IFC-funded mines: still courting controversy

13 February 2013

Following a year of violence associated with mining projects funded by the World Bank’s private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC, see Update 82), the IFC’s mining investments in Guatemala, Mongolia, Colombia and Peru are still provoking controversy.

A September 2012 report by Robert Goodland, a former lead environmental advisor at the Bank and currently senior fellow with the NGO World Resources Institute, proposed six measures that Canadian company Goldcorp could take to adopt best practices at its controversial Marlin mine in Guatemala, which the IFC funded in 2004 (see Update 79, 72, 45). Goodland’s paper, the output of a July 2012 Peoples Tribunal in San Miguel Ixtahuacan, the city where the Marlin mine is located, argues the mine should: suspend operations; engage and compensate the local community for past damage; develop in-house social and environmental expertise; commission a reliable environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA); set up a realistic financial assurance scheme to handle mine closure; and institute third party monitoring.

In an end September letter to campaigners, Goldcorp indicated that it has refused to comment to Robert Goodland on the report, and claimed it “has been diligent in its implementation of the recommendations” from a human rights assessment it commissioned in 2010, including “the implementation of a corporate human rights policy which was developed to be consistent with international law, the [International Council on Mining & Metals] Sustainable Development Framework, the UN Global Compact principles, the Voluntary Principles on Human Rights and Security, and best industry practices.” It made no mention of Goodland’s detailed allegations of seepage of cyanide from mine tailings and only promised to disclose mine closure plans when they had been finalised.

the ESIA "is a non-starter and deeply flawed"

In late December, Mongolian NGO Oyu Tolgoi Watch, along with a coalition of international NGOs, published a review of the ESIA of the Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold mine which the IFC is considering funding despite complaints from local residents (see Update 83, 82). The review, titled ‘A useless sham’, argues that the ESIA “is a non-starter and deeply flawed”, saying it “does not comply with fundamental provisions of the IFC’s performance standards, as it is incomplete and retroactive; lacks a robust risk assessment; ignores the health, safety, and livelihood security of the affected communities; fails to establish the protection of the South Gobi’s scant water resources and biodiversity; and omits critical assessments of cumulative impacts or impacts from associated facilities such as infrastructure, the international airport, or the planned coal-powered plant” (see Update 84). The report highlights 11 separate violations of the IFC performance standards.

In late November 2012 the complainants in the Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman (the IFC’s accountability mechanism) case against Eco Oro Minerals (formerly Greystar) in Colombia (see Update 82) declined the CAO’s offer of a dispute resolution process, moving the case directly to the CAO’s compliance assessment. Also in November a new case was filed with the CAO, over the existing IFC-funded Yanacocha mine in Peru (see Update 82, 79), alleging that the mine owners failed to compensate a local family for lands owned by their grandfather. The CAO deemed the case eligible and is investigating the claim.