MAC: Mines and Communities

Mining, gold and outrage in Guatemala

Published by MAC on 2005-12-21

Mining, gold and outrage in Guatemala

21st December 2005

The World Bank may have convinced itself that Glamis Gold enjoys widespread support from local communities around its Marlin mine in Guatemala. But this is far from the truth.

Vancouver-registered firm pushes big project.

Rolando Lopez Crisostomo is a long way from his village in the Western Highlands of Guatemala. Sipping coffee in a cramped kitchen in East Vancouver, he explains the purpose of his journey - to let us know that a Canadian company is digging an unwanted open-pit mine on Mayan land.

In a conflict that has claimed two lives and pitted indigenous communities against the Canadian and Guatemalan governments and mining interests, Crisostomo's people seem destined to lose.

Despite what he claimed was almost unanimous local opposition, the Marlin gold mine, which is owned by Vancouver-registered Glamis Gold, will start full production this month.

Glamis Executive Vie President Chuck Jeannes said the mine has the backing of the Guatemalan government as well as indigenous communities in the area.

The World Bank-supported project is being promoted as a necessary step for economic development in the region. Mayan communities, many of which live in grinding poverty, have been offered jobs, schools and help with local business ventures, among other benefits.

"The responsible extraction of mineral resources is one of the few ways that local indigenous people can hope to break the cycle of poverty," according to the Bank.

Crisostomo said they don't believe the promises, and they don't want to face the environmental devastation.

"The indigenous communities have clearly stated that they reject mining companies in Guatemala, particularly open-pit mines," added Crisostomo.

Not enough consultation

He said indigenous Guatemalans, which account for over half the population, simply do not trust that the mining companies and the government will keep their promises of putting some of the huge wealth to be generated by the mine into communities.

The Mayans have already been betrayed, according to Crisostomo. Under the 1996 peace accords, which Canada helped broker, indigenous communities must be properly consulted and agree with any resource extraction.

That hasn't happened, he claimed.

"The government allowed the mine in without following the proper authorization procedure," said Crisostomo.

A 'misunderstanding'

An internal audit ordered by the International Finance Corporation, an investment arm of the World Bank that contributed $53 million to the project, "found a genuine difference in understanding amongst the parties about the purpose of consultation with and disclosures to local people."

The report said that, while project officials thought it was enough to inform communities of their plans, the communities felt it was ultimately their decision. "The government of Guatemala has not been able to provide effective guidance about this issue," the report noted.

Jeannes said Glamis went to great lengths to inform people in the region about the mine. But neither the company nor the Guatemalan government felt it necessary to obtain full consent from local communities. Such a system would undermine federal law, he said.

"If you take it to its logical conclusion, it's anarchy," added Jeannes.

In response to what they saw as an inadequate consultation process, local communities organized their own polls. In the district around the town of Sipacapa, 11 of 13 communities voted against the mine (one voted in favour, one abstained). A ballot referendum was also held in Sipacapa in June, with 98 percent of the voters rejecting the mine.

Glamis called the referendum "corrupt" and noted that the mine is located closer to San Miguel Ixtahuacan than neighbouring Sipacapa. The company issued a release claiming, "in a fair election, a majority of the residents of both Sipicapa and San Miguel Ixtahuacan would support its activities."

Jeannes admitted there is less support for a mine in Sipicapa, but said the company's own polling data shows "the majority of the people in the vicinity of the mine are very supportive of it, because they're seeing the benefits of it."

He refused to disclose the numbers or the method of measuring support.

Guatemala's leading newspaper, Prensa Libre, printed the results of a survey last November that found almost 96 percent of the respondents in the region were against the project.

All that glitters

Guatemala isn't the only country where gold mining is facing controversy.

In Peru, mining accounted for over $8 billion in foreign sales in 2004, but surrounding communities remain impoverished. Anti-mining protests have become common in recent years. In 2003, protesters forced the Canadian company, Manhattan Minerals, to abandon its $374 million gold and copper project. Other projects have since been shut down.

According to Reuters news service, Peru's Energy and Mines Minister Glodomiro Sanchez admitted, "The state has failed to channel its resources properly and people have a right to feel aggrieved."

Last month, another Canadian company, Placer Dome, was sued by a province in the Philippines for allegedly destroying an entire coastal ecosystem and dumping massive amounts of toxic waste.

Crisostomo said Guatemalans have learned from the experiences of other countries.

"We've exchanged information with people in Honduras where Glamis made promises and didn't fulfill them," Crisostomo said. "In other countries like Bolivia and Peru, companies made promises and didn't keep them."

Mining companies are also under attack in richer nations.

Activist groups such as Earthworks, which staged a protest march down New York's Fifth Avenue, have been attempting to mobilize consumer pressure against the troubled industry.

All this comes at a time of rising demand and record prices. The price of gold recently hit a 17-year high of almost $600 per ounce, partly fuelled by record world jewellery sales, according to an extensive

Third Mesoamerican Meeting of Indigenous Communities

San Miguel Ixtahuacán

2nd-4th December 2005

Declaration of San Miguel Ixtahuacán to the National and International Public

The representatives of the organizations and the leaders of the communities in the municipality of San Miguel Ixtahuacán meeting in this third Mesoamerican Conference declare that:

FIRST: The communities that occupy this municipality are aware that the Guatemalan State has violated our Economic, Social and Cultural Rights by not consulting us and allowing and supporting the operations of the Canadian Translational Glamis Gold Ltd., and their subsidiary, Montana Exploradora of Guatemala, which is currently exploiting gold and silver in open pit mines on our territory.

SECOND: The company, with the use of paramilitary units and the company’s own security, is provoking social instability and insecurity in our communities through threats and intimidations that have reached the point of provoking the death of our brother Alvaro Sánchez, by members of Montana Exploradora’s security forces, leaving behind a widow and two young orphans whom were coerced into not taking the support payments that the law provided them. This reflects the beginnings of the social impacts that the presence of this company is provoking in our municipality, and we cannot expect better in the future.

THIRD: A strategy of trickery is being employed by Montana Exploradora, through its foundation Sierra Madre, which, by offering projects to the communities in an attempt to offset the environmental and social impacts of the mine, plays with the dignity of the municipality by interfering in community necessities that are not being provided for by the State (reproductive health, sports fields, the pavement of the main entrance road to San Miguel, a technology center) and manipulates some leaders into accepting Montana’s proposals, which has provoked great division, verbal attacks and insults between the inhabitants of some communities in the municipality.

Therefore we demand:

1. That the Guatemalan State respect our Rights as Ancient Indigenous Communities with our own culture and respect our own world view.

2. That the National and International Human Rights Organizations verify and ensure compliance with all treaties, accords and other laws on Human Rights, especially those dealing with Indigenous Rights.

3. That the World Bank withdraw its financial support of the Translational Glamis Gold Ltd., because of the violations and trickery which Glamis has committed in our communities, by claiming that it held real consultations with the communities of this municipality about the mine (according to its reports), which is completely false.

4. That the United Nations should comply with its mandate of promoting the culture of Indigenous Communities with their own autonomous territory, self determination and identity.

We ask for prompt compliance with our demands, given in the municipality of San Miguel Ixtahuacán, the third of December in the year 2005.

The Association for the Holistic Development of San Miguel (ADISMA)
Melecio Valerio de León Aguilar
Fidel Bravo

Ma’ Jawil Q’ij Women’s Community Association (ASIFEMQ’)
Margarita Yoc
Rosario Bámaca Yoc

Association for San Miguel’s Development(ADIM)
Eusebio Juárez
Ricardo Domingo

The Association for Holistic Mayan Development (Acjhmol ADIMA)
Roland López
Javier de León López

The Movement of Rural Workers (MTC)
Vinicio López
Justo Velásquez


San Miguel Ixtahuacán

del 2 al 4 de diciembre de 2005


Los y las representantes de las organizaciones, lideresas y líderes de las comunidades del municipio de San Miguel Ixtahuacán reunidos en este tercer –encuentro mesoamericano manifestamos:

PRIMERO: Las comunidades que habitamos en este municipio damos a conocer que el Estado guatemalteco ha incurrido en la violación de nuestros Derechos Económicos, Sociales y Culturales al no consultarnos y favorecer las operaciones de la Transnacional Canadiense Glamis Gold Ltd., y su subsidiaria Montana Exploradora de Guatemala, que esta actualmente explotando oro y plata en minas a cielo abierto en nuestro territorio.

SEGUNDO: La empresa con el apoyo de órganos paramilitares y de la seguridad de la misma empresa esta provocando inestabilidad e inseguridad social en las comunidades por medio de amenazas e intimidaciones que ha llegado hasta provocar la muerte del hermano Álvaro Sánchez, por miembros de la seguridad de la Empresa Montana Exploradora, dejando a una viuda dos niños huérfanos a los que coaccionaron para desistir de las prestaciones que en ley les correspondía. Todo esto refleja en los inicios los impactos sociales que esta provocando la presencia de esta Empresa en nuestro municipio, no podemos esperar mejores augurios para más adelante.

TERCERO: La estrategia de engaño que Montana Exploradora S.A., a través de su fundación Sierra Madre está utilizando el mecanismo de ofrecimiento de proyectos en las comunidades, jugando con la dignidad y las necesidades comunitarias no atendidas por el Estado (Salud reproductiva, cancha deportiva, asfaltado del entronque principal hacia San Miguel, un centro tecnológico) y manipulando a algunos lideres para aceptar la propuesta, lo que ha provocado la división, agresiones verbales, insultos entre los habitantes de algunas comunidades de este municipio.

Por tanto demandamos y exigimos:

1. Al Estado guatemalteco a respetar nuestros Derechos como Pueblos Milenarios con una cultura propia e irrespetando nuestra cosmovisión.

2. A las Organizaciones nacionales e internacionales de Derechos Humanos, a verificar el fiel cumplimiento de los tratados, acuerdos y demás leyes en materia de Derechos Humanos especialmente lo relativo a los Derechos Indígenas.

3. Al Banco Mundial, a retirar su apoyo financiero a la transnacional Glamis Gold Ltd., por las violaciones y engaños que han cometido en nuestras comunidades, al justificar que se realizaron las consultas a las comunidades de este municipio según los informes presentados a este Banco, lo cual resulta totalmente falso.

4. Al sistema de Naciones Unidas, que cumpla con su mandato de promover la cultura de los Pueblos Indígenas con su territorio autonomía, autodeterminación e identidad propia.

Por lo que pedimos el pronto cumplimiento de nuestras demandas.

Dado en el Municipio de San Miguel Ixtahuacán, a los tres días del mes de diciembre del años del 2005.

Asociación para el Desarrollo Integral San Miguelense (ADISMI)
Melecio Valerio de León Aguilar
Fidel Bravo

Asociación Integral Femenina Ma’ Jawil Q’ij(ASIFEMQ`)
Margarita Yoc
Rosario Bámaca Yoc

Asociación para el Desarrollo Integral Miguelense (ADIM)
Eusebio Juárez
Ricardo Domingo

Asociación para el Desarrollo Integral Maya (Ajchmol ADIMA)
Rolando López
Javier de León López

Movimiento de Trabajadores Campesinos (M.T.C.)
Vinicio López
Justo Velásquez

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