Environmentalists meet to curb mining law
By Alberto Ramírez - 01/07/2009
Environmental organizations met yesterday to begin a fight against the adoption of the initiative to reform the Ley de Minería (Mining Law), because its criterion only favor companies that extract metals and promote environmental deterioration.
Representatives from the organizations MadreSelva, Centro de Acción Legal y Ambiental (Center of Legal and Environmental Action, CALAS), Fundación para el Ecodesarrollo y la Conservación (Foundation for Ecodevelopment and Conservation, FUNDAECO), Grupo Ceiba and la Comisión Pastoral de Paz y Ecología (The Pastoral Commission of Peace and Ecology, COPAE) of the Diocese of San Marcos announced in a joint conference the alliance to prevent the adoption of the initiative promoted by Congressman Alejandro Sinibaldi.
They say that this project does not take into account aspects like community consultation or royalties.
José Cruz, of MadreSelva, said that the initiative was presented during the government of Óscar Berger and received a favorable opinion from the commission of Energy and Mining, chaired at that time by Sinibaldi.
Earlier this year, the head of that chamber, Christian Boussinot, invited all sectors to present proposals and opinions with the hopes of reaching a consensus.
The proposals arrived, but last week the commission decided not to continue the dialogue and to refer the initiative to the plenary.
Gabriel Valle, of FUNDAECO, called it a joke to have convened to present proposals and have them ignored. Rafael Maldonado, of CALAS, emphasized that they will ask the heads of the Congressional blocs to stop the process and President Álvaro Colom to make a ruling on it.
If they do not obtain an answer from either powers, they will turn to legal appeals and finally, to peaceful demonstrations, said Maldonado.
Natalia Atz, of Ceiba, emphasized that they will not talk about royalties, because the Sinibaldi initiative does not consider aspects like environmental protection, water resources, or community consultations.
Maldonado added that as the unlimited granting of the subsoil was declared illegal, the Sinibaldi initiative has a supposed limit, of 50 kilometers, which is considered a joke, because no mine in the world reaches that depth.
Congresswoman Rosa María de Frade, of the Commission for Energy, said that the initiative as it is now is detrimental to the interests of Guatemala since it defends the interests of the mining companies.
She stressed that they should now working on possible amendments and hope that the president of Congress meets with heads and deputy chiefs of blocs to analyze, article by article, before moving to a plenary vote.
The environmental groups reiterated that the points that must be included in the new mining law are community consultation, regulation of water usage and drainage discharge to find out how much liquid is used and how companies dispose of it.
They also demand stricter controls and environmental impact studies for each particular case, prior to any mining activity.
They demand mandatory environmental monitoring, as well as an audit that includes the Superintendency of Tax Administration to find out how much precious metal is extracted and how much the companies are paying the state.