In September of this year NISGUA reported on the series of violent attacks against community members in San Rafael Las Flores, Santa Rosa and Mataquescuintla, Jalapa who were peacefully resisting the advancement of the Escobal silver mine project. The Escobal mine is operated by Minería San Rafael S.A. a Guatemalan subsidiary of Canada’s Tahoe Resources. Tahoe Resources acquired the Escobal project from Goldcorp in 2010. The founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of Tahoe Resources, Kevin McArthur, was CEO of Glamis Gold and Goldcorp until 2008. The attacks, carried out by the National Police, military and private security, were in response to the communities’ ongoing defense of two popular referendums carried out in July of 2011, during which an overwhelming majority of residents voted NO to chemical mineral mining on their territories and YES to life.
In a third popular referendum carried out on November 11th, 96% of residents of the municipality of Mataquescuintla, Jalapa, voted against mining exploration and exploitation on their territories. The community, with the support from the mayor, moved forward with the vote despite the November 8th decision by the Constitutional Court suspending the municipal authority to carry out the referendum.
Just eight days after the referendum a group of community members blocked vehicles transporting powerful explosives to the mine to denounce the lack of respect for the consultation process. As a result of the action, five vehicles, including one truck owned by the Minería San Rafael, caught fire and a number of explosives went missing. In actions on par with President Molina’s previous responses to matters of social conflict, the government responded in force to the alleged robbery of the explosives, mobilizing 35 units of the National Police and dozens of soldiers. Indigenous and feminist organizations denounced the excessive use of force, as well as the lack of respect for the popular referendums and the inability of the government to effectively address the social conflict caused by the mining operations.
The Escobal project, however, is just one of a number of Canadian-owned mines recently denounced by community, human rights and environmental organizations.
In late November five people from communities near El Estor, Izabal traveled to Canada to file three separate, but related lawsuits against HudBay Minerals Inc., which include the murder of Adolfo Ich Chamán, the shooting of German Chub, and the rape of 11 women from the community of Lote Ocho. Hudbay sold the Fenix Mining Project in 2011; however, mine security personnel committed the alleged crimes in 2007 and 2009, well before the project was sold. For more information on the lawsuits against Hudbay visit: http://www.chocversushudbay.com/ or see the previous NISGUA blog post on the case.
On December 5th legal representatives of the communities impacted by the Marlin Mine, presented a report to the Guatemalan Public Prosecutor’s Office, which documents 100 accusations of crimes against the environment. The report includes testimonies and photographic evidence documenting the symptoms of environmental contamination including discoloration of hair, skin rashes and animal deaths as a result of the contamination of water sources. Leaders and representatives from affected communities demand that the Public Prosecutor’s Office hold Montana Exploradora, S.A., GoldCorp Inc.’s Guatemalan subsidiary, responsible for the crimes, which include the seizure of water sources and property, industrial contamination of water sources, and the propagation of disease in plants and animals.
In a demonstration of cross-departmental solidarity, community members from San Marcos, Santa Rosa and Jalapa joined together to collectively denounce the damaging impacts of Canadian owned mines on their respective territories. The protest was organized around the visit to Guatemala of Canada’s Governor General, David Johnston on December 6th, during which he pledged support for the mining operations and promised continued bilateral cooperation and economic investment.