CALL TO DIVEST ONTARIO’S TEACHERS’ MONEY FROM THE CANADIAN COMPANY GOLDCORP INC.
It has come to light that the money of more than 300 000 current and retired teachers of Ontario is being used to support this company’s activities through investments made by their Pension Plan. Indeed, on September 30, 2013, the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan invested about 175 million dollars of our assets in Goldcorp.
Numerous international human rights and environmental NGOs, as well as Guatemalan scientists, journalists and communities, continue to alert the public and the competent authorities to the extractive activities of Goldcorp Inc. in Guatemala. This Canadian company, which is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, owns three mining projects in Guatemala aimed at extracting gold and other precious metals (Marlin, Cerro Blanco and Chocoyos projects). In addition, Goldcorp is involved in the Escobal project of Tahoe Resources as one of its main shareholders. Goldcorp holds 40% of Tahoe Resources.
Very serious allegations of human rights abuse and environmental destruction have been leveled against these mining projects. Ecosystems, and in particular waterways and groundwater tables, have suffered long-term contamination due to the use of explosives and toxic solvents such as arsenic, mercury and lead. These extractive operations have caused serious public health issues in nearby communities, as is the case in the area surrounding the Marlin project, in operation since 2005. Disturbing heavy metal blood levels and a high frequency of miscarriages and respiratory and skin diseases have all been observed by several human rights organizations. Goldcorp and Tahoe Resources’ mining projects in Guatemala have been imposed on the local indigenous populations without them being able to exercise their collective right to free, prior and informed consent, even though this right is enshrined in several instruments of international law, notably Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization ratified by Guatemala. The Guatemalan state has nonetheless granted exploration and operation licenses to the two Canadian companies without consulting and obtaining the consent of the peoples to be affected by these two extractive projects, in violation of international law.
There is considerable public opposition to these mining projects in Guatemala. In more than 74 informal popular consultations held since 2005, more than a million Guatemalans have clearly shown by a very large majority that they are opposed to these extractive projects, and especially those of Goldcorp and Tahoe Resources. Guatemalan individuals and organizations that oppose the mining industry often face threats and are targeted for attack. This life-threatening repression has already led to the deaths of several people, including human rights defenders. This alarming trend peaked in March 2013 with the kidnapping of four Xinca community leaders and the assassination of one of the kidnapped leaders, all of whom were opposed to the Escobal project.
Apparently, the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan aims to base its investment decisions on certain ethical principles, chiefly because it claims to take into consideration the risks and extra-financial activities of the corporations of which it becomes a shareholder. It identifies responsible investment as a “method of managing risks and opportunities” and assesses that “investments will impact Teachers’ reputation”. Finally, the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan has adopted the United Nations’ Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), which recognizes the importance of institutions taking into account the risks and environmental and human costs of industries when making investment decisions.
Our financial ties with Goldcorp and Tahoe Resources make us key actors in the effort to bring the human rights violations and environmental destruction in Guatemala to a halt. Now more than ever, it is time to act, and especially regarding the very controversial Chocoyos extractive project, for which Goldcorp has obtained a license to operate but extraction has not yet begun.
We demand that the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan withdraw all Canadian taxpayer money from the company Goldcorp Inc. because through these investments we are helping to finance very controversial extractive projects in Guatemala known to cause serious human rights abuse and environmental damage.