MAC: Mines and Communities

ILO Recommends Guatemalan State Suspend Mining Operations

Published by MAC on 2010-04-08
Source: Guatemala Solidarity Network (2010-03-21)

Through the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations

Guatemalan State Recommended to Suspend Mining Operations

Guatemala Solidarity Network Statement

21 March 2010

The International Labour Organization (ILO), through the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, has requested that the Government of Guatemala suspend mining operations in the territories of Indigenous Maya Peoples, including the Maya Kaqchikel communities in San Juan Sacatepequez and the Maya Sipakapense and Maya Mam communities in San Miguel Ixtahuacan, given that the State authorized mining exploitation licenses without carrying out a Consultation of Good Faith in order to obtain free, prior and informed consent as required according to Convention 169 of the ILO, of which Guatemala is signatory.

In order to pressure the Government to implement the recommendations, on March 2, Mayan communities and organizations presented a Constitutional Petition to the President of the Republic of Guatemala to implement the recommendations within a maximum term of 30 days. The suspension would directly affect the mining activities of Canadian mining giant Goldcorp Inc. which is currently working in San Miguel Ixtahuacan.

Attached you will find a letter to the President of the Republic of Guatemala written by the affected communities and organizations that support them. We are asking for your support and solidarity. Two ways you can act TODAY:

INDIVIDUALS: Please read and sign the letter and send it to the President of the Republic and show your solidarity with the desire of Mayan communities to suspend the mining operations (email address of the President Included)

ORGANIZATIONS: Please send organization/group/union/church name and contact information to: bridget@nisgua.org and collectifguatemala3@gmail.com NO LATER THAN APRIL 2

If you have any questions about the attached letter, please do not hesitate to contact me. Also, if you could let me know if you go ahead and send the attached letter, it would be appreciated!

Jackie McVicar
Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Solidarity Network


Mr. Álvaro Colom
President of the Republic of Guatemala1
Secretary of Social Communication of the Presidency
Palacio Nacional De La Cultura, 6ª avenida y 6ª calle zona 1. Guatemala.
Oficina: (502) 2251-4144, 2339-2501 al 04.
cartapresidente@scspr.gob.gt

Dr. Rafael Espada
Vice-President of the Republic of Guatemala
6ta. Avenida 4-19, zona 1, Casa Presidencial, Puerta Norte, Guatemala, Centroamérica 01001
PBX: (502) 2321-21213

April 2010

Mr. President and Mr. Vice-President: 

Re: Implementation of ILO Committee of Experts’ Recommendations

The signatories of this letter work for the protection of human rights, and write to you regarding the situation of Indigenous Peoples in Guatemala. In particular, we write to request the Government’s compliance with the recommendations of the Committee of Experts of the International Labor Organization (ILO) regarding the protection of indigenous peoples affected by the authorization of mining activities, as well as compliance with the Constitutional Petition presented March 2, 2010 to the Secretary General of the Republic4, which executes the recommendations of the Committee of Experts. 

As you know, the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations of the International Labor Organization (ILO) of the United Nations, recently published its 2009 report.  The ILO Committee of Experts is an executive body that carries out independent technical reviews of the national practice of States’ compliance with international obligations that are part of ratified ILO conventions. In this undertaking, it evaluates the information sent by States, employees, and workers, creating recommendations to guarantee effective compliance with the conventions. 

The Committee of Experts evaluated the case of San Juan Sacatepequez and the cement company working there. It also looked at the situation of land and salaries, coordinated actions and systematic participation of indigenous peoples, and the legislation on consultation and participation. In addition, it examined the situation of indigenous communities and lack of consultation regarding the mining license given to Montana Exploradora, S.A., subsidiary of Canadian mining company Goldcorp, Inc.   

In the case of San Juan Sacatepequez, the Committee calls to the attention of the Government that indigenous peoples have the right to be consulted every time that actions that directly affect them are planned. This right is clearly established in the Convention regardless of whether it is reflected in any national legislation. Additionally, the Committee notes that it is the Government that has the obligation to insure that indigenous peoples are consulted according to the Convention and not according to the practices of private enterprises.

Hence, the Committee urges the government to: 

1. Align the existing legislation, such as the Mining Law, with Articles 6, 7 and 15 of the Convention

2. Adopt without delay all of the necessary means to engage in a constructive dialogue in good faith among all interested parties under the requirements provided in Article 6 of the Convention, which allows for seeking appropriate solutions to cases in a climate of mutual trust and respect, and taking into account the obligation of the State to guarantee the social, cultural and economic integrity of indigenous peoples according to the spirit of the Convention, and

3. The immediate suspension of the alleged activities while this dialogue is taking place; and an evaluation, with the participation of the interested populations, of the social, spiritual, cultural and environmental impacts of the planned activities, and of the extent to which the interests of indigenous peoples would be harmed, according to the provisions for Articles 7 and 15 of the Convention.

The Committee of Experts also urges the Government to take all necessary measures to ensure the establishment of appropriate mechanisms for consultation and participation as mentioned in the Convention, taking into consideration the Committee’s general observation in 2008 and providing detailed information in this regard. The Committee reminds the Government that it can request the technical assistance of the ILO and requests the Government to provide detailed information on the measures it intends to use to adopt and implement legislation on consultation. Please also provide information on the practical application of Article 26 of the Law of Urban and Rural Development Councils.

Regarding the mining licenses granted to Montana Exploradora – Goldcorp Inc. in San Marcos, the Committee has called to the attention of the government that the mining activities should be subject to previous consultation which is contemplated in Article 15, paragraph 2 of the Convention, together with the studies provided in Article 7, paragraph 3 of the Convention. As a result, the Committee, noting that the Government's report repeats the information previously presented, expressed its concern related to the lack of progress in this case subject to review and urges the Government to suspend the exploitation referred to until the studies outlined in Article 7, paragraph 3 of the Convention are completed, as well as the prior consultation outlined in article 15, paragraph 2 of the Convention. We ask that detailed information be given in these regards. In addition, the Committee requests the Government to take the necessary means to clarify the incidents which led to the death of a citizen during a protest against the installation of a cylinder destined for the mine, and that it give detailed information thereon.

We await your positive response towards the effective protection of the human rights of Mayan communities in Guatemala and compliance with applicable international and national laws. 

Respectfully yours, 

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