Feb. 25, 2016, Washington, D.C. and Guatemala City — On February 22, 2016, the Guatemalan Supreme Court (Corte Suprema de Justicia) upheld the ruling to suspend all the mining operations of Reno, Nevada based company Kappes, Cassiday & Associates at the El Tambor mine. This tremendous victory is the result of a legal motion filed on behalf of the community of La Puya by the Guatemalan human rights organization, the Center for Environmental and Social Legal Action (CALAS), back in August 2014. The Supreme Court’s ruling was based on the grounds that KCA, and its subsidiary EXMINGUA, had initiated operations without prior consultation with affected communities, as is required under Guatemalan and international law, in particular ILO Convention 169.
GHRC applauds the Supreme Court’s decision, which ruled in favor of the right of residents to be consulted about projects that affect them, in a process known as Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC).
“This is a huge victory,” said GHRC’s Guatemala Office Director Dania Rodriguez. “GHRC has accompanied the communities struggle for almost four years, and has documented intimidation and repression against those protesting the mine. This verdict validates the concerns long expressed by local residents and represents an important step in guarantying their rights.”
Community members from La Puya chanted “Long live La Puya!” and “Yes to Life, No to Mining!” upon hearing the positive ruling from the Supreme Court. “What we have here today with this resolution is the product of many years of struggle,” stated community member Doña Licha.
Residents affected by the mining project have been peacefully protesting at the entrance of the El Tambor mine since 2012, and have been the victims of intimidation and abuse, including an assassination attempt against Yolanda Oqueli in June 2012. Others have faced trumped-up criminal charges filed by individuals associated with the company. In May 2014, after two years of peaceful struggle, the communities in resistance of La Puya were violently evicted from the entrance to the mine. However, residents continue to oppose the project.
In light of the recent ruling, GHRC calls on Kappes, Cassiday & Associates to comply immediately and suspend all mining operations. GHRC calls on Guatemalan officials to quickly and effectively enforce the ruling, and urges the U.S. Embassy and State Department to ensure that U.S. companies operating abroad comply fully with the law and uphold the highest human rights and labor rights standards.
GHRC has monitored the El Tambor mining project and the peaceful resistance of La Puya since 2012, responding to threats, attacks and intimidation against activists, as well as communities’ concerns about environmental contamination, lack of consultation and legal violations.