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Rights commission orders closure of Guatemala gold mine

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights [official website] on Monday ordered Goldcorp, one of the world's largest gold producers, to shut down the company's Marlin mine [corporate websites] in Guatemala, pending an investigation into human rights abuses and environmental violations [press release]. The commission, part of the DC-based Organization of American States (OAS) [official website], is conducting an investigation into whether the Guatemalan government allowed the Canada-based gold producer to open the mine without the consent of the local Mayan communities. The commission also held that precautionary measures were necessary because the "environmental and hydrological impact area would encompass the territories of at least 18 communities of the Maya people." In a report sent to the commission last week, the government claimed that no human rights violations [elPeriodico report, in Spanish] had occurred against the indigenous residents, and no contamination has resulted from the mine's operation. The commission's order is supposed to be binding on member states of the OAS, but local reports hold that Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom [official website, in Spanish] opposes closing the Marlin mine [elPeriodico report, in Spanish]. Goldcorp stated that it has not yet received an official statement [Globe and Mail report] from the government on how it will respond to the ruling.

US mining companies have also been facing accusations of human rights abuses and environmental hazard creation. In August, an indigenous tribe in Indonesia filed a $30 million lawsuit [JURIST report] against a subsidiary of US mining company Freeport-McRoRan Copper & Gold [corporate website] for numerous environmental and human rights violations. The Amungme people are suing PT Freeport [corporate website, in Indonesian] for damages to their ancestral lands [Jakarta Globe report] in the Papua province, claiming that they are the rightful owners of the 2.6 million hectares on which the mine is located because the 1967 contract between the Indonesian government and Freeport was executed without their approval. The plaintiffs also allege that they were promised an annual fee of $1 million that was never received. The South Jakarta District Court appointed a judge to seek a mediated settlement between the parties.

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