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Open Letter to SFU Concerning Goldcorp Inc's $10,000,000 "Gift"

by Rights Action


October 4, 2010
 
Simon Fraser University
President Andrew Petter
8888 University Drive
Burnaby, BC, Canada, V5A-1S6
apetter@uvic.ca, 250.721.8183, 778.782.4641, 778.782.4860
 
Mavis MacMillen
Director, President's Office
mamacmil@sfu.ca, 778.782.4641
 
Dear Andrew Petter,
 
We write you concerning Goldcorp Inc's "gift" of $10,000,000 to the Simon Fraser University Goldcorp Centre for the Arts.
 
If you properly study Goldcorp's mining record in Guatemala and Honduras, as well as in other countries across Latin America, we believe you will conclude that much of Goldcorp's extraordinarily high profits come from unjust enrichment.
 
In Honduras and Guatemala, where we have worked for many years in support of and alongside Goldcorp-affected communities - poor indigenous and campesino communities -, Goldcorp has directly and indirectly caused environmental and health harms and other human rights violations.  They have done so with impunity.
 
We believe Simon Fraser University should return the $10,000,000 "gift" to Goldcorp.  Say no to unjust enrichment.
 
HARMS & VIOLATIONS
Rights Action and other groups in North and Central America have documented environmental and health harms and other human rights violations at Goldcorp's open-pit, cyanide-leaching gold and silver mines in Honduras and Guatemala.  Here, a summary:
 
•Initial and prior violation of indigenous and human rights, through lack of free, prior and informed consultation with and consent from affected campesino and indigenous communities. This initial and prior problem is made possible by a fundamental lack of democracy and by a manipulated and corrupted administration of justice in both countries.  This is widely documented and known.

•Illegal and/or forced evictions of families and communities; manipulated and sometimes pressured purchases of property from impoverished local communities.  These problems include: not informing local communities about the mining prospects; undervaluing the land ("preying on the poverty" of the local population); forcing and pressuring people to sell their land; paying different prices to community members, creating division and tension.

•Sowing division in families and communities, as Goldcorp offers low-skill employment to poor, local men (and some women), again preying on the poverty and generalized lack of employment, in this way putting family members against one another.  These divisions are occurring in Guatemala and Honduras that have not recovered from the trauma and legacy of the State-sponsored terrorism and repression of the 1970s through to the early 1990s. [Moreover, Goldcorp is now, apparently, trying to re-open its mine in Honduras, soon after the elected government of President Zelaya was overthrown in a violent military coup, June 28, 2009.  Today, Honduras is under the control of an illegitimate government backed by the military and police - repression is systemic and widespread.]

•De-forestation, through the clear-cutting of the land.

•Initial air contamination due to the de-forestation and to dust created by the use of explosives and heavy machinery to break up the mountain and rock.

•Contaminating of surface and underground water sources due to de-forestation, use of explosives and heavy machinery to destroy and remove entire hills and small mountains.

•Further contamination of surface and underground water sources, due to cyanide use (in the processing plant, to separate the ore from earth and rock) and the release of naturally occurring heavy metals (mercury, arsenic, lead) in dangerous amounts due to the explosives and destruction of mountains.

•Further contamination of water sources, through release and leak of waste products from the processing plant and tailings pond.

•Depletion of surface and underground water sources due to use of huge quantities of water in the gold and silver processing plant. This water depletion (and contamination) occurs in regions of the two countries where the "subsistence economy" campesinos and indigenous communities barely survive the "dry" season most years.

•Cracking of peoples' homes, due to use of explosives.

•Health harms to local populations (babies to the elderly), including: hair loss, skin rashes and diseases, possible blood contamination due to heavy metals, other more serious health problems (organ failure and complications) due to possible blood contaminants; eye irritations; respiratory complications.

•Repression against villagers who are carry out community education and organization work to protest the harms and violations occurring in their communities.

•"Criminalization of work in defense of human rights and the environment" and the laying of criminal charges against and jailing of local community members who protest the harms and violations.
 
IMPUNITY - LACK OF REMEDY & RECOURSE

The people's suffering - these harms and violations - have no remedy or recourse in any legal system.  The lack of remedy and recourse is not only inside Guatemala and Honduras, but also at the international level, and inside Canada.
 
Mr. Petter, as past dean of the University of Victoria faculty of law, we think you will appreciate just how problematic and complicated this broad impunity renders this entire situation.
 
IACHR ORDER

Having said that, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) - based on its investigations of the above summarized harms and violations - ordered the government of Guatemala to suspend Goldcorp's mine in Guatemala.  Neither the government nor Goldcorp have abided by this order.
 
DOCUMENTATION

In April 2010, CTV's W5 program aired "Lost Paradise", taking a close look at Goldcorp's mining operation in Guatemala, and HudBay Mineral's nickel mining operation in Guatemala.  It is recommended viewing: http://watch.ctv.ca/news/w5/paradise-lost/#clip290436.
 
In 2010, a new documentary film about Goldcorp's mine in Guatemala was released: "The Business Of Gold In Guatemala".  It is recommended viewing and available on request.
 
In 2009, a documentary film was released about Goldcorp's mine in Honduras: "All That Glitters Is Not Gold".  It is recommended viewing and available on request.
 
At www.rightsaction.org you will find articles, urgent actions and reports about Goldcorp's mines in Guatemala and Honduras, going back over 7 years.  At http://www.rightsaction.org/Reports/research.pdf, you will find "Investing In Conflict", a 2008 comprehensive report on Goldcorp's mining operations across the Americas.
 
GOLDWASHING - ROB FROM THE POOR TO GIVE TO THE RICH

If you accept the "gift" to Goldcorp, you will not be alone.  In 2007, the University of British Colombia received $5,000,000 from Goldcorp for the Earth and Ocean Sciences department - http://www.eos.ubc.ca/home/alumni/2007.pdf.  In 2007, Ian Telfer - former Chairman of Goldcorp - donated $25,000,000 to the University of Ottawa that then opened the Telfer School of Management.
 
The giving of these "gifts" is, we think, a form of goldwashing a legacy of environmental and health harms and other human rights violations (including deaths) at Goldcorp operated mine sites in Guatemala and Honduras, and across the Americas.  As these harms and violations are occurring, extraordinary profits are flowing to company directors, shareholders and investors, pension and equity funds, ... and to universities.
 
We respectfully ask
 
o that SFU put this "gift" in a non-interest bearing account;
o that SFU form an independent investigatory team to fully, publicly and transparently investigate the harms and violations summarized above;
o that SFU then publish its findings and publicly explain why it is accepting or returning the "gift" to Goldcorp.
 
We look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible.
 
Grahame Russell and Annie Bird
Co-directors, info@rightsaction.org, www.rightsaction.org
 
 
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[Originally founded in 1983, Rights Action is a not-for-profit organization with tax charitable status in the USA and Canada.  Since 1995, Rights Action has been funding and working to eliminate poverty and impunity and the underlying causes of poverty and impunity in Guatemala and Honduras, as well as in Chiapas [Mexico], Salvador and Haiti.  We directly fund and work with community-based development, environmental, disaster relief and human rights organizations. (In 2010, to date, we have sent over $525,000 to community-based development, environmental, disaster relief and human rights organizations) And, we educate about and are involved in activism aimed at critically understanding and changing unjust north-south, global economic, military and political relationships.]
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Comments

W2's Irwin Oostindie joins the fight against Goldcorp

I recently found out that W2's Executive Director Irwin Oostindie has joined an SFU group to fight the school's decision to take dirty Goldcorp money.

Context:

http://vancouver.mediacoop.ca/blog/dawn/4695

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