Commentary on Goldcorp by Diana Mills, Latin American Mining Monitoring Programme
Goldcorp is a Canadian company but among its major investors are British-based AXA Investment Managers UK Ltd (US$4.3 million), Blackrock Commodities Income Trust plc, and City Natural Resources High Yield Trust PLC, according to the document From Money to Metals by mining researcher Roger Moody. For background, see
On 21 January 2010 the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that large-scale mining projects are obliged to carry out a comprehensive environmental impact assessment without splitting the project into small parts to avoid detection of its overall environmental impact. At the same time the ruling ensures public consultation about the projects. In a parallel ruling the court determined that the Federal Government could not split projects into artificially small parts to avoid rigorous environmental impact assessments.
One wonders what effect this landmark decision will have in the case of Canadian mining giant Goldcorp, one of the 19 ICMM mining companies which at the recent Mining Indaba in Cape Town committed themselves, amongst other things, to “reduce poverty and foster development”. (See However, Goldcorp’s operating practices in Guatemala are questionable to say the least and seem likely to remain so – unless the company undergoes a sudden “road to Damascus” conversion.
According to an article published in Prensa Libre online, Goldcorp – through its Guatemalan subsidiary Montana Exploradora – intends to exploit more than ten mines in the country’s San Marcos region. Each mine means high levels of water consumption, environmental destruction, toxicity and risk of social conflict. Yet added together the sum total of these individual operations could be even far more dangerous. For this reason the highly respected Canadian hydrogeologist Robert Moran has recommended that the Guatemalan government demands from Montana Exploradora an assessment of the total cumulative impact that its exploitation project will have on the San Marcos region.
While the Prensa Libre article agrees that the Canadian Supreme Court has established an important precedent, it points out that the Guatemalan government has always favoured the mining companies. The hope is that Guatemala will follow the Canadian Supreme Court’s example, yet questions still remain. For instance, who will force Montana Exploradora to pay the millions of dollars that it owes Guatemala for attempting to bring cyanide into the country without a licence?  And who is going to cancel the permits for those projects that have already been split?
For their part, local Mayans affected by Montana Exploradora want to know who will accept responsibility for the huge cracks that have appeared in their houses ever since the mining company started blasting operations in the area. And now that new mining projects are sprouting like magic mushrooms, what will happen to local communities? The threat of displacement hangs permanently over their heads as Montana Exploradora – by extension Goldcorp – grabs more and more land in its relentless pursuit of gold.
A report on the BBC’s “Crossing Continents” programme in March 2009 mentions the fact that Canada’s Jantzi Social Index, which rates companies for investors according to how socially responsible they are, removed Goldcorp from its index in 2007. One of the reasons given was opposition from local indigenous communities to the company’s Marlin Mine project (operated by Montana Exploradora).
Goldcorp describes itself as being a “100% unhedged gold production” company. It claims to be the  “lowest-cost and fastest growing senior gold producer with mines and development projects throughout the Americas.”
It joins its fellow “seniors” in committing to a glowing list of corporate responsibility virtues. Have these corporate leopards really changed their spots? Watch this space, but don’t hold your breath.