdict, the judges argue that all the cases submitted before the Tribunal have certain elements in common, such as the “pollution and irreversible loss of water sources”, “irreversible environmental degradation”, “disappearance of mountains and ecosystems”, high amounts of heavy metals and toxic substances in the air, including carcinogen elements. Other issues in common are the “destruction of crops and soils” and the appearance of “diseases and the death of wild and domestic animals”.
“The testimonies exposed skin diseases, eye problems, hair falling out, itchiness in the whole body, infertility, preterm births, malformations and death of newly born babies, hearing conditions, gastro-intestinal problems, nervous problems and cases of intoxication leading to death”, reads the final text of the Health Tribunal.
The judges added that former company workers who attended the Tribunal (and gave their testimonies) have health problems as a result of the permanent exposure to toxic chemicals, intoxications and work accidents due to lack of equipment or safety measures. “Some of these accidents have even resulted in deaths”, they said.
The jury was made up by internationally renowned people in different areas: activists, academics, religious leaders, journalists and doctors from the US, Canada, El Salvador, Chile, Guatemala and Mexico.
In the ruling, the judges claim that the cases filed prove that Goldcorp showed “a deliberate unwillingness to enforce the residents’ rights” and that its actions fail to show “interest in the quality of life of the people affected”. The health damages are “one of the most visible social effects of the lack of interest”.
The jury members also expressed that the facts exposed have enough grounds to be considered “faithful accounts of the facts”. Based on this, “Goldcorp’s public image as a ’socially responsible’ company contradicts the facts presented before this Tribunal”.
The verdict is based on those accounts to later condemn Goldcorp’s operations in Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico, because it is highly harmful to the health of the local populations and to the environment and because it violates the right to self-determination of indigenous and peasant communities.
“We also condemn the irresponsible and complicit attitude of the governments of these countries for failing to ensure the rights of the people affected by the company”, reads the ruling, which also condemns the complicity of the Canadian state for supporting and promoting irresponsible mining investments in Mesoamerica.
Finally, the judges recommend the peoples to prevent Goldcorp’s operations in their territories “by all peaceful means available to them”. They also suggest to “enforce the collective rights provided in the national laws or international conventions” to secure the self-determination of the indigenous peoples and peasant communities.
The judges also demand the states to “comply with and to make the national laws in force to comply with the international conventions, in particular the laws about prior, free and informed consent”.
The jury ended its verdict with demands for Goldcorp. First, it demands the company to compensate the indigenous and peasant communities affected for damages on their health and the environment.
Then, it adds an item about compensation for past, present and future damages caused to people and the communities because of the persistent pollution that may last hundreds of years; and lastly, the ruling demands Goldcorp to “suspend all mining operations in Mesoamerica and secure that the incidents hereby exposed will not happen again”.
Photo: Grace García, Amigos de la Tierra Costa Rica.
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