guatemala: hundreds of thousands voice opposition to mining and dams
The people of both Sipakapa and San Miguel Ixtahuacán look on in horror at Goldcorp’s Marlin Mine in Guatemala. © Allan LissnerConsultation with communities is usually a requirement for project approval, yet is often deeply flawed. People often lack timely access to project information. Some affected people may be bribed or deceived into signing agreements. Those who speak out against dams and mines are subject to violence, repression or death. Rather than participating in flawed development processes, communities across Latin America are organising local referenda to record their votes. These referenda also involve detailed discussions so community members can understand the likely impacts of these projects on their lives.
In August 2005, indigenous affected communities in the western highlands of Guatemala decided to conduct community consultations concerning present and future mining in their communities. They claimed that the World Bank and Canadian/US mining company Glamis Gold (which later merged with Goldcorp) violated international law when they failed to consult them and gain their consent for the World Bank funded ‘Marlin’ mine project.
FoE Guatemala/CEIBA has systematically helped with the facilitation of community referendums, providing logistical, outreach and educational support. In 2008 FoE Guatemala also launched ‘La Ruta del Oro’ on the impact of mining in Guatemala, and distributed 2,000 copies among communities that were preparing their own consultation processes. Because of this involvement Friends of the Earth Guatemala’s coordinator has received serious threats.
By October 2010, the government had already issued 117 licenses without fulfilling the legal requirement of consulting residents.
By contrast, between 2005 and 2010, more than 600,000 people participated in 46 community consultations on mining, oil and dam projects in three Guatemalan provinces. During every single ‘consulta’, a large majority of the population voted against the implementation of megaprojects within their territory. As a result of similar work around Swiss cement company Holcim, 12 communities came out in opposition to mining developments.
In May 2010, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ordered the temporary suspension of the Marlin Mine but this suspension has yet to take place, and the violence and oppression associated with the project continues.