01 February 2010

Letter to Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) about its Goldcorp investment


In March 2009 the BBC published a story "Canadian mine accused of causing skin infections" in which PSAC was mentioned indirectly:

"Bill Brassington heads a Canadian union pension fund that invests in Goldcorp and has seen the pictures taken by a North American non-governmental organisation called Rights Action.He points out that Rights Action has no medical evidence to support its claims. Still, as an ethical investor he is worried."

On 31 December 2009, the UK daily The Guardian published yet another story about the Goldcorp mine in Honduras "Gold giant faces Honduras inquiry into alleged heavy metal pollution" in whch we read the following:

"The community's complaints have been backed by two studies, commissioned by the UK-based advocacy group Cafod. The studies detected high acidity which could be linked to cyanide "heap-leaching" methods to extract gold from low-grade deposits. They describe how the process soaks piles of crushed gold ore in a cyanide solution which filters down, leaching out the precious metal from the rock but also releasing other toxic heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury and lead. Without careful management it can contaminate streams and groundwater.
The first study, by Paul Younger, a Newcastle university hydro-geochemical engineering professor and expert on mine water management, detected acidic mine drainage, whereby sulphides in the rock are exposed to oxygen and water and produce sulphuric acid. Younger said this can have devastating effects on animals and plants.
A follow-up study by Adam Jarvis and Jaime Amezaga, also of Newcastle University, found evidence of "severe" contamination in the form of highly acidic and metal-rich water from the mine site flowing into a stream used by villagers for agriculture and domestic purposes. The data was in a previously undisclosed 2008 report by Defomin, Honduras's mining regulatory authority.
"This new information provides concrete evidence that the San Martin mine has caused pollution in Honduras," said Sonya Maldar of Cafod. "Goldcorp must clean up its act so that the people of Siria Valley are not left with a toxic legacy."

In light of the fact that Goldcorp has caused massive damage to the population and the natural resources, I would like to know whether PSAC will be withdrawing its investment in Goldcorp immediately? If not, why not, considering PSAC states in its own blurb:

1. "
The PSAC...has been at the front of a variety of significant and successful campaigns for workplace and human rights, including the struggle for equal pay, enhanced workplace health and safety and the rights of same sex spouses."

2. "
The PSAC is working to achieve a compassionate and inclusive society free of sexism, racism, homophobia and all other forms of discrimination."

3. "
PSAC is committed...to social justice...around the world."

Not only that but
PSAC POLICY 22  on the Environment states:

As a socially responsible union, the Alliance recognizes that protection of the environment from acid rain, toxins and ecologically unsound consumer products is of paramount importance if the world is to survive into the 21st century. Over the long term, economic growth and employment creation will be impossible unless the environmental destruction of the past is reversed.
As a result, and in cooperation with the Canadian Labour Congress and environmental groups, the Alliance will:
(d) review its own practices and procurement policies to ensure that it is not contributing to the deterioration of the environment;"

In view of the reports mentioned above in the Guardian article, it can safely be said that Goldcorp and consequently, its investors such as PSAC, are intimately involved in the environmental destruction it professes to abhor.

When can we expect the announcement that PSAC has definitively withdrawn its investments from Goldcorp?

Yours Sincerely,
David Sketchley

NB: Interesting to note that Bill Brassington, "chair of its (PSAC's) socially responsible investment sub-committee...recently became a signatory to the UN Principles of Responsible Investment" on behalf of the PSAC Staff Pension Plan. The PRI "process was coordinated by the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) and the UN Global Compact."

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