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Mining and Land Rights

May 6, 2010: Leaders Reject Mining. Yesterday Delegates from five municipalities of Quiché urged the executive and legislative branches to annul the mining, petroleum and hydroelectric permits, given that these natural resources are exploited without consent of the communities and without receiving any benefit in exchange.

The Delegates met with Congressmen Héctor Nuila and Walter Feliz as well as the Vice Ministers of Energy and Mines and Environment, Alfredo Pokus and Luis Zurita. Nuila and Zurita expressed that the demands where just inasmuch as the communities remain in poverty while the transnationals benefit from the extraction of natural resources. Pokus on the other hand, stated that the intention is for communities to benefit from these new hydroelectric projects with inexpensive energy.

The leaders also proposed a new mining law drafted with the considerations of the communities and urged not to criminalize those who demand the respect of environmental rights as well as the right to life. [Prensa Libre]


April 6, 2010: 80 organizations request suspension of mining activities in the country. This Tuesday, over 80 organizations from 17 countries urged President Colom to suspend mining activities in the country, claiming that Guatemalans, particularly indigenous communities, were not consulted and informed about future damages that would result from the mines.

Some of most controversial projects have been the gold mines operated by the Canadian company Gold Corp. A month ago, Guatemalan and Salvadorian social organizations forewarned possible conflict due to the start of gold and silver mining on the Salvadorian border by the Entre Mares mining company, subsidiary of Gold Corp. Their primary concern is that the mining project will affect Lake Güija that feeds the Lempa River, the most important water source for El Salvador.

Mario Nij, an indigenous man that opposes another controversial project - the construction of a cement plant in San Juan Sacatepéquez - highlighted that the ILO has recommended that the State of Guatemala suspend mining activities. Dozens of communities has also rejected mining operations through public referendums, which are legally recognized under international law. Nij stated that 42 referendums have occurred in which 600,000 people have opposed the mines. The government has granted 416 licenses for mining of metals and construction materials.


February 16, 2010: Anti-mine Activists Encouraged by Canadian Supreme Court Ruling. In a recent case, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled against the federal government for aiding mining companies in avoiding environmental assessments.  The court ruled that the federal government could not artificially divide mining projects to avoid environmental inspections and ordered the companies to conduct thorough assessments of their environmental impacts.  Companies will also be ordered to consider public input in their assessments.  Activists in Guatemala see the ruling as a positive precedent for improving the mining industry not only in Guatemala, but around the world.  They also hope that the decision will lead to improved studies and increased input from local residents affected by the mining projects. [IPSNews]


November 11, 2009: Citizens reject multinational megaprojects.
Citizens from San Sebastián Coatán, Huehuetenango arrived in the capital yesterday to announce their communities’ rejection to mining that came out of a community referendum on October 23. Of 13,569 who voted, only three voted in favor of mining. The community is the 27 th of 32 to hold referendums. Commented the organizer of the vote, “We have rejected this development model. Nevertheless, it is not the only threat to our territories, as there is also the issue of water privatization and the hydroelectric projects.” [Prensa Libre]

East of Huehuetenango, in the department of Alta Verapaz, communities of Maya Quekchíes publicly rejected the transnational megaprojects in their region due to the environmental damage they cause. Community representative Francisco Tec Caal estimates that at least five thousand families would be affected by the proposed hydroelectric project. [La Hora]


August 4, 2009: Possible reparations for the communities affected by the Chixoy Dam. President Colom will propose to institutionalize a program for reparations for the 33 communities affected by the construction of the hydroelectric Chixoy Dam of Alta Verapaz. Juan de Dios García, representative of those affected, said that a compensation plan for community who were victims of violations of their fundamental rights during the installation process of the dam is expected later this year. In his speech, Garcia recalled that at least 444 people were massacred in the village of Río Negro and thousands more have suffered violations of their fundamental rights for nearly 30 years, since the electric generator was built in the middle of the internal armed conflict. [La Hora]


August 5, 2009: Civil Society organizations in Guatemala and around the world joined together August 3-5, 2009 for the International Mining Conference in Antigua. Participants denouced the continued exploitation of natural resources without regard for the environment, health of community members in surrounding areas, or its effect on food security. They also criticized government officials for their lack of regulation of multinational mining companies and for criminalizing citizens who protest the mines. [Lea la declaratoria completa.]


August 2, 2009: Chuarrancho population votes against dam. 82.7% of the population of Chuarrancho voted in a referendum on Saturday against the construction of a dam on the Motagua River due to its possible negative impact on their communities. The vote, which was under observation from Colectivo Madre Selva, began at 8:00 am and lasted until 2:00 pm. The end result found that 571 residents voted "yes", while 2,748 voted "no." 3,319 people responded to the call from Community Development Councils (COCODE), who called for community consultation. Felipe Herrera, president of COCODE in San Buenaventura, summed up the result: "The hydroelectric harms the environment, and would leave us without water and without a river."[Prensa Libre]


July 31, 2009: Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources issues new resolutions in Montana mining case. The Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (El Ministerio de Ambiente y Recursos Naturales, MARN) issued 3 new resolutions about the import of sodium cyanide by the mining company Montana Exploradora. The first revokes the ban on importing sodium cyanide since it's permitted by law. The second indicates that the company can import cyanide after they pay what they owe the state. The third demands that the company gets a license for each time they import cyanide. Montana Exploradora says is has never received notice of any debt to the state. The state says it is owed Q12.3 millon. Also, they must pay Q5 for every kg of sodium cyanide they bring in. [elPeriodico]


July 10, 2009: Residents of San Juan Sacatepéquez protest cement company. Residents of 12 communities in San Juan Sacatepéquez took to the streets yesterday to pressure the government to stop the operations of the cement plant that was installed in the community.  The march started in the municipality at 8:00am and ended at Centro Universitario Metropolitano (Central Metropolitan University) in zone 11 of Guatemala City at 6:00pm, traveling a distance of 35km.  The main complaint of the protestors, who are largely indigenous, is that the factory will contaminate the surrounding environment in their communities.  The factory is under construction and is set to be operating in 2012 with an annual production of 2.2 million tons of cement. [Prensa Libre]
See also: Campesinos anuncian protestas frente al Congreso y la Presidencia (elPeriodico); Marcha contra cementera de San Juan Sacatepéquez (La Hora)


July 1, 2009: Environmentalists unite to stop Mining Law. Environmental organizations came together yesterday to begin a battle against the adoption of the initiative to reform the Mining Law, because its criterion only favors companies that extract metals and promotes environmental degradation.  Representatives of the organizations MadreSelva, Centro de Acción Legal y Ambiental (Calas), Fundación para el Ecodesarrollo y la Conservación (Fundaeco), Grupo Ceiba and la Comisión Pastoral de Paz y Ecología (Copae) of the Diocese of San Marcos announced an alliance to prevent the adoption of the initiative promoted by Congressman Alejandro Sinibaldi.  A spokesman from Grupo Ceiba stated that Sinibaldi's initiative does not even mention environmental protection, water resources and community consultations.  Congresswoman Rosa María de Frade, member of the Energy Committee, said that Sinibaldi's initiative only hurts the interests of the country as it only defends the interests of mining companies. Read full article - English. [Prensa Libre]


June 23, 2009: Representatives avoid amendments or changes to Mining Law. Members of the Energy and Mining Commission ignored yesterday a series of amendments that were proposed changes to the Mining Law.  In a meeting held by the UNE that was attended by 7 out of 21 congressmen, Congresswoman Rosa María de Frade presented a list of amendments that seek to improve royalties for communities in which mining takes place.  Many congressmen allied with mining companies disagreed with de Frade's list of amendments.  De Frade argued that consultations with communities need to resume and that a Ministry of the Environment should be created to monitor the environmental protection standards of mining companies.  She also proposed the creation of a sustainable water distribution plan that does not restrict the supply of water to mining communities.
[Prensa Libre] [La Hora]


June 12, 2009: Mining Law Promoted. Lawmakers Rosa María de Frade and Aníbal García asked for social groups to pressure Congress to approve a new mining law.  Jorge Mario Sandoval, Montana Exploradora legal adviser, found that the current legislation is adequate and noted that in three years of operating the Marlin mine, the company has paid Q300 million in taxes and Q50 million in royalties.  De Frade believes that the tax rate should be 50%, up 49% from the current rate of 1%. [Prensa Libre] More on Goldcorp's Marlin Mine.




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