This morning I have had a response from Goldcorp to my questions about the San Martin mine in Honduras. Their response has been very thorough. To be perfectly honest with you, their response merely leads me to question (again) the quality of the journalism that we endure here in the UK. I have seen the letter of response from Goldcorp which in my view meets the questions and criticism levelled at the company by the Dispatches programme. I have asked Goldcorp if it would be OK to publish this letter here on my blog and am awaiting a response. I will quote two key bits here now though:
“Thank you for your letter regarding the program examining the gold industry that you are producing for British television Channel 4. Goldcorp Inc. is based in Vancouver, British Columbia and our operations are located in the Americas. As a result, we cannot accommodate your request for an interview in London on such short notice. Goldcorp has made arrangements with other journalists to visit our operations in Guatemala, Mexico, and Canada with respect to stories on the mining industry and the company. We are disappointed that you are not planning to visit one or more of the sites on which you intend to report to see first-hand the situation and to speak with additional members of the local communities. In lieu of an on-camera interview, we are prepared to offer a spokesperson for an interview by phone. As you requested, we are providing our responses to the points raised in your letter.”
So, it would seem that the journalists did not even bother to visit the site, which I would think is a fairly basic and important element to collecting evidence. It would seem that this information has not been fairly reported – which is what we are all after isn’t it? the truth? Certainly there is room for more dialogue and further questioning (particularly regarding CAFOD information) but the main problem with the media is that there is little real chance to respond. I imagine that an undercover, undercover journalist reporting about undercover journalism would be revealing. After all one of the owners of the company producing the programme is a well-known Swiss investment bank, not exactly having a reputation above reproach when it comes to gold.
Yes there are questions about health issues (rightly) in the local community, but in fairness (and I recognise that the health problems are not trite) the background needs to be considered properly. The question whether the mining caused the health problems or did they pre-exist due to the environment (which has been identified as having high metal levels naturally – hence the mine being there) is an important one and no trivial matter. This requires impartial investigation – both “sides” need to acknowledge this. As for the mine and the local area, well actions speak louder than words – but here is a video (yes it is glossy and smacks of PR, but wouldn’t you do the same, given the opportunity?). To be impartial means to be open-minded and attempt to see an issue from different perspectives, it does not mean seeking evidence to support your ideas and beliefs. No I have not been paid to promote Goldcorp, no I do not benefit from them, I am in search of the truth and a more just world. I do want to ensure my clients are not invested in companies that behave disgracefully. So free your own mind.
“The San Martin Mine in Honduras operated until October 2007 at which time mining ceased and all efforts were directed toward mine closure and reclamation. While closure activities continue, the San Martin Mine site is now being operated by the San Martin Foundation as the San Martin Ecology Centre. The Centre is located on 1500 hectares of land donated by Goldcorp to the Foundation. The Centre includes the former mine camp which is now a 31-room hotel with a restaurant, swimming pool, sports courts, playing fields and other amenities. The hotel is surrounded by forest, interpretive trails, bird-watching gazebos and wildlife habitat for deer, puma, roadrunners, lizards, iguanas, among other species. In addition, the Foundation operates agribusinesses, including chicken and hog farming, cultivation of lemons, oranges and mangos, tilapia fish farming, and growing indigenous plants as a source of biofuel. These eco-enterprises employ about 20 people from local communities. These sustainable businesses were featured in a video entitled “2009 in Review/ What’s Next” which was presented at Goldcorp’s 2009 annual general meeting of shareholders and is available at Goldcorp’s YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/GoldcorpInc.”
I also asked a friend of mine that is a jeweller for his thoughts on the programme. He said “.. there is no way that any of us can trace the provenance of the gold we use as its constantly mixed and realloyed with gold from other sources, whereas a diamond is a discrete object that can be traced from mine to end-user.”