by Tory Russell
Diodora Hernandez and Brent Bergeron have two very different stories to tell about Goldcorp’s operations, its relationships and partnerships with First Nations, and its operating “culture.”
Diodora Hernandez is of the Maya-Mam peoples of northwestern Guatemala, where for centuries families have survived on small plots of land along the sides of arid mountains, living off livestock and indigenous maize, beans and squash.
Diodora’s property is in the path of a Goldcorp-owned mine expansion. She has been pressured to sell, but will not. This is her ancestral land, and she keeps it for her grandchildren.
Land sales in many Maya Mam communities in the region surged in 2005. An early rumour was that land was being sold to produce orchids. Goldcorp’s Marlin mine, run by its Guatemalan subsidiary Montana Exploradora, has inspired broad local resistance since its inception.
It bears noting the historical context. Maya-Mam are peacefully asserting human and democratic rights in the aftermath of a genocide (peaking in the 1980s) that ended the lives of 200,000 indigenous Guatemalans.
On July 7, 2010, two men tried to assassinate Diodora Hernandez, shooting her in the right eye. The bullet exited by her right ear, permanently blinding her right eye and causing loss of hearing. The would-be assassins had worked for the mine. On July 20, 2010 an executive VP of Goldcorp wrote:
“I understand that the two men who allegedly committed the assault have been identified and were detained by the police, but were subsequently released. … Both men are residents of San Miguel Ixtahuacan. One of the two was employed by Montana, but his employment was terminated more than one year ago. The other man is employed by a contractor that provides underground mine development services to Montana at the Marlin Mine.”
The men were released, and there has been no investigation. Diodora’s story, widely reported in print and film, is not “proven.” Sources can be easily discredited, not to mention intimidated. Impunity is at work.
The attempt on Diodora Hernandez’s life is part of a bigger pattern of oppression mining affected communities report, and that multiple organizations have documented (Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Guatemala’s Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International, the Pastoral Commission for Peace and Ecology, Rights Action and many more).
Nonetheless, Goldcorp’s Marlin mine relentlessly expands undeterred by all the critics. Beyond open-pit operations, some 147 kilometres of tunnels snake underground. On April 14 of this year, 24-year old Jaime Otero Perez Lopez died on the job when one of those tunnels collapsed.
As of the spring of 2016, with no right eye, no hearing in her right ear, no water running through the one tap in her home, no investigation or justice for the murder attempt on her life, Diodora Hernandez will still not sell her land to Goldcorp.
For the sake of all Yukon communities, let’s hope Brent Bergeron, Goldcorp’s executive vice-president of corporate affairs and sustainability, is accurate when he talks about how the company will operate here. In the face of damning evidence from its Marlin mine in Guatemala, Goldcorp’s recent statement that it values the participation of First Nations in its Canadian projects (Yukon News, May 13) just sounds like double speak.
There is most certainly a double standard. The experiences of Diodora Hernandez and Jaime Otero Pérez López would not be acceptable in Yukon.
Canada has finally signed on to the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People, which includes the right to free, prior and informed consent. But Canada’s corporate giants like Goldcorp have clearly not signed on. In all the countries where they do business, they can and do follow different standards in different places with different peoples.
Canadians are deeply invested in Goldcorp, and it’s about more than money. Canadian workers are Goldcorp shareholders in the sense that hundreds of millions of CPP dollars have been invested in the company. But beyond the financial performance of our country’s public pension plan, we appear to be invested in Goldcorp in other profound yet intangible ways. We have belief in Goldcorp, and cannot imagine an economy without it.
Tory Russell lives in Whitehorse.