Guatemala's Extractive Debacle

Submitted By ryanbarnard
Words: 1435
Pages: 6

Guatemala’s Extractive Debacle
Ryan Barnard – 10006037
COMM 407
April 3, 2014

Guatemala’s Extractive Debacle

Canada has long prided itself on its sterling international reputation. Through peacekeeping missions, foreign aid and a welcoming immigration policy, we as a nation believe that we come across as both helpful and friendly. We distinguish ourselves from other nations on the basis of our polite and apologetic nature. However, there is a dark side to the Canadian identity. Canada has always played a large role in the extractive industries, due to the extensive nature of our natural resources. While this may seem like a positive, many Canadian mining corporations have begun to garnish a bad reputation over seas. Through human rights violations, poor environmental standards and out dated mining practices, many Canadian corporations destroyed the positive identity that was once attached to Canada. This bad reputation reflects negatively both on the corporations themselves and on our nation as a whole. The majority of these mining companies are operating out of South America. One of the largest corporations involved in exploiting the extractive resources of South and Central America is Goldcorp Inc. Goldcorp is headquartered in Vancouver, Canada and according to their website employs over 16, 000 people worldwide. This essay will specifically focus on Goldcorp’s Marlin Mine, located in Guatemala. The mine has recently garnered international attention due to alleged environmental and human rights abuse. The essay will illustrate the double movement created by the mine in terms of tension between public and private interests. The Marlin Mine is a gold mine, located in the municipality of San Miguel in Guatemala. It began production in 2005 and according to Al Jazeera (2012) the mine produced 382, 400 ounces of gold, resulting in a profit of $607 million. The mine employs more than 2, 000 people, of which the vast majority are Guatemalan. Proponents of the mine are quick to mention the economic development which has occurred as a result of the mine. Since the mines opening, the area has seen vast improvements in infrastructure, including the creation of roads, health clinics and schools. The area surrounding the mine is occupied by the Mam and Sipakapense people, which are two of a number of indigenous communities native to Guatemala. The government has traditionally ignored these indigenous communities in terms of public funding and support. The creation of the mine has provided these people with unprecedented development and means. According to Goldcorp “the objective is to train people so that when the company leaves they will have the opportunity to maintain a good quality of life, and more and better opportunities” (Al Jazeera, 2012). While all these positives are difficult to ignore there are also a large number of negative externalities associated with the mine. Goldcorp. Inc, the company who owns the mine, has been charged with numerous human rights violations related to the expansion and operation of the mine. In 2005, when the mine was about to open, local communities organized a referendum to determine if they did in fact want the mine in their communities. The majority of the community members were in fact against the creation of the mine, however due to the local peoples lack of agency and the political and economic clout a large corporation like Goldcorp holds, the mine went ahead anyways. A number of years later, when the mine was looking to expand there were numerous instances of threats and violent encounters between villagers and private security companies hired by Goldcorp. One elderly women explained how when she refused to sell her land to the mine she was visited by 2 men who shot her in the eye. The men were later found to be connected with Goldcorp. This woman also explained how she became alienated by the local community when she refused to sell