INTERNATIONAL PEOPLE'S HEATH TRIBUNAL

Photography by Allan Lissner. All text from the testimonies and the Final Verdict of the Health Tribunal.

“The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being…”

– World Health Organization.

July 2012. In San Miguel Ixtahuacán, Guatemala, the International People's Health Tribunal used community testimony, scientific research and human rights organization’s knowledge to examine how the presence of Goldcorp’s mining operations have affected community residents. Over 600 people were in attendance from across Guatemala, as well as Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama, Canada, and the USA.

The Health Tribunal project was initiated by community members of San Miguel Ixtahuacán following participation in a community-based health project.  Preliminary findings of this research indicate that community members’ health has been threatened by the local Marlin Mine, a subsidiary operation of Canadian company Goldcorp,

The Health Tribunal project was initiated by community members of San Miguel Ixtahuacán following participation in a community-based health project.  Preliminary findings of this research indicate that community members’ health has been threatened by the local Marlin Mine, a subsidiary operation of Canadian company Goldcorp,

Aniceto: “This tribunal was developed to support the resistance. We are here in San Miguel Ixtahuacan, in this important event that is the International Peoples Health Tribunal. Years ago, our people, that you can see around you, began to realize what was happening. we are living through a period that we never expected. we never could have imagined that this would happen to us. so this tribunal is focused on examining the social damages that our community has been facing.”

Aniceto: “This tribunal was developed to support the resistance. We are here in San Miguel Ixtahuacan, in this important event that is the International Peoples Health Tribunal. Years ago, our people, that you can see around you, began to realize what was happening. we are living through a period that we never expected. we never could have imagined that this would happen to us. so this tribunal is focused on examining the social damages that our community has been facing.

Through this health tribunal we seek to: 1. Bring attention to the broad range of health concerns that Goldcorp affected communities are experiencing. 2. Collectively engage in a popular process for greater transparency and accountability of Goldcorp’s actions in communities in which they have or currently do operate.

Through this health tribunal we seek to:

1. Bring attention to the broad range of health concerns that Goldcorp affected communities are experiencing.

2. Collectively engage in a popular process for greater transparency and accountability of Goldcorp’s actions in communities in which they have or currently do operate.

Through this health tribunal we seek to:

3. Provide a space for community members to exchange knowledge and share strategies in light of Goldcorp’s impact on their lives.

4. Push for policy changes and socio-cultural shifts that bring about greater respect for indigenous sovereignty, the environment, health and human rights in corporate mining practices in our respective countries.

Diodora Hernandez: “They've always wanted to buy my land and have threatened me for not wanting to sell it. The mine has paid people to threaten me. Once I had my grandson in my arms, and they put a machete to my neck. My grandson cried. That is what saved my life. I have done no other crime than not wanting to sell my land. They said "why don't you die once and for all” then they shot at me, but I will not sell my land to anyone!”

Diodora Hernandez: “They've always wanted to buy my land and have threatened me for not wanting to sell it. The mine has paid people to threaten me. Once I had my grandson in my arms, and they put a machete to my neck. My grandson cried. That is what saved my life. I have done no other crime than not wanting to sell my land. They said "why don't you die once and for all” then they shot at me, but I will not sell my land to anyone!”

Bamaca: "They want to use our taxes to pay for the damages of the mine, but we are a poor country, which is why we demand that the company pay for this. all of us need land to feed us, and it is sad what the mine is doing to the land. We feel as if they are killing us with fire. This struggle is not for us, but those who have not yet been born.”

Bamaca: "They want to use our taxes to pay for the damages of the mine, but we are a poor country, which is why we demand that the company pay for this. all of us need land to feed us, and it is sad what the mine is doing to the land. We feel as if they are killing us with fire. This struggle is not for us, but those who have not yet been born.”

Matias Lopez: "I want to talk about what has happened - discrimination – manipulation – prostitution – criminalization – pollution. The workers have beaten me up. When they were under the influence of alcohol, they came to my home and threatened us with sticks that had nails and different sort of weapons to hit us. They took my food. and then they hit me. Two young people went and dragged me and they dragged me. They started beating a friend who was next to me."

Matias Lopez: "I want to talk about what has happened - discrimination – manipulation – prostitution – criminalization – pollution. The workers have beaten me up. When they were under the influence of alcohol, they came to my home and threatened us with sticks that had nails and different sort of weapons to hit us. They took my food. and then they hit me. Two young people went and dragged me and they dragged me. They started beating a friend who was next to me."

"My main concern is that the municipal and federal govs have given concessions without consent. Where are we going to go? What will happen to us? Because we are the owners of our lands. And these companies are coming in and imposing mega projects on our lands. We are in resistance, we have carried out community consultations to say that we don't want the company on our lands. We want to continue to care for and love our mother earth."

"My main concern is that the municipal and federal govs have given concessions without consent. Where are we going to go? What will happen to us? Because we are the owners of our lands. And these companies are coming in and imposing mega projects on our lands. We are in resistance, we have carried out community consultations to say that we don't want the company on our lands. We want to continue to care for and love our mother earth."

Louis Mendoza from Honduras: "One problem you can see here is skin loss, skin problems, sores. Several years ago, one of the Goldcorp reps said that this was due to the hygiene of the local population. But people also are starting to get skin coloration, these babies were born dead. If this is what people call progress, I simply don't understand."

Louis Mendoza from Honduras: "One problem you can see here is skin loss, skin problems, sores. Several years ago, one of the Goldcorp reps said that this was due to the hygiene of the local population. But people also are starting to get skin coloration, these babies were born dead. If this is what people call progress, I simply don't understand."

This development model does not favour the majority of people in the community. We produce coffee, nuts, fruit, according to the ancestral cycles. But this is being put in jeopardy for the extraction of gold. We are leaving a legacy of destruction for our children and the excuse for this impoverishment is short term employment for only 1% of the population.

This development model does not favour the majority of people in the community. We produce coffee, nuts, fruit, according to the ancestral cycles. But this is being put in jeopardy for the extraction of gold. We are leaving a legacy of destruction for our children and the excuse for this impoverishment is short term employment for only 1% of the population.

Rodolfo Arteaga from the Siria Valley, Honduras. "I worked for 8 years in themine. I saw them burning the boxes which contained cyanide. For four years I breathed this in. It has given me problems in my fingers and in my toes. I am not well. I have been infected. I have chronic leukemia and I will have to take that medicine for the rest of my life. if I don't take the medicine, I won't survive."

Rodolfo Arteaga from the Siria Valley, Honduras. "I worked for 8 years in themine. I saw them burning the boxes which contained cyanide. For four years I breathed this in. It has given me problems in my fingers and in my toes. I am not well. I have been infected. I have chronic leukemia and I will have to take that medicine for the rest of my life. if I don't take the medicine, I won't survive."

German Chub, from El Estor, says he was shot in the back by Mynor Padilla, former chief of security for the mine owned by Canadian Hudbay Minerals, after witnessing the murder of anti-mining leader Adolfo Ich Chaman. “They have no idea what we live through, they know nothing about it. They enter violently and without shame. just like in the 60's and 70's when they massacred our parents and grandparents. The Canadian companies come to kill us. To rape us. And violate our rights. But we won't allow this to happen!”

Angelica Choc from El Estor: “Where is the justice for the death of Adolfo Ich? Where is the justice for German? Where is the justice for the women brutally gang-raped by so-called security forces? Why hasn’t the arrest order for Mynor Padilla been carried out? Some of us are aware, but when will we wake up as a people and see the damaged caused to us Guatemalans by transnational corporations?” do we really have a peace accord? or is this another war. because these are the exact same tactics [that were used against us during the civil war]."

Angelica Choc from El Estor: “Where is the justice for the death of Adolfo Ich? Where is the justice for German? Where is the justice for the women brutally gang-raped by so-called security forces? Why hasn’t the arrest order for Mynor Padilla been carried out? Some of us are aware, but when will we wake up as a people and see the damaged caused to us Guatemalans by transnational corporations?” do we really have a peace accord? or is this another war. because these are the exact same tactics [that were used against us during the civil war]."

The judges read out the verdict. The judges were from different countries and are specialists in the areas of health, environment and human rights. The purpose of the court was to hear the claims and testimonials from people affected by mining operations of Goldcorp in Carrizalillo in Guerrero, Mexico, Siria Valley in Francisco Morazan, Honduras, and San Miguel and Sipacapa in San Marcos, Guatemala.        

The judges read out the verdict. The judges were from different countries and are specialists in the areas of health, environment and human rights. The purpose of the court was to hear the claims and testimonials from people affected by mining operations of Goldcorp in Carrizalillo in Guerrero, Mexico, Siria Valley in Francisco Morazan, Honduras, and San Miguel and Sipacapa in San Marcos, Guatemala.        

Congressmen Amilcar Pop (center) and Carlos Mejia (center-right) applaud the reading of the final verdict. GoldCorp is a mining company based in Vancouver, Canad,a and registered as a publicly-traded company on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Canada is the centre for international mining corporations due to the lax regulation which extractive industries enjoy in that country with respect to health, human rights, environmental protection and labour rights, for their activities in the rest of the world. In addition, the Canadian government, through its Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the Canadian International Development Agency, and other mechanisms, intervenes directly in the affairs of other governments in order to create a legal and political context which is favourable for the operation of Canadian mining companies.

Congressmen Amilcar Pop (center) and Carlos Mejia (center-right) applaud the reading of the final verdict. GoldCorp is a mining company based in Vancouver, Canad,a and registered as a publicly-traded company on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Canada is the centre for international mining corporations due to the lax regulation which extractive industries enjoy in that country with respect to health, human rights, environmental protection and labour rights, for their activities in the rest of the world. In addition, the Canadian government, through its Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the Canadian International Development Agency, and other mechanisms, intervenes directly in the affairs of other governments in order to create a legal and political context which is favourable for the operation of Canadian mining companies.

Chrisanta Perez, from San Miguel Ixtahuacan. For the last 15 years, Goldcorp has been involved in mining exploitation in different Latin American and Central American countries, characterized by extracting gold by non-legitimate and dangerous methods which violate human rights, promoting false development projects through the manipulation of peoples in order to exploit their rich natural resources, leaving as a result damage to their health and to the environment of affected communities.

Chrisanta Perez, from San Miguel Ixtahuacan. For the last 15 years, Goldcorp has been involved in mining exploitation in different Latin American and Central American countries, characterized by extracting gold by non-legitimate and dangerous methods which violate human rights, promoting false development projects through the manipulation of peoples in order to exploit their rich natural resources, leaving as a result damage to their health and to the environment of affected communities.

In the current political framework that promotes economic development, extractive mining companies have found an “open door” in various different Latin American countries where their governments facilitate and allow the development of mining processes that are openly aggressive and harmful for the affected population. Currently, the extractive mining model, according to OCMAL (Latin American Mining Conflict Observatory), has created some 165 conflicts in Latin America, 35 in Mesoamerica.

In the current political framework that promotes economic development, extractive mining companies have found an “open door” in various different Latin American countries where their governments facilitate and allow the development of mining processes that are openly aggressive and harmful for the affected population. Currently, the extractive mining model, according to OCMAL (Latin American Mining Conflict Observatory), has created some 165 conflicts in Latin America, 35 in Mesoamerica.

All of the cases that have been presented have the common elements of: (a) contamination and the irreversible loss of water sources, (b) irreversible environmental devastation: disappearance of mountains, ecosystems and changes to the hydrologic cycle, (c) dust that is constantly inhaled and that contains heavy metals and toxic substances that include carcinogenic elements that accumulate in organisms, (d) affects in the chain of life: destruction of crops and soil, illness and death of wild and domestic animals.

All of the cases that have been presented have the common elements of: (a) contamination and the irreversible loss of water sources, (b) irreversible environmental devastation: disappearance of mountains, ecosystems and changes to the hydrologic cycle, (c) dust that is constantly inhaled and that contains heavy metals and toxic substances that include carcinogenic elements that accumulate in organisms, (d) affects in the chain of life: destruction of crops and soil, illness and death of wild and domestic animals.

In the testimonies, we have heard people talk about skin and eye illnesses, hair loss, skin rashes, miscarriages, infertility, premature births, birth defects and death of newborns, joint pains, auditory damage, gastrointestinal problems, nervous system problems, cases of poisoning that have led to death. “What is most horrifying are the children who are always sick.”

In the testimonies, we have heard people talk about skin and eye illnesses, hair loss, skin rashes, miscarriages, infertility, premature births, birth defects and death of newborns, joint pains, auditory damage, gastrointestinal problems, nervous system problems, cases of poisoning that have led to death. “What is most horrifying are the children who are always sick.”

We heard from ex-workers of Goldcorp whose health has been affected because they suffer from frequent intoxication, leaks, toxic chemical explosions, and workplace accidents due to a lack of equipment and security measures. These accidents have also led to death. One of the most notable markers of the deterioration of a community is the unmitigated increase in cantines, of alcoholism, of drug addition, and gender violence, the appearance of prostitution, venereal diseases and of HIV/AIDS.

We heard from ex-workers of Goldcorp whose health has been affected because they suffer from frequent intoxication, leaks, toxic chemical explosions, and workplace accidents due to a lack of equipment and security measures. These accidents have also led to death. One of the most notable markers of the deterioration of a community is the unmitigated increase in cantines, of alcoholism, of drug addition, and gender violence, the appearance of prostitution, venereal diseases and of HIV/AIDS.

In addition to physical health problems, there are strong testimonies that demonstrate that people have been profoundly affected in their spiritual and emotional health. They suffer from depression and loss because of the climate of fear, impotence and insecurity. As we were told: “It is a sad life that I am living”; “they go around destroying life”. It is clear that this change has traumatized both people and communities.

In addition to physical health problems, there are strong testimonies that demonstrate that people have been profoundly affected in their spiritual and emotional health. They suffer from depression and loss because of the climate of fear, impotence and insecurity. As we were told: “It is a sad life that I am living”; “they go around destroying life”. It is clear that this change has traumatized both people and communities.

In all cases, the mine was imposed on communities without their prior consent. As we heard: “when they arrived, they opened up a road without asking for any permission”. The testimonies illustrate how, as a result of the mine’s arrival, divisions and conflicts were created in the relationships within communities and even within families. In all cases, there has been an increase in tension, mistrust, and violence at the community level. There is a polarization and fragmentation of community life, pitting neighbour against neighbour. In addition, there is a loss of confidence in the local authorities and a feeling of betrayal by the authorities that defend the interests of the company over the human rights and collective rights of the communities.

In all cases, the mine was imposed on communities without their prior consent. As we heard: “when they arrived, they opened up a road without asking for any permission”. The testimonies illustrate how, as a result of the mine’s arrival, divisions and conflicts were created in the relationships within communities and even within families. In all cases, there has been an increase in tension, mistrust, and violence at the community level. There is a polarization and fragmentation of community life, pitting neighbour against neighbour. In addition, there is a loss of confidence in the local authorities and a feeling of betrayal by the authorities that defend the interests of the company over the human rights and collective rights of the communities.

In repeated testimonies, we have heard the ways in which people are stigmatized, marginalized and criminalized for the simple fact that they are not in agreement with the installation of a mining operation in their territory. The authorities at the mine have not shown them respect. As we were told: “I am a despised person just because we defend the life that we all deserve”. Also, there are many threats. As we heard: “We are very afraid because we don’t know when they will carry out their death threats”.

In the experiences presented for our consideration regarding how Goldcorp has acted in Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico yesterday and today: We see the high degree of concurrence between the different accusations around Goldcorp’s systematic strategy in the cases presented as well as the deliberate absence of will to protect the rights of people…

In the experiences presented for our consideration regarding how Goldcorp has acted in Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico yesterday and today: We see the high degree of concurrence between the different accusations around Goldcorp’s systematic strategy in the cases presented as well as the deliberate absence of will to protect the rights of people…

…. We observe that the facts indicate that the company has not shown an interest in the quality of life for the affected population and that the health impacts constitute one of the most visible social impacts of this lack of interest. We find that the public image of Goldcorp of being a “socially responsable company” does not fit with the facts presented before this tribunal…

…. We observe that the facts indicate that the company has not shown an interest in the quality of life for the affected population and that the health impacts constitute one of the most visible social impacts of this lack of interest.

We find that the public image of Goldcorp of being a “socially responsable company” does not fit with the facts presented before this tribunal…

We consider that the facts presented by the witnesses and the testimonies delivered by the affected communities in their testimonies are the most compelling evidence and have sufficient substance to be considered trustworthy and accurate representations of the reality. We energetically reject the gap between the regulations and their application toward mining in Canada and in Mesoamerica.

We consider that the facts presented by the witnesses and the testimonies delivered by the affected communities in their testimonies are the most compelling evidence and have sufficient substance to be considered trustworthy and accurate representations of the reality. We energetically reject the gap between the regulations and their application toward mining in Canada and in Mesoamerica.

For the reasons above described, we find Goldcorp guilty for its activities in Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico, which we find to be seriously damaging to the health and the quality of life, the quality of environment, and the right to self determination of the affected Indigenous and campesino communities. We also find the States, where the accusations come from, guilty of being complicit and irresponsible for not protecting the rights of those affected by mining. We also find the Government of Canada guilty for supporting and promoting in various ways the irresponsible mining investments in Mesoamerica.

For the reasons above described, we find Goldcorp guilty for its activities in Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico, which we find to be seriously damaging to the health and the quality of life, the quality of environment, and the right to self determination of the affected Indigenous and campesino communities.

We also find the States, where the accusations come from, guilty of being complicit and irresponsible for not protecting the rights of those affected by mining.

We also find the Government of Canada guilty for supporting and promoting in various ways the irresponsible mining investments in Mesoamerica.

To the communities we recommend: That they stop, using all peaceful means at your disposal, the operations of Goldcorp in your territories. This should be realized through multisector and interdisciplinary alliances and pressure on responsible bodies.

To the communities we recommend:

That they stop, using all peaceful means at your disposal, the operations of Goldcorp in your territories. This should be realized through multisector and interdisciplinary alliances and pressure on responsible bodies.

To the communities we recommend: That the communities and organizations that have attended this tribunal maintain contact and organize so that they might better show the impacts of the mining operations of Goldcorp, its consequences and the future risks.

To the communities we recommend:

That the communities and organizations that have attended this tribunal maintain contact and organize so that they might better show the impacts of the mining operations of Goldcorp, its consequences and the future risks.

To the communities we recommend: That they seek, through all peaceful means, to exercise your collective rights established in national laws and/or international treaties in order to guarantee the right to self-determination of indigenous and peasant communities.

To the communities we recommend:

That they seek, through all peaceful means, to exercise your collective rights established in national laws and/or international treaties in order to guarantee the right to self-determination of indigenous and peasant communities.

Of the States (national, departmental, state and municipal governments,) we demand: Compliance with existing national legislation and international agreements, in particular those that guarantee the right to free, prior and informed consent. Creation of new regulations to protect and guarantee the rights of communities who are confronting mining and all activities that affect their well-being.

Of the States (national, departmental, state and municipal governments,) we demand:

Compliance with existing national legislation and international agreements, in particular those that guarantee the right to free, prior and informed consent.

Creation of new regulations to protect and guarantee the rights of communities who are confronting mining and all activities that affect their well-being.

Of the States (national, departmental, state and municipal governments,) we demand: Emphatically ensure the respect for and enjoyment of the rights of indigenous peoples, recognizing their own traditions, cultures and decision-making. Adopting measures similar to the restrictions on open-pit metallic mining decreed by the authorities of other countries.

Of the States (national, departmental, state and municipal governments,) we demand:

Emphatically ensure the respect for and enjoyment of the rights of indigenous peoples, recognizing their own traditions, cultures and decision-making.

Adopting measures similar to the restrictions on open-pit metallic mining decreed by the authorities of other countries.

Of Goldcorp we demand: Reparations of the damages to the health of the population, the damages to the environment, and in general damages to the affected indigenous and peasant communities. Compensation for past, present and future damages to the communities, taking in consideration that contamination is ongoing and can continue still for hundreds of years. Suspension of all mining operations in Mesoamerica and guarantees that it will not repeat the experiences described in the accusations herein.

Of Goldcorp we demand:

Reparations of the damages to the health of the population, the damages to the environment, and in general damages to the affected indigenous and peasant communities.

Compensation for past, present and future damages to the communities, taking in consideration that contamination is ongoing and can continue still for hundreds of years.

Suspension of all mining operations in Mesoamerica and guarantees that it will not repeat the experiences described in the accusations herein.

Verdict pronounced in the municipality of San Miguel Ixtahuacan, on the 15th day of July, 2012.

Verdict pronounced in the municipality of San Miguel Ixtahuacan, on the 15th day of July, 2012.

More information at HealthTribunal.org


Related:

SOMEONE ELSE'S TREASURE INTRODUCTION (Photo essay) Someone Else's Treasure includes the stories of affected communities in Australia, Canada, Chile, Guatemala, Papua New Guinnea, the Philippines, and Tanzania. In an effort to better understand the true cost of an industry that shapes the world around all of us, the focus is on the externalized - the men, women and children that have been left out of the equations and are therefore forced to pay the price for someone else's treasure.

SOMEONE ELSE'S TREASURE INTRODUCTION (Photo essay)

Someone Else's Treasure includes the stories of affected communities in Australia, Canada, Chile, Guatemala, Papua New Guinnea, the Philippines, and Tanzania. In an effort to better understand the true cost of an industry that shapes the world around all of us, the focus is on the externalized - the men, women and children that have been left out of the equations and are therefore forced to pay the price for someone else's treasure.