By Lisa Rankin, BTS Co-Coordinator
A lot has been happening over the past few weeks in Guatemala regarding community resistance to Canadian mining companies. Here I have complied some brief updates and links for further updates to keep folks informed. Please also take action following the link!
As events are constantly unfolding, please check out our blog and Facebook page to keep up to date.
Operations at Goldcorp’s Marlin Mine in San Miguel Ixtahuacan, San Marcos shut down in May 2017. Communities, however, are still uncertain about the closure plans and how the company is planning on dealing with issues of continued environmental impacts of the mine, most notably springs drying up, heavy metal contamination and cracked homes due to mining explosions.
As its only means to pressure the company, on June 27, the San Miguel Defense Front (FREDEMI) sent up a permanent encampment blocking the entrances of the mine. On July 4, FREDEMI and Plurijur, the legal organization representing community members in a case at the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, put out a press release, which you can read here (in English). The community has met with state and mine officials and are currently in the process of a Dialogue Table to discuss an end to the blockade and a clear closure plan for the mine. However, communities have vowed to continue their protest until the issue is resolved. In 2014, an admissibility report was granted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to Indigenous petitioners in San Miguel Ixtahuacan and Sipakapa whose rights were not respected when the Canadian mining company was granted approval to extract gold from the highlands communities.
Formally Hudbay-owned Fenix Nickle Mine
As many of you know, on April 6, Mynor Padilla, the former head of security for Hudbay Minerals’ Fenix Nickle Mine was found not guilty on charges for the assassination of community leader Adolfo Ich Chaman and injury to German Chub in an attack on September 27, 2017. Adding to the not-guilty decision, Guatemalan judge Ana Leticia Pena suggested bringing criminal charges against Angelica Choc, the widow of Ich Chaman and her lawyer and family members for false witnesses, adding to the absurdity of the criminal trial which dragged on for 2 years.
Since that time, three appeals have been put forth by the Public Prosecutor, the Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) and the victims’ lawyers. Stay tuned for updates on the decision regarding this appeal.
In El Estor, protests by local fish harvesters against contamination of the Fenix Nickle Mine continue. Repression against peaceful protestors cumulated on May 27 with the murder of Carlos Maaz Coc at the hands of riot police. However, the community has once again taken up a peaceful protest on July 7, with a march in El Estor, once again to demand an end to contamination and justice for Maaz Coc. For more information, you can read Sandra Cuffe’s article here.
Tahoe Resources/Escobal Mine
Since June 7, community members from Santa Rosa and Jalapa have created a check-point in the community of Casillas to control mining-related vehicles from entering the mine. The peaceful protest faced pression on June 22 when riot police tear-gassed community members. However, that same day the community came out in droves and the police left. Thousands of people called and emailed Tahoe Resources and national and international authorities in Guatemala demanding an end to the violence. On July 22, police accompanying fuel trucks to the mine site used pepper spray to quell protesters at 2am.
A recent decision by the Supreme Court of Guatemala ruled that the exploitation license for the Escobal mine and exploration license for the neighbouring Juan Bosco license be temporarily suspended as the mine did not consult with the Indigenous Xinka people before granting the license, in accordance with ILO 169. This lead to the mine being shut down (although there are clearly contradictions to this order, including the July 22 attack). Tahoe quickly sent out a press release, which you can read here, attempting to brush off the decision. Since the Supreme Court decision, Tahoe’s stocks have dropped by 30%. Both the Guatemalan State and the Chamber of Agriculture, Commerce, Industry and Finance (CACIF) have come out against the decision. Community members are celebrating this victory with hopes of a permanent closure. You can read more here.