What does the new blockbuster hit Cowboys and Aliens (starring Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig) have in common with the Marlin Mine in Guatemala? Or rather, what do cowboys, aliens and Goldcorp all have in common? An unquenchable thirst for gold.
My most recent trip to the box office promised action, aliens, and Harrison Ford. I never expected that the battle between aliens and cowboys to control the Wild West would come down to a “who-gets-the-gold?” showdown of epic proportions. Turns out even aliens are willing to set up operations in remote areas, begin extraction in secret and disregard our planet for gold in this summer’s flick.
Sure, modern mining companies today don’t employ laser-toting green aliens, but their process is in some ways similar. Like the extraterrestrial gold-fiends in Cowboys and Aliens, Goldcorp’s Marlin Mine in Guatemala began extraction under false pretenses according to local residents. Effected community members in Guatemala never gave their consent to the project as required under international law. Today, Marlin continues to operate despite outspoken public protest, growing concern for the health impacts related to extraction, and an international order to suspend activities.
In the movie, aliens kidnap humans – physically separating (among others) sons, wives, and grandfathers from their families. Around the Marlin mine, the controversy over mining has divided families in more insidious ways: pitting family members and neighbors against each other and generating a climate of social division and conflict. Attacks on environmental and indigenous rights defenders in the department of San Marcos, where the mine operates, have been on the rise. In the first four months of 2011, the Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (UDEFEGUA) reported that the number of attacks and threats against human rights defenders in this northwestern province exceeded the number of attacks against human rights defenders in all other areas of Guatemala combined.
The price of gold, now selling at over $1,800 an ounce, has skyrocketed again after the shaky market reaction to the United States’ downgraded credit rating on August 5th, making the commodity even more coveted by mining companies. The PrensaLibre, a Guatemalan daily, reported Goldcorp’s profits at Marlin increased 1,671% over the last five years. With these kinds of numbers, there is no end in sight to our modern-day gold rush.
So how do we circle the wagons?
The communities affected by the Marlin mine may not have a silver bullet in the form of Harrison Ford to save their lands and livelihoods from mining interests, but there are other actions.
Like the cowboys our first step is to become better informed. Visit my previous CIEL Worldview post on Marlin and see the blog from CAMIGUA – the International Coalition Against Unjust Mining in Guatemala.
Next, channel your inner Harrison Ford by adding your name to an online petition designed asking Guatemalan President Alvaro Colóm to suspend operations at the Marlin Mine!
A los extraterrestres y Goldcorp: La vida vale más que el oro!
(To aliens and Goldcorp: Life is worth more than gold!)
Originally posted on September 16, 2011.